Feminism in Political Science and the Academia

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‘A one-sided view of the world’: women of colour at the intersections of academic freedom (with Mwenza Blell and Audrey Verma)

Published in the International Journal of Human Rights first online on March 7, 2022

Academic freedom is a necessary principle. Current attempts to (re)conceptualise, (re)frame, and reduce the principles of free speech from universal concepts to specific and narrow conceptions are however underpinned by political expediency and accompanied by erosions to press freedom and protest rights. The current enacting and policing of academic freedom is purposely acontextual, colour-blind, and ignorant of differential costs of dissent and (non)compliance. This paper focuses instead on the interlinked conditions of precarity, neoliberalisation, internationalisation, digitisation, and state-encouraged intervention that lead to increased surveillance, (self-)censorship, and cultures of silencing, to show that women and people of colour are caught in the crosshairs of the ‘culture wars’ in unique ways. Drawing primarily on the United Kingdom Higher Education (UKHE) sector alongside other international examples, this paper contends that the conditions, structures, and policies around research and teaching amplify state-encouraged backlash against the teaching and research on specific topics. It shows that the renewed fervour for academic freedom continues to disguise bad faith ideologies whilst amplifying politicised interests keen to reinforce the status quo. Historically excluded and minoritised academics face new risks and greater pressures building on already deep-rooted institutional cultures of targeted silencing.


Why does descriptive representation matter? Teaching Mansbridge’s classic article from an intersectional approach (with Sharleen Estampador Hughson)

Since the publication of Jane Mansbridge’s “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes’” in 1999, extensive scholarship on descriptive representation has been published. Scholars have also increasingly examined how descriptive representation connects with other forms of representation and how identities besides gender are relevant to enhance representative democracies. Mansbridge’s article has made a significant contribution to contemporary political science research, especially on arguments that political representation matters. Underdiscussed, however, is how such a classic article should be taught in a classroom in the context of the global movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #StopAsianHate, and #MeToo, where various marginalized identities intersect when experiencing oppression. We contest and strengthen Mansbridge’s idea of calculating costs when promoting diversity politics by bringing it into a dialogue with the contemporary global contexts of sexism, racism, and anti-racism efforts. In addition, we advocate that intersectionality is also about centering the feminist works of BIPOC and Global South scholars in both research and teaching. By challenging both the absence of minoritized women as political actors as well as scholars – as a matter of the production of knowledge as well as political activism – we create an inclusive learning environment, enabling both the educators and students to reflect upon one’s positionality and furthermore achieve the long-term goal of equality in the classroom, political institutions, and beyond.

Intersectionality in Quantitative Political Science (with Dominique Green)

Bringing the F Back to Political Science (with Cat Wayland)

Reconceptualizing Gender Equality in Political Science: an Intersectional Approach with Nancy Fraser’s Three R’s

In social sciences where quantitative methods are commonly employed, scholars could easily overlook the importance of gender as a category and as a process (Beckwith 2005). I explore the gap between viewing women merely as a subject and understanding the constructions and institutionalization of gender in which computing technologies are used. Gender disparity exists in various institutions and does not translate across all levels of hierarchy—a high level of labor participation among women does equate to access to the highest level of decision-making.  Thus, it is not adequate to examine only one aspect of integration of women when conceptualizing gender equality. I draw on Fraser’s theory of redistribution, recognition, and representation and advocate a multifaceted understanding of gender equality. I also challenge the shortcomings of identifying individuals based on just gender in statistical analyses as it often fails to recognize that not all women experience marginalizations/privileges the same way.  As race, class, and disability are embedded in gender equality politically, socially, and economically, I suggest intersectionality as a paradigm to answer questions that were unanswerable in traditional statistical models and to enhance theoretical grounding and establish a more comprehensive framework of gender equality.