Bahkru, Tanya. “Negotiating and Navigating the Rough Terrain of Transnational Feminist Research.” Journal of International Women’s Studies. 10.2 (2008): 198-216. Print.

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Summary

In this piece, Bahkru is drawing on her own transnational research experience to discuss key aspects of feminist methodology that are particularly relevant for carrying out feminist transnational research. She describes the scope and method of her comparative study of women’s reproductive health NGOs in Ireland and the US. She explains that she had originally planned to also include work happening in India, but ultimately decided to drop the case study from India. In the rest of the piece, she reflects on her decision to drop the Indian case study, paying particular attention to issues of self-reflexivity, insider/outsider status, and questions about objectivity as key feminist methodological considerations that encourage researchers to think about their positionality in the research process. Self-reflexivity involves holding yourself accountable, examining your position in the research process, being honest about your political motives. Bahkru omits the India case study because she realizes that she doesn’t have the resources to sufficiently immerse herself in the context to understand the work that is being done. She also reflects on the tensions between the way she saw her identity and the way the people working in the Irish NGO saw her identity. Because of her own position, easy divisions between insider/outsider were never available to her, which is a reminder of Uma Narayan’s rejoinder that we must work across difference if we want to build coalitions.

Key Quotes

“I argue that it is not possible for feminist researchers to produce objective knowledge and simultaneously resist relativism in the existing spaces of conceptual frameworks of feminist knowledge generation. In examining Donna Haraway’s notion of situated knowledge, I contend that it is only by creating a new paradigm within feminist approaches to research and scientific inquiry that a reconciliation of objective knowledge and the feminist pursuit of social justice can occur without resignation to relativism.” (210)

Comments

What I most appreciate about this piece is the author’s honest reflections about dealing with feminist methodological questions within the material limits of her dissertation research. A lot of feminist methodological work calls for us to do more towards crafting feminist research projects–a call which is necessary and good. But Bahkru’s work offers another example of a research project in which doing less (cutting out a case study) becomes a necessary means of maintaining the feminist integrity of the project.

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