Feminist Research Ethics

Feminist Research Ethics

11. Key Strategies of Feminist Research Ethics

Some of the key strategies that put into practice a feminist research ethics are:

  • Exercises of reflexivity and self-reflexivity (as discussed above)
  • Collaboration and consultation with participants where possible in all stages of the research process to ensure that research is designed and carried out in a way that the interests of participants are taken into account.
  • Participation: enable research participants to actively engage in the knowledge production process, for example through participatory action research, disseminating knowledge in different forms beyond traditional academic texts, including through artistic mediums.
  • Engaging in transnational collaborative and comparative dialogues, and alliances that seek to challenge dominant epistemologies (or ways of knowing about the world), for example, in the work of transnational feminist praxis.

In the edited collection ‘Transnational Feminist Praxis’, Amanda Lock Swarr and Richa Nagar define transnational feminist praxis as “an intersectional set of understandings, tools, and practices that can:

(a)    attend to racialized, classed, masculinized, and heteronormative logics and practices of globalisation and capitalist patriarchies, and the multiple ways in which they (re)structure colonial and neo-colonial relations of domination and subordination;

(b)  grapple with the complex and contradictory ways in which these processes both inform and are shaped by a range of subjectivities and understandings of individual and collective agency; and

(c)    interweave critiques, actions, and self-reflexivity so as to resist a priori predictions of what might constitute feminist politics in a given place and time”

Transnational feminist praxis has been enacted through practices, such as:

  • engagement with positionality and reflexivity,
  • representational experiments that interrupt the researcher’s authority by incorporating multiple voices, and
  • enacting accountability, for example, by sharing transcripts and writing with research participants, and engaging with issues of writing for multiple audiences, mediation, translation and reception (Nagar and Lock Swarr 2010, pp. 5, 7).

Case Study 1

Feminist geographer, Richa Nagar argues that reflexivity needs to go beyond thinking of one’s own positionality to thinking about putting into practice a political commitment to change, through engagement with womens’ organisations on the ground. The book Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives (2006), produced in collaboration between the Sangtin collective, a group of grassroots community activists in Sitapur India and Nagar is an example of the struggles and possibilities of transnational feminist praxis.

As Nagar explains, in writing the book:

“We learned to identify the classed, caste, communal, and gendered processes that had shaped our differentiated pasts and presents a well as our investments and embeddedness in structures of privilege and oppression. We recognised how these processes fractured both subjectivities and solidarities, and that the task of imagining transformative politics necessarily implied engaging with and producing uncomfortable dialogues with and about difference within collectives and institutions… [They] seek to imagine new ways of sharing authority, imagining reciprocity, and enacting responsibility” (Nagar 2014, pp. 126-127).


Case Study 2

Reflecting on their long term collaborative relationship the feminist geographer, Geraldine Pratt, and two Filipino-Canadian activist organistions – The Philippine Women Centre of BC and Ugnayan Ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada – based in Vancouver, Canada, explain their collaboration process:

“One feature that has been constant across all of our projects is the commitment to plan the research collectively and to research issues that organisations at the Kalayaan Centre have judged to be pressing ones for their community  at the time…After deciding to collaborate in a participatory research project, we met five times for day-long workshops with some fifteen or so domestic workers, many of whom already met regularly at the Philippine Women Centre. We spent our first day together planning the research focus and methodologies…The next two sessions were spent breaking into three small groups in which women shared stories of their experiences in Tagalog… When the tapes were translated and transcribed by the PWC, we met together to read the transcripts line by line, to share and verify what was said and to develop a joint analysis. We met one more day to further develop the analysis” ( Pratt et al., 2010, p. 68).

Pratt explains: “it has always been my job to write a first draft of academic papers and present them to my collaborators for criticism and comment. But we have equal access to the data and they can (and have) used the information gathered through our research to write nonacademic briefs and reports, and we have a history of collaborating on media and press releases” (Pratt et al., 2010, p. 68).


Reflection Exercise

• To what extent are your research participants involved in the research design and knowledge production process in your research project? Consider using a staged approach to participation. For example, involving researchers training local women’s groups as researchers, and members of women’s groups then engaging with research participants to engage them in the research process.

• What are ways in which you can engage with the individuals and communities where you conduct your research in dialogue about the research process, and the analysis and knowledge that is created from it?

• What are different ways of presenting the findings from your research to reach different audiences?


References & Resources

  • Lock Swarr, A. and Nagar, R. eds., 2010. Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Sangtin Writers and Nagar, R. 2006. Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives in India, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. This book provides an example of collaborative knowledge production between feminist academics and a local women’s organisation. The video ‘Sangtin Yatra: A short introduction (2002-2010)’ provides an insight into the work involved in the work of the Sangtin Collective.
  • Nagar, R. 2014. Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press. This book discusses the many ethical challenges and strategies involved in undertaking transnational feminist praxis.
  • Pratt, G. in collaboration with the Philippine Women Centre of BC and Ugnayan Ng Kabataang Pilipino Sa Canada/The Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance, 2010. Seeing Beyond the State: Toward Transnational Feminist Organizing. In A. Lock Swarr and R. Nagar, eds. Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Staeheli, L  and Nagar, R. 2002. Feminists Talking across Worlds. Gender, Place & Culture, 9(2), pp. 167-172. This article discusses issues of power and reflexivity that are involved in transnational collaborative work.