Imagining a Feminist Actor-Network Theory

Imagining a Feminist Actor-Network Theory

Andrea Quinlan (York University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2012040101
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Abstract

Feminism and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) have often been considered opposing theoretical and intellectual traditions. This paper imagines a meeting between these seemingly divergent fields and considers the theoretical and methodological challenges that ANT and feminism raise for one another. This paper examines an empirical project that calls for an engagement with both ANT and feminism. Through the lens of this empirical project, three methodological questions that an alliance between ANT and feminism would raise for any research project are considered: 1) Where does the analysis start? 2) What can be seen once the research has begun? 3) What about politics? The potential places where ANT and feminism can meet and mutually shape research on scientific practice and technological innovation are explored. In doing so, this paper moves toward an imagining of a feminist ANT.
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Feminism And Ant

Feminist scholarship and Actor-Network Theory stem from very different political, intellectual, and historical traditions. ANT grew predominately out of the intellectual movements of post-structuralism and constructivism (Law, 1999). Feminist scholarship, on the other hand, grew from a social and political movement that hinged on eradicating gendered inequality (MacKinnon, 2005). While branches of feminist thought have similar to ANT drawn on post-structuralism and constructivism (e.g., Haraway, 1991; Butler, 2004; Mohanty, 2003), others have been built from theoretical traditions such as Marxism, existentialism, and psychoanalytic theories (Davis, 1981; de Beauvoir, 1957; Benjamin, 1988).

Feminist scholarship is a diverse field made up of many distinct empirical, theoretical, and methodological approaches. To refer to feminist scholarship as a unified tradition of thought and practice is therefore a simplification of its diverse history. In a similar way, the diversity in ANT studies makes the approach difficult, if not impossible, to define in broad terms (Law, 1999). The diversity within these two fields can present a challenge for creating dialogue between them. This paper will therefore utilize very particular definitions of feminist scholarship and ANT. These definitions are not intended to erase the diversity within these fields, but rather, allow for an exploration of what lies between them.

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