Oendeving a BiscipIine· Sone Feninisl MelIodoIogicaI ConlviIulions lo InlevnalionaI BeIalions

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J . A n n T i c k n e r
Gendering a Discipline: Some Feminist Methodological
Contributions to International Relations
iewing the U.S. discipline of international relations (IR) from outside,
Ole Wæver, a leading European IR scholar, observed that what he
called “American IR” defines itself in methodological terms (Wæver
Indeed, many IR scholars in the United States are identified in
terms of their methodological preferences rather than the subject matter
of their research. The field tends to judge scholarship on how well it
operationalizes and tests existing theories rather than in terms of its the-
oretical or methodological innovations. Since positivist research philos-
ophies have held the highest prestige in the discipline since the 1970s,
this may help explain why feminism came so late to the field. Entering
the discipline in the late 1980s, feminism has, for the most part, resisted
these positivist approaches, preferring postpositivist orientations. Given
the centrality of methodological issues, I believe that this is one of the
most important reasons why feminism remains on the margins of the
discipline and why feminist IR has generated so much resistance from the
Were the discipline to take gender seriously, it would present
a fundamental challenge to the epistemological foundations of the field.
I should like to thank Sandra Harding for her encouragement and advice.
I shall use the term IR, since it is the one most frequently used in labeling the discipline.
Many scholars, including many feminists, have some discomfort with the termsince it signifies
relations among states rather than the multiplicity of issues and actors that constitute world
I have developed this argument further in Tickner 1997. I define the mainstream as
IR scholars who adhere to positivist approaches broadly defined. I define positivism as a
belief that the same methodologies can be used to study the natural and social worlds, that
the social world has regularities like the natural world, that there is a distinction between
facts and values, and that the way to determine the truth of statements about the external
world is by appeal to neutral facts.
There is an important exception. Certain scholars use conventional social scientific
methodology to study the effects of gender on foreign policy and on violence. In such cases
gender is used as a variable to explain state behavior rather than as a constitutive category
of analysis. See, e.g., Gallagher 1993; Caprioli 2000; Eichenberg 2003.
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This article will first briefly outline the development of IR in the United
States, including the introduction of feminist perspectives. I focus on the
United States because it is where the methodological debates are the most
intense and also because U.S. IR has exercised a dominant influence on the
discipline worldwide.
Then I will review some recent IR feminist schol-
arship, focusing on its methodological choices.
The texts I have chosen
are exemplars of a growing body of IR feminist empirical scholarship that
is grounded in methodologies used by postpositivist IR scholars more gen-
erally, scholars who are also challenging the dominance of social scientific
approaches. By introducing gender as a central category of analysis, IR
feminist scholarship builds on but goes beyond these approaches, most of
which have been as gender blind as the mainstream. This article is intended
to show how the discipline might be different were it to take gender
The development of IR in the United States
In the United States, the discipline of international relations emerged at
the beginning of the twentieth century, in most cases but not always as
a subdiscipline of political science. Following World War II, IR developed
its own disciplinary identity, although it generally remained within political
science departments.
Supported by a uniquely American conviction that
most problems can be resolved by science, and largely abandoning its
historical, sociological, and legal foundations, IR became increasingly
committed to social scientific research. Methodologies from the natural
sciences and economics were employed in theory building, the goal of
which was to discover laws and regularities of states’ international behav-
ior, particularly with respect to matters of international conflict and war,
This may be changing as Europeans become more assertive in reacting against U.S.
rational choice and game theoretic models (Wæver 1998). Interestingly, this is happening
at the same time as the rest of the world is taking a more assertive stance against the
unilateralism of U.S. foreign policy.
Following Sandra Harding (1987, 2–3), I define methodology as a theory and analysis
of how research does or should proceed.
There are some exceptions. Many of the Washington, DC–based universities that pri-
marily train students for policy positions such as the foreign service have schools or depart-
ments of international relations separate from political science. These departments, along
with some other schools of international relations, such as the one at the University of
Southern California, are generally less committed to teaching only social scientific meth-
odologies than are political science departments. For a historical account of the development
of IR and its different paths in the United States and Europe, see Wæver 1998.
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S I G N S Summer 2005 ! 2175
a phenomenon that had dominated the first half of the twentieth century.
Many IRtheorists believed that the search for systematic inquiry and causal
explanation might contribute to efforts toward diminishing the likelihood
of future conflict. Many of the early postwar international theorists were
European intellectuals fleeing from Nazi persecution. Motivated by the
goal of defending the autonomy of rational inquiry against totalitarian
ideologies, these theorists made efforts to put the discipline on a “sci-
entific” footing that also seemed appropriate for a great power leading
the fight against another dangerous ideology, global communism. As the
United States rose to a hegemonic position in the world, so U.S. IR came
to dominate the discipline as a whole.
Beginning in the 1970s, economics, judged the most “scientific” of the
social sciences, played an increasingly influential role in IR’s methodological
choices. Rational choice theories and noncooperative game theoretic models
became popular means of explaining the optimizing behavior of self-inter-
ested power-seeking states. These positivist methodological preferences
went hand in hand with certain assumptions or worldviews. Realism, the
most influential IR theory in the United States since 1945, portrays a world
of “anarchy” where there is no sovereign power above states with the ability
to sanction their actions. The result is an international system in which each
state must act to provide its own security and survival through self-help and
the accumulation of power. At best this “security dilemma,” the tension
that results when states build their own capabilities in order to be secure
and thereby appear threatening to others, results in a balance of power
between states; at worst it results in the outbreak of conflict, which realists
see as an ever-recurring phenomenon. Realists distinguish this dangerous
anarchical international system from a domestic space within states where
law and order, backed by legal sanctions, prevail. Realists portray states as
unitary rational actors whose behavior can be understood in terms of the
imperatives of the system of anarchy.
This worldview resonated with the foreign policy interests and concerns
of the United States during the cold war. Liberalism, which assumes a
more benign view of the international system, provided a challenge to
realism in terms of its worldview but not in terms of its methodologies.
Most liberal IR theorists also see states’ behavior as amenable to expla-
nations based on rational choice and game theoretic models. Cooperation
is explained in terms of rational self-interest. Since the 1970s both realism
For a critical, more European account of why IR evolved in the United States in this
“scientific” form, see Hoffmann 1977. Subliteratures on international cooperation and con-
flict resolution also developed during that time.
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and liberalism have shared a methodological commitment to putting IR
on an ever firmer “scientific” footing.
An anarchical world, in which the behavior of states is explained in
terms of system-level-determined rational choice models, is closer to the
models found in economics and physics than to those in other social
sciences such as sociology or history. Indeed, the sociological tradition,
more prevalent in European IR, nearly disappeared from U.S. IR as ra-
tional choice methodologies became predominant. While Marxist theories
gained some recognition in the 1970s, when economic issues and the war
in Vietnam began to dominate the global agenda, the anticommunism of
the cold war put them at a severe disadvantage. Since the end of the cold
war and the demise of socialism in Russia and Eastern and Central Europe,
together with the dominance of a consensus about neoliberal economics
in Western governments and in international financial and trade institu-
tions, Marxism and related critical theorizing approaches have receded
even further from the mainstream of U.S. IR.
The preference for rational choice and positivist methodologies has not
been without challenge, however. In the late 1980s certain IR scholars,
many of whom were located in the United States but whose work emerged
out of methodological traditions more prevalent in Europe and Canada,
mounted what has been called IR’s “third debate.” Scholars divided along
epistemological and methodological lines broadly defined as positivist and
postpostivist (Lapid 1989).
While “debate” is something of a misnomer
since the mainstream has, with certain exceptions, largely ignored such
challenges, scholars based in a variety of theoretical approaches and meth-
odological orientations, including critical theory, historical sociology, dis-
course and linguistic analysis, and postmodernism, began to challenge the
positivist foundations of the field. While these newer approaches are by no
means united in terms of their worldviews or their methodological pref-
erences, they do agree on a skepticism about the ability of social scientific
theories to offer us an adequate understanding of world politics.
Feminism enters IR
Feminist scholarship entered IR at the end of the 1980s at about the same
time as the third debate.
Most IR feminists have rejected positivist meth-
Positivismand postpositivismare labels generally used by critics rather than by mainstream
scholars, who rightly disavow being labeled positivists in the strict sense of the term, although
they are close to the definition in n. 2. See Keohane 1998. It is generally postpositivists who
have undertaken critical reflections on epistemology and methodology.
I define IR feminists as a group of scholars who read and refer to one another’s work
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odologies in the sense I have defined them, preferring hermeneutic, his-
torically contingent, sociological, and/or ethnographically based meth-
odologies to those influenced by the natural sciences and economics. Like
feminists in other disciplines, IR feminists have claimed that instrumental
rationality, based on rational choice theory, is a model extrapolated from
the highly individualistic competitive behavior of Western men in the
marketplace, which IR theorists have generalized to the behavior of states.
Rather than uncritically assume the state as a given unit of analysis, IR
feminists have investigated the constitutive features and identities of “gen-
dered states” and their implications for women’s and men’s lives (Peterson
1992). Feminists have asked whether it makes a difference that most
foreign policy leaders in the world are men and why women remain so
fundamentally disempowered in matters of foreign and military policy.
They have questioned why states’ foreign policies are so often legitimated
in terms of typically hegemonic masculine characteristics and why wars
have been fought mostly by men. These constitutive questions have rarely
been asked in IR; they are questions that probably could not be asked
within the epistemological and methodological boundaries of positivist
social science.
Like feminists in other disciplines, IR feminists have expressed skepticism
toward a body of knowledge that, while it claims to be universal and ob-
jective, is in reality based on knowledge primarily from men’s lives. An
ontology based on unitary states operating in an asocial, anarchical inter-
national environment does not provide an entry point for feminist theories
grounded in an epistemology that takes social relations, particularly gender
relations, as its central category of analysis. Feminist ontology is based on
social relations that are constituted by historically contingent unequal po-
litical, economic, and social structures. Unlike practitioners of conventional
social science IR, IR feminists generally prefer historical or sociological
analyses that begin with individuals and the hierarchical social relations in
which their lives are situated.
Whereas much of IR is focused on explaining the behavior of states,
and whose disciplinary home is IR. Many of them are members of the Feminist Theory and
Gender Studies section of the International Studies Association or its equivalent in the British
International Studies Association. Their work covers an array of topics and approaches to which
I cannot do justice in the space of this article. There are also many other feminist scholars from
different disciplines who have made important contributions to our understanding of inter-
national politics, international conflict, and the global economy, many of thembefore the 1980s.
The International Studies Association, an interdisciplinary professional association of interna-
tional relations scholars, has been a more methodologically pluralistic environment for inter-
national relations than the American Political Science Association.
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feminists are motivated by emancipatory goals—investigating the often
disadvantaged lives of women within states or international institutions
and structures in order to change them. Starting its investigations from
the perspective of the lives of individuals on the margins who have never
been the subject matter of IR, feminist analysis is often bottom-up rather
than top-down. Feminists in IR are linking the everyday lived experiences
of women with the constitution and exercise of political and economic
power at state and global levels. They have focused on the effects of
international politics and the world economy on relational and distribu-
tional gender inequality and on how gender inequalities serve to support
these same structures. Identity issues, including race and culture as well
as gender, have been at the core of feminist investigations. Feminists in
IR are demonstrating how gender is a pervasive feature of international
life and international politics, the implications of which go well beyond
its effects on women.
Some feminist methodological contributions
In the early 1990s, “first generation” IR feminists challenged the mas-
culinist biases of the core assumptions and concepts of the field and dem-
onstrated how the theory and practice of international relations is gen-
“Second generation” scholarship has investigated a variety of
empirical cases, making gender and women’s lives visible.
For the pur-
pose of this article I discuss three feminist empirical case studies that are
grounded in methodological orientations used by postpositivist IR schol-
Each of them rejects positivism in the sense in which I have defined
it. They share a concern for sociological, identity-based, interpretive, or
linguistic methodologies. They are unique, however, in making women’s
lives visible and in using gender as a central category of analysis. Christine
Chin’s In Service and Servitude: Foreign Female Domestic Workers and the
Malaysian “Modernity” Project (1998) builds on Marxist/Gramscian crit-
ical theory introduced into IR by Canadian scholar Robert Cox and re-
Enloe 1989; Peterson 1992; Tickner 1992; Sylvester 1994.
Of course, there is considerable overlap. New work on reframing IR in gendered terms
continues. See Tickner 2001 and Peterson 2003. And the same scholars may do both kinds
of research.
I chose these three because each represents a different postpositivist methodological
perspective and because all three explicitly engage the IRapproach out of which they construct
their own feminist perspective.
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formulated in a feminist framework by Sandra Whitworth (1994).
abeth Pru¨gl’s The Global Construction of Gender: Home-Based Work in the
Political Economy of the 20th Century (1999) is grounded in linguistic
constructivism, associated in IR with the work of international theorist
Nicholas Greenwood Onuf (1989). Charlotte Hooper’s Manly States:
Masculinities, International Relations, and Gender Politics (2001) is based
in political theory and textual analysis.
Each of these scholars’ texts
illustrates the ways in which gender analysis deepens these postpositivist
methodological frameworks and supports feminists’ claims that gender is
a constitutive feature of international politics and the global economy as
well as of the discipline of international relations.
Gendering critical theory
Critical international relations theory has been influenced by two strands
of critical thought—the Frankfurt School, most notably through the work
of Ju¨rgen Habermas, and the Marxist theory of Italian theorist Antonio
Gramsci. Scholars who write about political economy tend to be Gram-
scians, while those associated with the Frankfurt School tend to be rooted
in political and normative theory. Both schools share an interest in human
emancipation in the study of world politics (Wyn Jones 2001, 5–9). Gram-
sci reformulated Marxist materialism, emphasizing the importance of the
cultural dimensions of politics. He is well known for his claim that a
hegemony of ideas defines the limits of historical possibilities. In the con-
temporary world, a hegemony of ideas legitimizes the state and capitalism
and helps ensure support for these institutions even from those whose
interests they do not serve.
Cox is an emeritus professor at York University in Canada. Deborah Stienstra (1994)
and Sandra Whitworth (1994) both use but go beyond a Coxian framework in their studies
of the gendering of social movements and international institutions. Jacqui True (2003),
also a PhD from York University, also uses a Coxian framework in her research on women
in the postcommunist Czech Republic. Chin acknowledges her intellectual debt to the York-
MUNS (Multilateralism and the United Nations System) Symposium at York University in
1994 in her preface (Chin 1998, xviii). For a useful summary of Cox’s theoretical contri-
bution, see Cox 1981.
Pru¨gl received her PhDat American University’s School of International Service, which
is located in an interdisciplinary school rather than a political science department. V. Spike
Peterson (1992, 2003) and Anne Sisson Runyan (Peterson and Runyan 1999) are also
graduates of this program; all three were students of Onuf, the scholar who first introduced
linguistic constructivism into international relations. Hooper received her PhD from the
University of Bristol, UK. Judith Squires, a political theorist, was one of her principal advisors.
Catherine Eschle (2001), another British IR feminist, also grounds her study of social move-
ments in political theory.
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Cox (1981) is the IR scholar best known for introducing Gramscian
thought into international relations. Cox portrays the world in terms of
historical structures made up of three categories of reciprocal interacting
forces: material conditions, ideas, and institutions. These forces interact
at three different levels: production relations, the state-society complex,
and historically defined world orders. While ideas are important in legit-
imating certain institutions, ideas are the product of human agents in
particular historical and material circumstances; therefore, there is always
a potential for human emancipation. Cox emphasized this emancipatory
possibility in his distinction between critical theories and what he calls
problem-solving theories, theories that are similar to those advocated by
methodologically conventional IR theorists. Cox claims that critical theory
“stands apart from the prevailing order of the world and asks how that
order came about and how it might be changed, while problem-solving
theory takes the world as it finds it and implicitly accepts the prevailing
order as its framework” (Cox 1981, 129–30).
Cox’s historically contingent class analysis, the importance he attaches
to ideas, and his commitment to theory’s emancipatory potential parallel
IR feminists’ methodological sensitivities. Whitworth, a feminist scholar
who builds on but goes beyond Cox’s framework, claims that understand-
ings about gender depend in part on the real, material, lived conditions
of women and men in particular times, circumstances, and places. How-
ever, gender depends on more than material conditions, for it is the mean-
ings given to reality that constitute gender—ideas that men and women
have about their relationships to one another. Whitworth suggests that
to use this framework to study international politics we must ask how
particular material conditions and ideas are taken up in particular states
and international institutions (Whitworth 1994, 68–71). Her research
examines the different ways gender was understood in the International
Planned Parenthood Federation from its inception after World War II and
in the International Labor Organization since it began in 1919, and the
effect these understandings had on both institutions’ population policies
at various times in their history. More recently, Chin has used a similar
framework in her 1998 case study of foreign female domestic labor in
The basic research question of Chin’s text, In Service and Servitude, is,
why is unlegislated low-paying domestic service, peopled mostly by female
domestic workers fromthe Philippines and Indonesia, increasingly prevalent
in the context of constructing a modern, developed Malaysian society by
way of export-oriented development (Chin 1998, 4)? Chin suggests that a
conventional answer to this question would explain this phenomenon in
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terms of transnational wage differentials that encourage migration for em-
ployment. She rejects this answer on the grounds that it fails to explain why
states have become actively involved in facilitating labor migration. De-
scribing her research method as “a nonpositivist manner of recovering and
generating knowledge” (1998, 5), Chin adopts a critically oriented approach
that examines the relationship between domestic service and the develop-
mental state and the involvement of the state in all levels of society from
the household to the transnational. Chin’s emancipatory goals are similar
to those of critical theory—to expose existing power relations with the
intention of changing them (Chin 1998, 5).
Using a Gramscian framework but elaborating on it in gendered terms,
Chin asks how is it that paid domestic reproductive labor, usually per-
formed by women, supports, shapes, and legitimizes the late twentieth-
century developmental state. As she notes, there has been much work on
the Asian “developmental state” and its mechanisms of coercive power
but little on how the state has used policies that regulate transnational
migrant domestic labor as part of this coercive strategy. Chin claims that
the developmental state is not neutral but is an expression of class, ethnic,
racial, and gender-based power, which it exercises through both coercion
and the cooptation of forces that could challenge it.
Chin goes beyond critical analysis by introducing gender, class, and
race as relationships of identity and power. She claims that the state, which
is controlled mainly by elite men, is a protector and perpetrator of cap-
italist-patriarchal ideologies. The state’s involvement in regulating do-
mestic service and policing foreign domestic workers in the name of main-
taining social order is not just a personal, private issue, or one to be
understood solely in terms of relations between employers and their ser-
vants, but one that serves the state’s goal of providing the good life for
certain middle-class citizens through repressing others. Winning the sup-
port of middle-class families by promoting policies that support materialist
consumption, including the paid labor of domestic servants, has helped
lessen ethnic divisions in Malaysia and has increased loyalty to the state
and hence its security. Support of certain groups is won at the expense
of poor women’s lives and security.
Chin questions the assumption, implicit in economic theory, that cap-
italism is the natural order of life. In contrast to Cox’s definition of prob-
lem-solving theory and positivism’s acceptance of neutral “facts,” she
claims that her critical analysis is designed to deconstruct this seemingly
natural “objective” world and reveal the unequal distribution and exercise
of power that inheres in and continues to constitute social relations, in-
stitutions, and structures that are shaped by and that shape human beliefs
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(Chin 1998, 17–18). She seeks to understand these global processes from
the bottom up, and she demonstrates that domestic service is not just a
“private” issue but an institution in which the state is actively involved
and one that has regional and international implications.
Gendering IR constructivism
Constructivism entered IR during the late 1980s along with other post-
positivist theories. Constructivism focuses on the ideational processes that
construct the world rather than on given agents and material structures
typical of conventional IR (Wyn Jones 2001, 12–15). Constructivist ap-
proaches range broadly, from positivist versions that treat ideas as causes
to a postpositivist focus on language. While there are many different ver-
sions of constructivism, all agree that international life is social and that
agents and structures are coconstituted. Unlike conventional analysis dis-
cussed earlier, constructivist analysis posits that agents such as states and
international institutions cannot be unproblematically assumed as given
entities when building theories of international politics; rather, actors’
identities, the identities they ascribe to others, and how these identities
are mutually constituted are in need of explanation before we can un-
derstand their behavior.
Pru¨gl’s text, The Global Construction of Gender (1999), is grounded
in IR constructivism. Pru¨gl takes as her starting point Onuf’s (1989)
Wittgensteinian language-based constructivism, which focuses on rules.
Onuf identifies rules as a pervasive presence that give political society its
meaning. When rules distribute advantage unequally, the result is rule that
leads to the persistence of asymmetric social relations (Onuf 1989, 22).
Institutions, including international institutions, are patterns of rules and
related practices. International relations are constructed when people talk,
follow rules, and engage in various social practices. Onuf does not draw
a sharp distinction between material and social realities; people and so-
cieties coconstruct each other (Onuf 1989, 41).
Since most feminists see gender as a social construction, Pru¨gl claims
that Onuf’s constructivism can provide a useful methodological entry
point for feminist IR. She proposes a “feminist constructivism” that puts
language at its center. Her feminist elaboration portrays gender as an
institution that codifies power—a constellation of rules and related prac-
tices that distribute privilege and create patterns of subordination that cut
across other institutions, from the household to the state and the economy
(Pru¨gl 1999, 13). She distinguishes her feminist constructivismfromother
forms of IR constructivism, not only because hers takes gender as a central
category of analysis but also because of its concern with the ways in which
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social practice carries codes of power that are intersubjectively constituted
with categories such as gender, race, and class. Rather than assuming an
anarchical international system, Pru¨gl posits a global social space inhabited
by social movements and international organizations. This allows her to
talk about gender relations. Pru¨gl claims that the purpose of her study is
to show how gender politics pervade world politics; international politics
is one set of practices engaged in gender construction, which it enacts
through international institutions.
Pru¨gl’s case study examines the debates over the rules that regulated
home-based work throughout the twentieth century. The climax of this
debate was the adoption of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO)
Homework Convention in 1996, when certain rules were adopted that
signaled a step toward the institutionalization of rights for home-based
workers. Pru¨gl’s evidence came from tracking the efforts of the Self-Em-
ployed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) and HomeNet Interna-
tional, an international network of home-based workers. She also used
evidence from documents relating to debates within the ILO. Since the
majority of home-based workers are women, this was an important debate
from a feminist perspective; low wages and poor working conditions have
been justified on the grounds that home-based work is not “real” work
since it takes place in the private reproductive sphere of the household
rather than in the more valued public sphere of production. Pru¨gl ex-
amines how social movements and the ILO engaged in conversations with
a diverse set of agents such as states, private companies, and trade unions
to bring about a change in the way these various institutions defined work,
thus leading to a change in the gender rules governing home-based
Pru¨gl is conscious that her choice to focus on global movements and
international organizations removes her study from the experiences of in-
dividual home-based workers. She is aware that this may open her up to
criticisms by contemporary feminists who argue for situated knowledge
based on the cultural, racial, and class-based particularities of women’s lives,
an epistemological position that has also been evident in IR feminist em-
pirical research (Moon 1997; Chin 1998; True 2003). She defends her
focus on global politics by suggesting that certain feminists have confused
the universal and the global, tending to see them as synonymous. Pru¨gl
contends that whereas universal refers to theories that claim logical uni-
versality, implying that sources of oppression are the same for all women,
the global is a “social space that emerges from diverse interactions of in-
fluentials across state boundaries” (1999, 148–49). Global networks create
historically specific rules, and international organizations are sites where
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global processes resulting fromintense negotiation among a variety of actors
become visible. Since these are political spaces that provide openings for
alternative interpretations, Pru¨gl sees them as sites for emancipation.
Gendering textual analysis
Hooper’s text, Manly States (2001), is grounded in feminist theory, men’s
studies, IR theory, and cultural studies. Her central question is, what role
does international relations theory and practice have in shaping, defining,
and legitimating masculinities? How, she asks, might international rela-
tions discipline men as much as men shape international relations (Hooper
2001, 2)? Hooper rightly claims that, although masculinity is a topic of
central importance in international relations and one to which many IR
feminists have alluded, it has not received much systematic attention.
Hooper defends her focus on masculinity on the grounds that IR theory
and practice is a man’s world.
She aims to show that gender politics
pervades world politics and that gender is a social construct that results
from practices that connect arguments at all levels of politics and society,
including the international. Her primary concern is with the role played
by the discipline itself in shaping, defining, and legitimating masculinities
(Hooper 2001, 3–4).
Hooper sets about demonstrating the validity of these claims through
an analysis of theories of masculinity and a textual analysis of the Economist,
a prestigious British weekly newspaper that covers business and politics.
She discusses various historically and culturally contingent theories of heg-
emonic masculinities, which she relates to the theoretical constructs of
IR. Hooper claims that we cannot understand international relations un-
less we understand the implications of the fact that it is conducted by
men; masculinities are not just domestic cultural variables but the products
of men’s participation in international relations. Military combat and co-
lonial administration are some examples on which she draws to show how
international relations shape men.
Hooper’s analysis of the Economist, looking at issues dated 1989 to
1996, is a textual reading that follows the practice of intertextuality used
in cultural studies—“the process by which meanings are circulated be-
tween texts through the use of various visual and literary codes and con-
ventions” (Hooper 2001, 122). She includes graphs, layout, photos, and
For an IR study that does focus on masculinity, see Zalewski and Parpart 1998.
There is some controversy about this. Some IR feminists see a danger in losing sight
of women when they have only just become the subject matter of international relations.
See, e.g., Zalewski 1998.
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S I G N S Summer 2005 ! 2185
advertising material in her analysis, which claims that the newspaper is
saturated with signifiers of elitist hegemonic masculinities and that gen-
dered messages are encoded in the paper regardless of the intentions of
its publishers or authors.
According to Hooper, the Economist is a booster for neoliberal eco-
nomic globalization; its readership includes international business and po-
litical elites from around the world. She links the newspaper to IR by
suggesting that it is a frequently cited secondary source for academics in
economics and international relations, and she compares the newspaper’s
worldview with that of mainstream IR. Its aggressive business style, in
which the business world is portrayed as a Darwinian struggle, and its
description of states as rational competitive masculine actors fit the models
of both realismand liberalismdescribed above. Hooper suggests that these
business and academic worldviews are mutually reinforcing and act to
reproduce forms of hegemonic masculinities. Indeed, Hooper’s central
concern is with her claim that IR as a discipline is heavily implicated in
the construction and promotion of hegemonic masculinities. Her nor-
mative goal is to uncover and challenge these gendered constructions—
to make the discipline reflective of its gendered foundations as a first step
toward changing them.
In this article I have suggested some reasons why most IR feminists have
chosen to conduct their research outside positivist methodological frame-
works. The boundary that divides an asocial world of international rela-
tions from a domestic political space makes analyses that deal with social
relations, including race and class as well as gender, difficult. Feminists in
IR have also challenged another boundary between the public sphere of
politics and economics and the private sphere of families, domestic labor,
and reproduction: many of the questions IR feminists are asking intersect
and challenge these boundaries. They are questions that probably could
not be asked within the methodological frameworks of conventional social
Feminists in IR are concerned with the linkages between the everyday
lived experiences of women and the constitution and exercise of political
and economic power at the state and global levels. They are investigating
how gender and other hierarchies of power affect those at the margins of
the system. They are demonstrating how gendered structures of power
inhere in political and economic institutions and structures and what effect
this has on the lives of individuals. Claiming that the discipline that an-
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2186 ! Tickner
alyzes global politics is itself gendered, they are showing how IR is im-
plicated in the reproduction of masculinist international politics and eco-
nomics. Whereas existing theories tend to focus on public life—either
formal institutions or the market, both of which are associated with men
and male political behavior—a focus that includes the private sphere pro-
vides a new vantage point from which to analyze the gendered micro/
macro linkages that constitute international politics and economics.
Through my examination of three representative texts I have shown
how the postpositivist interpretive methodologies on which they draw
provide more conducive frameworks for investigating these issues. The
methodological frameworks that I have discussed, those based in critical
theory, linguistic constructivism, and textual analysis, are more amenable
than positivist approaches to incorporating gender as a category of analysis.
Critical theory’s commitment to emancipation accords with feminist sen-
sibilities, and identity-based theories allow for the investigation of gender
as a socially constructed category of analysis. But postpositivist method-
ologies have, for the most part, been as gender blind as the mainstream.
Therefore, as I have demonstrated, IR feminist research has built on but
gone beyond them to construct gender-sensitive methodological frame-
works within which to conduct their investigations.
Nevertheless, as V. Spike Peterson has claimed, despite fifteen years of
explication, IR feminists’ most significant theoretical insights remain
largely invisible to the discipline (Peterson 2004, 44).
As I noted in my
introduction, U.S. IR has been defined by its methodological debates,
and, given the continued predominance of social scientific methodologies,
those whose work falls outside these approaches are already at considerable
disadvantage professionally. Including gender analysis in one’s research
carries added personal and professional risks.
Methodologies preferred
by feminists are not normally part of an IR graduate curriculum in the
United States, and academic reward structures are skewed in favor of those
who use conventional methodologies. For these reasons, many IR femi-
nists are moving beyond the discipline. Yet I believe that it is important
for feminists to stay connected; the discipline of IR is where many future
international policy makers and activists will learn about international pol-
itics and other global issues. And, as I have demonstrated, IR feminists
Most of the issue of the Brown Journal of International Affairs in which Peterson’s
article appears is devoted to the future of feminist theory in IR.
The Zalewski and Parpart volume (1998) includes chapters by male IR scholars who
reflect on these risks.
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S I G N S Summer 2005 ! 2187
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global issues.
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