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The Forum: Emotion and the Feminist IR Researcher

Christine Sylvester
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2486.2011.01046.x 687-708 First published online: 1 December 2011

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Editor's Note

This forum addresses a neglected issue in feminist IR research: the question of whether and how emotions should enter our scholarship. Feminist theory and practice have long maintained that politics comes into and can shape the personal realm of all social relations. There is no sharp division between the private and the public, and liberal efforts to demarcate the two can sequester people called women in the private, away from the privileged political and economic sphere associated with public agency (see, Elshtain 1981; Enloe 1989; Tickner 1988). One long-standing philosophical reason given for partnering women and the private sphere is that women supposedly suffer unique bodily passions that bring on mental weaknesses, like an inability to think straight (Rousseau). Indeed, states could be ruined on account of women and their ways (Machiavelli), or would have to be run by men in any case because women would be conquered in the war of all against all (Hobbes).

We are ostensibly way beyond those gendered understandings of women and politics, all of them based on Western political theorizing. Yet when it comes to dealing with emotions in academic research and writing, it is usual for feminists in International Relations (IR) to keep their emotions to themselves and sometimes even the emotions of their subjects out of the picture. Not to do so could reinforce the old gender stereotypes; it would also fly in the face of social science rules of research distance and objectivity. That such rules are often quietly adhered to, even when a feminist researcher questions the scientific epistemology that insists on those rules, can be puzzling today. At this moment in the field's history, IR is fragmented into numerous camps, each with its own favorite personages, writings, methodologies, topics, and even journals (Sylvester 2007). It is a …

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