Fonow, Mary Margaret, and Judith A. Cook, eds. Beyond Methodology: Feminist Scholarship As Lived Research. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991.

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Introduction: “Back to the Future: A Look at the Second Wave of Feminist Epistemology and Methodology,” Fonow and Cook

Fonow and Cook describe this anthology as an interdisciplinary conversation about epistemology and methodology, the latter of which the editors define as the study of actual techniques and practices used in the research process. Taken together, they argue that these interdisciplinary readings reveal important trends in feminist research at the moment. While, like DeVault, they emphasize context, time, and the idea of method as an ongoing discussion as key parts of feminist methodology, the editors also identify four key themes that help delineate feminist methodology: reflexivity, action orientation, attention to the affective components of research, and the use of the situation-at-hand as a research site or genesis of a research project.

Comments:

The four key themes of feminist methodology that Fonow and Cook outline in their introduction are particularly help, especially since they give us a vision of feminist methodology that goes far beyond merely doing research “on” women. These four themes remind us that research on women is not necessarily feminist, but also makes it possible to imagine a research project that is not strictly focused on women but is still feminist in its design.

Chapter Highlights:

  • “The Man of Professional Wisdom,” Kathryn Pyne Addelson: This piece draws on and extends Kuhn’s discussion of paradigms to examine more closely processes of knowledge production, as well as the politics of authority and prestige. Addelson ultimately argues that criticism of these processes and of the mechanisms through which something becomes accepted scientific knowledge needs to become a key part of the scientific method.
  • “Learning from the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought,” Patricia Hill Collins: In this piece, Collins is extending the way black women’s status as “the outsider within” has been used to theorize black women’s experience in literature. Thinking about the concept of the “outsider within” in terms of her own field, Collins argues for the significance of this standpoint and for the importance of theorizing this standpoint within sociology. She argues that black women sociologists occupy the position of the outsider within, giving voice to traditionally ignored perspectives and experiences using the language of the discipline, while also using their position to challenge the limited paradigm of sociology.
  • “Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences: Current Feminist Issues and Practical Strategies,” Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Abigail Stewart: The authors are responding to quantitative vs. qualitative methods debates wherein many have decided that qualitative methods best suit feminist needs. After mapping out this debate and discussing some of the problems with the way the debate has unfolded, the authors ultimately argue that quantitative research does have feminist uses, while it is not true that qualitative methods are necessarily feminist. We need to be critical of bias in all methods and develop research that will be most persuasive in helping to change women’s lives.
  • “Race and Class Bias in Qualitative Research on Women,” Lynn Weber Cannon, Elizabeth Higginbotham, and Marianne L. A. Leung: In this piece, the authors draw on their experiences recruiting participants for a study in which they controlled for race and class. They argue that getting a more heterogenous sample requires more labor-intensive recruitment practices and that marginalized participants often have less time and more concerns about anonymity and exploitation. Their research experience, and their account of how drastically their findings would have changed with a more homogenous sample, also demonstrates the need for facing these challenges to end the silencing of marginalized experiences.
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