Studying DNA: Envisioning New Intersections between Feminist Methodologies and Actor-Network Theory

Studying DNA: Envisioning New Intersections between Feminist Methodologies and Actor-Network Theory

Andrea Quinlan (Lakehead University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6126-4.ch011


Feminist methodologies and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) have often been considered opposing theoretical and intellectual traditions. This chapter imagines a conversation between these seemingly divergent fields and considers the theoretical and methodological challenges that ANT and particular branches of feminist thought raise for the other. This chapter examines an empirical project that calls for an engagement with both ANT and feminist methodologies. Through the lens of this empirical project, four methodological questions are considered, which an alliance between ANT and feminist methodologies would raise for any research project: 1) Where do we start our analysis? 2) Which actors should we follow? 3) What can we see when we begin to follow the actors? 4) What about politics? The potential places where ANT and feminist methodologies can meet and mutually shape research on scientific practice and technological innovation are explored. In doing so, this chapter moves towards envisioning new intersections between feminist methodologies and ANT.
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Feminist Methodologies And Ant

Actor-Network Theory and most feminist theoretical and methodological approaches stem from very different political, intellectual, and historical traditions. ANT grew predominately out of the intellectual movements of post-structuralism, constructivism, and ethnomethodology (Law, 1999). Feminist scholarship, on the other hand, grew from social and political movements that hinged on eradicating gendered, raced, and classed inequalities (MacKinnon, 2005). While some branches of feminist theory 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 (de Beauvoir, 1957; Davis, 1983; Benjamin, 1988).

Feminist methodology is a diverse field made up of many distinct empirical, theoretical, and methodological approaches. To refer to feminist methodology as a unified tradition of thought and practice is a vast over-simplification of its diverse history. In a similar way, the diversity in ANT studies makes it difficult, if not impossible, to define in broad terms (Law, 1999). The diversity within these two fields presents a challenge for creating dialogue between them. This paper will therefore draw on very particular traditions within feminist methodologies and ANT, and will employ working definitions of each. 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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