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Millennium - Journal of

International Studies

Roundtable Discussion: Reflections on the Past, Prospects for the Future

in Gender and International Relations
Marysia Zalewski, Ann Tickner, Christine Sylvester, Margot Light, Vivienne Jabri,
Kimberly Hutchings and Fred Halliday
Millennium - Journal of International Studies 2008; 37; 153
DOI: 10.1177/0305829808093769
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2008 The Author(s)

Millennium: Journal of International Studies Vol.37 No.1, pp. 153179
ISSN 0305-8298; DOI: 10.1177/0305829808093769

Roundtable Discussion: Reflections

on the Past, Prospects for the Future
in Gender and International Relations
Panel Participants
Moderator: Kimberly Hutchings, London School of Economics;
Marysia Zalewski, University of Aberdeen; Ann Tickner, University
of Southern California; Christine Sylvester, Lancaster University;
Margot Light, London School of Economics; Vivienne Jabri, Kings
College London; Fred Halliday, London School of Economics and the
Barcelona Institute of International Studies.
Questions from: Niamh Reilly, National University of Ireland;
Laura McLeod, University of Sheffield; Soumita Basu, Aberystwyth
University; Andrew Mickleburgh, Downe House School.

Kimberly Hutchings: I am delighted to welcome our roundtable speakers. We have Professor Vivienne Jabri from Kings College London,
Professor Margot Light from the London School of Economics, Dr
Marysia Zalewski from the University of Aberdeen, Professor Fred
Halliday from the London School of Economics and the Barcelona
Institute of International Studies, Professor Christine Sylvester from
Lancaster University, and Professor Ann Tickner from the University
of Southern California. So, many thanks to all six of them for agreeing
to come and speak. Were going to go in backwards alphabetical order.
Each of the speakers has been asked to give their views on the relation between past concerns and the contemporary and future agenda
of feminist IR.
Marysia Zalewski: Ill speak to the question of feminism in my
comments here with my first point relating to my recollection of the 1988
conference on women and IR at the London School of Economics, which
I attended as an undergraduate student. The main thing I remember
about that conference is a comment made by a PhD student, which had
a profound effect on me at that time. Though it then seemed an odd
thing to be talking about in relation to international politics (even if at a
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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

conference about women), she spoke about abortion. She proposed to

the audience that if women were taken seriously (surely a consistently
important feminist provocation), women would have total control of
decisions to abort or not, and crucially there would be no constraint as to
when a woman might terminate her pregnancy. She paused and looked at
the audience for their reaction, and there was a certain discomfort. To be
sure, abortion may have something to do with women and reproductive
rights, but why make this particular statement and why make it here and
now? She speculated about reactions from the public: Oh, my God,
you cant do that! Women would be having abortions at 38/40 weeks!
She claimed that there would be a rabid reaction to her proposition,
one presumably fuelled by the conventional belief a belief historically
supported philosophically that women cannot make fully rational,
reasonable, acceptable decisions; but particularly in this case because this
isnt their decision to make at all
Perhaps we can think of her proposition as momentarily performing
a radical and feminist conceptual leap. Making radical conceptual leaps
or nudging/rupturing epistemological and political imaginations is
one of the things I think feminism can be extremely good at, even if these
leaps are regularly misrecognized. I dont think that the students concern
was about actual policy, but to push/shock that particular audience to
more fully perceive (or perceive at all) how women/the feminine/the
feminized are placed and constrained, epistemologically/politically/
ethically. She fleetingly exposed the depth of fear about womens
uncontrollability when unconstrained, and the easy, comfortable slide
into distrust of things feminized; a point which certainly made me start
to think differently about IR at that time and it is a point which I think
still has contemporary resonance.
We might now read that students intervention as illustrative of
feminist anxiety, a modernist inspired apprehension about the gendered
containment of womens agency and subject-hood. In the context of recent
debates about feminist marginality (particularly within the discipline of
IR) the gendered landscape of anxiety has become something of a minefield.
Giving voice to feminist/feminized anguish which has such a different
hue to masculinized anxieties invites disciplinary circumvention of all
traces of feminist unease. I want to return to these points in a moment
when I speak about feminist marginality and futures I will also return
to my opening story. I want to move now to discuss definitional practices
around feminism. On this Roundtable, we are thinking about feminism in
relation to its discursive production within the discipline of IR, so let me
offer the following as a snapshot image of feminism within IR, drawn
from recent debates in the field.
Heres the general picture: feminism begins (is born), we know by
definition (literally) what it is: usually women, men, power, etc. And we
have a sense of its mission, emancipation for example, or to change the
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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

balance of gendered power.1 This familiar image of feminism at least

how feminism is discursively imagined2 has garnered some disciplinary
currency in IR, which I suggest it achieves through a series of interconnected
performative practices. One of these practices is the persistent tethering
or wrenching back to imagined inaugural commitments for example,
subjects and subjectivity very traditionally understood regularly producing feminism in IR as unyieldingly holding on to essentialist views of
woman/subjects, or empowerment conventionally conceived, or being
very simplistically to do with empowering women vis-a-vis men (Niamhs
paper this morning spoke to some of this).3 One consequence of this retrospective suturing is the conjuring of feminism as inevitably temporally
constituted. Feminism emerges birthed by women ineluctably to move
through stages/generations and, of course, to die. Mary Hawkesworth has
written on similar themes recently,4 suggesting feminism is marked by a
lifespan metaphor where demise is inevitable, theres no where else to go.
(Masculine birthing from Frankensteins creation, to the bomb, to IVF
has surely always been alternatively marked by immortality.)
A further consequence of this nostalgic securing and the accompanying
sense of time limitation around feminism is an emergent perception that
all has not quite gone according to (the feminist) plan. What might this be?
That feminism has failed in its normative ambitions and commitments?
Or is it that IR as a discipline hasnt changed enough, hasnt been
gender mainstreamed enough, hasnt been transformed enough? To be
sure it may not be the task of feminism to liberate or empower women
(even broadly understood), yet feminism has tended to be conceived
in these terms.5 I would further suggest that this task of transformation
has become something of a signature motif around feminism,6 perhaps
1. Judith Squires and Jutta Weldes, Beyond Being Marginal: Gender and
International Relations in Britain, The British Journal of Politics and International
Relations, 9, no. 2 (2007): 185203.
2. See discussion in Clare Hemmings,Telling feminist stories, Feminist Theory,
6 (2005): 115139.
3. Paper presented at the workshop on 26 January, Niamh Reilly (National
University of Ireland, Galway), Commonalities, Differences; Past and Present
Feminism and Gender Studies IR: Fundamentalisms and Feminist Resistance.
4. Mary Hawkesworth, The Semiotics of Premature Burial: Feminism in a
Postfeminist Age, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 29, no. 4 (2004):
5. Elizabeth Grosz, Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power (Sydney: Allen and
Unwin, 2005); Hawkesworth, The Semiotics; Brooke Ackerly and Jacqui True,
Studying the Struggles and Wishes of the Age: Feminist Theoretical Methodology and Feminist Theoretical Methods, in Brooke A. Ackerly, Maria Stern and
Jacqui True (eds.), Feminist Methodologies for International Relations (Cambridge:
Cambridge University press, 2006).
6. But as Grosz suggests, if feminisms mission really was to liberate women
then something really has gone terribly wrong.

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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

particularly revealed in the context of debates around (feminist)

marginality and (failed) revolution,7 issues which were intriguingly
discussed this morning. Failure to achieve (surely not?) and apparent
anxiety at still being on the edges of IR has conjured images of feminist
despondency about marginality and the prospect of a gloomy future.8
Constituted margins are indeed interesting places given their illustrations of liminal fragility. However, I do not think that asking whether
feminism is or isnt on the margins, is a critically constructive way
to think about feminism (or indeed IR). We might agree that feminism
isnt recognizably at the centre of the field of IR (especially given the selfproclaimed centres hetero-normative and pseudo-scientific fetishes); yet
feminism simultaneously pervades the centre. As such, feminist critical
analyses of margins effectively expose myths and functions of centres
and margins. Yet, feminist inquiry into perceptions/places of marginality however critically inspired readily invites charges of melancholia
and resentment; while other critical voices, more authoritatively associated with masculinist methodologies, confidently suggest the need to
linger longer in anxiety,9 a sentiment with which I concur.
There is a cyclicality to critical thinking, especially that which draws upon
deconstruction (here, critical = feminism; deconstruction = feminist). This
is not something marked by linearity. I think it is instructive to ponder to
linger longer on the functions of, and perceptions about, or indeed performances of, marginality, especially in the context of the construction of
authoritative knowledge and legitimate research and teaching practices. In
this sense, the discipline of IR remains a significant site to investigate given
its role in producing, reproducing and reinforcing particular kinds of knowledges inclusions and privileges.10 The need for critical investigation of knowledge-producing institutions has simply increased in the current context of
the growing hegemony of neo-liberalisms corporate, profit-driven agenda
increasingly exemplified in the practices of the contemporary university.
My final point picks up on a question Terrell posed this morning.11
What would a feminist IR look like? This is a question I too have often
7. Jill Steans, Engaging from the Margins: Feminist Encounters with the Mainstream of International Relations, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 5, no. 3 (2003): 428454; Squires and Weldes, Beyond Being Marginal.
8. See Maria Stern and Marysia Zalewski, Feminist Fatigue(s): Reflections on
Feminist Fables of Militarization, Review of International Studies (forthcoming).
9. Karena Shaw and R.B.J Walker, Situating Academic Practice: Pedagogy, Critique and Responsibility, in Millennium, 35, no. 1 (2006): 155165.
10. Charlotte Hooper, Manly States: Masculinities, International Relations and
Gender Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); Hawkesworth, The
Semiotics. Moreover, we should ponder whether a relatively small group of privileged peoples experiences at expensive national and international conferences
can usefully indicate the parameters of a field.
11. Paper presented at workshop on 26 January, Terrell Carver (University of
Bristol), Men in the Feminist Gaze: What Does this Mean in IR?.

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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

asked, not to get an answer, but to gauge what kind of assumptions are
made about what that question means and what kind of answer might be
deemed credible, authoritative or useful. We surely already have feminist
IR. Rephrase we have always had feminist IR if this refers to the many
stories about matters international (which clearly includes the private
and personal) told (or not told) by feminists; or through feminism; or
through narratives which question gender/sex; or those that deconstruct
sex/gender; or those that reconstitute gender/sex (which might include
feminism). This is not necessarily to invoke the work that appears on
some international politics readings lists in universities around the world
perhaps on that week on gender12 the one toward the end, along
with the other vaguely feminized afterthoughts that perhaps do little to
destabilize the field but possibly consolidate it?
No time limit for abortion. Why? On what grounds? These arent the
right questions indeed there isnt a right question here. I think the
political intervention made by that graduate student in 1988 was more of
an act of trying to get her audience to think otherwise about the conceptual architectures that create our philosophical and political coherences.
We spend so much time in academic institutions constructing coherent
stories about subjects, issues and topics to impart them to our students
and whatever other audiences we increasingly aspire to have hear us, we
forget that coherence itself is a construction. We dont learn, hear or even
feel in coherent ways yet this very idea of messiness perhaps exudes too
much of a feminist gloss.
There is clearly much more feminist inspired work that will be done.
Yet I dont want to imply that any of this work has a linear quality. The
idea of consistently, coherently and purposefully moving forward (a
New Labour, neo-management term surely) is deeply problematic. Our
words and concepts repeatedly fail us.13 How could they not? But it is not
easy to keep confronting this particularly in the context of invocations
of feminized anxiety or of misrecognition of feminisms work. So we
construct more edifices methodological, political, ethical to shore up
the fragile boundaries of knowledge, ones perhaps more satisfyingly
We should not dismiss the comment made by that graduate student
in 1988 in the light of contemporary thinking; rather we might engage it
to reconsider how words and concepts do not necessarily carry the same
meanings forward in time. I suggest we keep paying serious attention to
feminist stories as well as to the temporal and other stabilizations around
12. Christina Rowley and Laura Shepherd, The Week on Gender: Feminists
Teaching IR. Unpublished paper presented at The Space Between Us workshop
at the University of Bristol, 2006 (Gendering International Relations BISA working group).
13. Robyn Wiegman, On Being in Time With Feminism, Modern Languages
Quarterly, 65, no. 1 (2004): 161.

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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

feminism to think about what this tells us about the constitution of the
international and the political.
Ann Tickner: Twenty years ago, I had the privilege of spending the
1989 Lent term at the London School of Economics at which time Fred
Halliday and Margot Light introduced the course, Women and International Relations, the first time such a course had been taught at the
LSE. It is, therefore, a special pleasure to participate in this conference as
we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the course, as well as the 1988
Millennium special issue. The course was structured around a number of
guest speakers, the majority of whom were activists working for NGOs
and policy research groups; only a few were teachers of IR. One of the
goals of the seminar, and also of the Millennium special issue, was to try
to find women in international relations. Not that they werent already
there, as the seminar participants well knew, but they had certainly not
been noticed by the discipline of International Relations. At that time,
there was very little material on feminist IR that one could assign to students. The 1989 course relied quite heavily on a fairly extensive bibliography on women and development, and a more limited one on women and
war, and women and the military. But there was practically no scholarship offering a gendered perspective on the discipline of IR. Most of the
visitors in the seminar would not have identified themselves as IR people
In my week in the course, I focused my remarks on asking, and trying
to answer, the question: why are there so few women in international
policymaking and in the IR discipline? Having taught a variety of IR
courses over the previous five years, I had come to realize that very few
of the books I assigned were written by women. In the 1980s, the last
decade of the Cold War and before I started writing and teaching about
feminism, I became aware of how many of my women students were
quite uncomfortable with, or unmotivated by, my IR survey course. In this
course we spent quite a bit of time on national security issues, including
nuclear strategy and, yes, I was guilty of enjoying a sense of linguistic
power when I rolled off those nice sounding acronyms like slickems
(submarine-launched cruise missiles) and glickems (ground-launched
cruise missiles) about which Carol Cohn talks in her insightful work
on the gendered language of nuclear strategy.14 Many of the women
students would say, I really dont think this course is for me. Trying
to figure out why extremely capable students felt so alienated from the
material motivated me to start thinking about IR as gendered. The end
of the 1980s was a hopeful time for new thinking about the discipline
the Cold War was ending and, not coincidentally, IR was becoming
more open to critical perspectives. There was the optimistic sense that
14. Carol Cohn, Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals,
Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 12, no. 4 (1987): 687718.

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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

feminism was one of a number of new and exciting critical approaches

that would enrich a field that had been so caught up with explaining the
national security behaviour of the great powers. So, what has happened
There is now, of course, a large and wonderfully diverse literature on
feminist IR that challenges disciplinary boundaries and adds new issues
and new voices that have never been heard in the discipline before. It
is the kind of material that excites students who hitherto may have felt
alienated from the subject matter of the field. We have our own journal, The International Feminist Journal of Politics. Many of the standard IR
textbooks now include a chapter on feminism and publishers are receptive to our work. Both British International Studies Association (BISA)
and the International Studies Association (ISA) have large thriving sections devoted to feminist research and scholarship. And IR feminism is
starting to be recognized as one of the approaches within the discipline.
For example, one of the questions asked on a 2006 survey of university
professors in the United States and Canada was, Approximately what
percentage of your introductory IR course do you devote to studying
each international relations paradigm? Although 5175% of US respondents said they only devoted 0.4% of the course to feminism, 610%
said 32%.15 In a previous survey done in 2004, feminism had not even
been listed as a possible paradigm choice.
So, what are some of the directions feminist IR scholarship has
been going in the last twenty years? Obviously they are multiple and
exciting. We still are, and still should be, concerned about asking the
question: Where are the women? Feminist research has been successful
in making women more visible. But IR feminism has also gone much
deeper. Getting well beyond women and IR, and even beyond gender
and IR, it has successfully demonstrated not maybe as much as we
would like in the discipline as a whole that IR theory is gendered,
both in the questions it chooses to ask, as well as how it goes about
answering them. One of the most creative moves feminism has made
is to challenge disciplinary boundaries and bring new issues and
new voices into what we call IR. Rich empirical case studies using
methodologies not normally employed by IR scholars have shed light
on those on the margins whose lives are deeply impacted by global
politics and economics. Feminists have successfully demonstrated how
the lives of sex workers, domestic servants, home-based workers and
those who work at unremunerated caring and reproductive labour, are
intertwined with global politics and the global economy. They have also
suggested that the security of states is sometimes dependent on rendering
15. Daniel Maliniak, Amy Oakes, Susan Peterson and Michael Tierney, The
View from the Ivory Tower: TRIP Survey of International Relations Faculty in the
United States and Canada (Williamsburg, VA: College of William and Mary,

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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

insecure the lives of certain, often marginalized, people and how the
global capitalist economy could not function without unremunerated
and under-remunerated labour, the majority of which is performed by
women. IR feminists have also pointed to the inadequacies of social
scientific methodologies for answering many of the questions they want
to ask. For example, IR feminists are drawn to ethnographic fieldwork
and linguistic text analysis, methodologies that are rarely used in social
scientific IR. There is now an important emergent literature on feminist
methodologies much needed for our research students who must often
go outside the discipline to seek the kind of methodological training
necessary to do empirical feminist research.16
How do we assess all these positive developments and what the future
holds for feminist IR? In spite of Christine Sylvesters claim that we are
getting beyond marginality, I do think that IR feminist approaches are
still quite marginal in the United States. This may be less true in Europe
where there is more openness to critical approaches more generally. In
the United States, we do have plenty of spaces at professional meetings
for feminist research and conversations, although I agree with Sylvester
that the danger here is that we are all in our own camps and not speaking enough to each other.17 But, in the US, there are very few political
science or International Relations departments at PhD-granting institutions that include any faculty members who specialize in feminist
approaches. PhD students still worry about whether making the decision to pursue a feminist dissertation topic will endanger their chances
of finding a teaching or research position in the academy. In fact, many
young scholars from the US, whose research and teaching is based in
feminist or other critical approaches, are going elsewhere outside
the US, either for graduate research or academic positions. This is a
problem both for the continuation of feminist IR and for the exposure
of IR students to feminist approaches at both the undergraduate and
postgraduate levels. There is a perception in the US that the IR field
more generally may actually be narrowing, at least in terms of its preference for social scientific methodologies. While I very much respect
feminist scholars who choose to situate themselves outside of what we
conventionally define as IR often in Womens Studies departments
or others that are more open to gendered perspectives I do believe
that some of us need to stay connected to IR, whatever that may mean.
Many of my IR students who decide to take a course on feminist IR
come away saying that it has changed how they view the world. Surely,
this is worth our efforts! And the intergovernmental and NGO policy
worlds are often looking for gender specialists. I do agree, however, that
it is time to move beyond what I and others have termed unproductive
16. See for example, Ackerly, Stern and True, eds., Feminist Methodologies.
17. Christine Sylvester, Whither the International At the End of IR, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 35, no. 2 (2007): 551573.

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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

conversations with the wider discipline. There is so much exciting

feminist research about global issues being done and still needing to be
done, that this is where our future efforts should lie whether or not we
prefer to be located in the discipline that we call IR.
Christine Sylvester: What has changed from 1988 to 2008? Id say mostly
the field of International Relations. IR has been transformed: there is no
real mainstream any longer, margins are disappearing, and no topic is
forbidden to it. The field accommodates everything in a devolved and still
evolving camp structure. Our numerous camps have their own heroes,
prized texts, dedicated followers, and, increasingly, their own journals.
This camp development in the field means that feminist IR can stop saying that it is on the margins. The so-called mainstream is on the margins
and margins are mainstream. Indeed, to insist on holding the margin in
the field is to get stuck in the past, addicted to locating IR some place
other than where we are. I am a bit of IR, you are IR, we are all part of IR
and no one is IR in its entirety.
IRs transformation came in the wake of the third debate. When the
field failed to predict the fall of a superpower, after studying polarity
with great intensity for decades, IR was weakened. In came a variety of
people, approaches, insistences, and agendas, full of pent up demands
and all taking aim at the unworthy mainstream of IR. Feminism was one
of several groups charging the gates; the post-structuralists were there,
the postcolonial studies scholars, the sociologists came in, the English
School staged a comeback, human security plunged on. The effect of
these challenges was to move IR into much more democratic spaces for
scholarship than most might have anticipated. We all have places in IR
around some campfire now; and we can always build a new camp if we
take exception to the ones already formed.
To be clear, there are people in the world vast numbers who
are forced into margins or zones of bare life by states, social groups,
economic practices, politics, and even by our academic privileges. I am
not claiming that there are fewer margins in life and in international
relations. How sad that there are so many! What I am saying is that
feminists are not marginalized today in the academic field of IR. Feminist
IR might be snubbed by other camps, but thats the camp structure for
you. We can ignore a camp, even denounce it if we wish, and it can do
the same to us. Both, however, will likely survive and flourish in camp
IR; since nothing is out of bounds and nothing can be tossed away or
entirely discredited; theres always some simpatico journal to send ones
work to or read. The camp phenomenon also exists irrespective of the
kind of academic institution we work in, or the IR orientation held by
our immediate or national colleagues. The field in its broadest outlines is
what is structured into camps, and even scholars who might be tucked
away in feminist-hostile departments can take solace in feminist camps
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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

that appear in the literature and that have formal recognition as sections
in IRs professional organizations.
Viva the opening up of IR! At the same time, there are some downsides to a basically praiseworthy broadening in the field. It is a transnational and interdisciplinary moment for IR, but one, oddly, that is not
especially connective or intellectually generous. From my locations on
the broad critical wings of the campground, I see sectarianism creeping
in. Time was when scholars critical of mainstream IR formed alliances
and worked across each others lines of inquiry. There was a sense of
solidarity not unity, not uniformity of thought or approach, but solidarity across difference. That trend of the 1980s and early 1990s is largely
over. Were all in fiefdoms now, and it can be easy to go it alone rather
than hook up with those we once worked alongside for field space. In
some critical circles, I even detect a selective shunning of certain allied
knowledges or aims, feminist knowledges in particular. Perhaps camps
imagine that they got IR, or their part of it, right, in which case there
would be little incentive to keep up with what even related camps are
thinking, let alone bring in their ideas. Yet, insularity means that a camp
can myopically claim a unique direction that another camp might have
considered a while back. And all of us can miss elements of the international that our smoky campfires hide.
Feminist IR itself isnt immune to these general tendencies. Im keeping
my eye on what looks to be a proto-nationalist identity line drawn
between feminist IR and gender IR by some contributors to a special
issue of the British Journal of Politics and IR on gender and international
relations in Britain.18 Gender International Relations (GIR) advocates
promise to broaden the various womens questions in feminist IR into
gender questions, which gets men and masculinities squarely into the
gender picture and moves gender analysis away from the margins to the
centre of IR. If margins arent there anymore in IR, though, we really
shouldnt reify them. And if men per se havent been studied in feminist
IR, masculinity certainly has for years. GIR questions the necessity of
framing masculinity studies around effects on only women or gender
relations that affect women. That sounds like a genuine disagreement
within feminist IR to me, and disagreement is fine. Claiming GIR for
Britain, however, tweaks a sectarian concern to pronounce an orthodoxy
on those who might not quite agree with it in Britain, and do so through
a move that relies on the territorial map of old-hat IR.
Masculinity(ies) is(are) important and should not be neglected. At the
same time, we must guard against turning them into another ultimate or
overarching phenomenon, as I think has happened to some initially useful concepts like militarization, capitalism, and rationality. Masculinities
18. Judith Squires and Jutta Weldes (eds) British Journal of Politics and International Relations Special Issue on Gender and IR in Britain, 9, no. 2 (2007).

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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

can easily become linchpins for many dynamics and intersections,

thereby imprisoning us with their pervasiveness and metamorphoses,
their categories and tools. Masculinity seen everywhere in many different forms, can loom encompassingly tricky in its maneuverings for
survival. We end up following it, tracking its shape-shifts, noting weak
points, and studying resistances that could not possibly tame such a
made-big beast. Perhaps masculinities is a new way to study patriarchy, rejuvenating and updating that big concept for a postmodern era of
difference. And, equating Britain with GIR could be about School politics:
within a European theatre of IR that likes to name university-identified
schools of thought the Aberystwyth School, the Copenhagen School,
and the English School maybe the University of Bristols admirable gender and IR programme is simply being pasted onto Britain at large.
Among multiple trends in feminist IR, including GIR, I have been
learning much from recent research on women who use violence in
international relations. That work, which I associate with Laura Sjoberg
as well as Caren Gentry, explodes any lingering tendencies we might
have to associate women with peace and masculinity with violence.19
It enables us to think unthinkable thoughts about the violence-laden
choices, decisions, actions, and tools of agency that people called women
ponder in various settings. Importantly, it lets us talk about powerful
bad women instead of focusing so much on how (all?) women are differentially forced to conform to, and take as normal, masculine discourses of violence. I also appreciate the often unexpected and complex
international relations that emerge when we provincialize IR, to extend
a notion from Dipesh Chakrabarty, using postcolonial approaches.20
Heres a different worry for me, though: who has run off with feminists
tongues? We grasp power and influence within camp IR and even
manage the impressive crossover that result in Ann Tickner being elected
ISA president. Yet, we can go all silent and squirmy on public issues of
the day rather than enter difficult tussles about religion, immigration,
and law that affect many women. Can IR feminists reasonably support
outspoken feminist women whose politics confound our categories of
difference (as in the case of Hirsi Ali)?21 I might have read the wrong
newspapers when Rowan Williams suggested bringing aspects of Sharia
law into the British legal system.22 Perhaps that is why I had difficulty
19. Laura Sjoberg and Caren E. Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Womens Violence in Global Politics (London: Zed Books, 2007).
20. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: postcolonial thought and historical
difference, 2nd Edition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).
21. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former Dutch MP, well known for her critique of Islams
treatment of women.
22. This is a reference to the controversy stirred up by a speech given by Rowan
Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in February 2008, which dealt with the
relation between religious and secular legal frameworks.

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finding editorials by feminists about the effects such a move could have
on variously placed women. Surely this is a tailor-made topic for feminist
discussion and argument, pro and con.
How and why we split into so many camps in disciplinary and real
world ways, is an interesting question. Even more interesting to me is
this one: is a camp structure what we really want in the longrun? The
academic generation coming of age now has not known anything other
than camp/sectarian IR. They must think it the norm. Let us think again:
who are we as feminists doing IR, and what is the nature of that exciting
venture at this precise juncture in history? Perhaps we will find that we
need to change ourselves a bit, even as we celebrate what we have well
and truly achieved in post-third debate IR.
Margot Light: What I want to do is to reflect not so much on the subject
matter, but on teaching the option Women and IR. The first thing Id like
to say is what a privilege it was being part of it. Apart from my own birth,
its the only thing Ive been part of thats actually had anniversaries. One
point that was very apparent to me right from the beginning was that there
was something of a confusion between trying to decide whether this was an
activist project or a theoretical project, and that was very apparent amongst
the students as well. What was intriguing to me, and I think this was the
first time Id actually understood this, was that there can be a potential
conflict between being an activist and being a theorist. Because if youre an
activist, you dont always want to go where the logic of the theory takes
you, and that can be a problem in the academic study of Women and IR.
The second thing I noticed, and Id be interested to know whether
this still happens, is that the students who took Women and IR were a
kind of self-selected group, so that what one was doing was preaching
to the converted; you were never actually spreading the message beyond
to a wider audience. That was particularly apparent in the gender of
the students who took the option in all the time that I taught it at the
London School of Economics, there were never more than one or two
male students per year. Now, looking around me today, I would judge
that the gender spread is slightly better, but I would guess that it is still
noticeably predominantly women who study Gender and IR in the UK.
I was struck by the difference when I went to teach in the United States,
at Dartmouth College for a term. I offered Women and IR as a senior
undergraduate course, and I was absolutely amazed to discover that
most of the students who took it were male and not female. I was also
horrified, however, because Dartmouth has this horrendous practice
(I think) of parents attending the classes once a term. To have a group of
dads sitting at the back of the room when I spoke about womens unpaid
labour was rather trying, to say the least.
Another thing that was very obvious to me then, and Id be interested
to hear from colleagues if this is still the case, was that Women and IR
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was definitely known as a soft option and I never actually managed to

establish whether students were actively advised against taking this soft
option. I certainly know that when I became a graduate student at the LSE,
my advisor did more than strongly advise; he virtually forbade me to go
to anything this was before the third debate; we were still in the throes
of the second debate that had any kind of behaviouralism attached to it.
I was quite interested at the time to try to establish if students at the LSE
were still getting that kind of advice, but I didnt manage to find out.
The other thing that struck me then, and I think it became increasingly
obvious to us over the years, was that our option tended to be a very
popular choice for students doing a Masters in Gender Studies, obviously,
but also students of Development Studies. This had a curious effect on the
content of the course, because it seemed to me that as the years went on, we
were teaching fewer students who knew IR theory, and that meant it was
very difficult to raise the theoretical content or even to keep the level of the
theoretical content of Women and IR as high as I would have liked.
The final point that Id like to make because Im doing the five minute
option here is on the question of mainstreaming or keeping Gender
and IR as a niche subject. At the time, I felt that mainstreaming was a
great success, because mainstreaming actually dealt with most of these
problems that I have mentioned here. Once we reached a stage where the
main course on International Relations Theory included gender as one of
its topics, once Foreign Policy Analysis had gender as one of its topics,
once Conflict and Peace Studies had gender as one of its topics, I really
thought that for the first time we were actually getting the subject more
widely known among people who might otherwise never have had any
appreciation of it.
Vivienne Jabri: We were asked to consider the relation between feminist
IR in the past with contemporary and future concerns. It is tempting to
provide a wholesale account of feminist activity in the discipline of IR, but
no less a temptation is to consider future agendas for feminist research.
Ill opt for the second of the two challenges that Kimberly Hutchings put
to us and focus on the future and where feminist contributions might lie
in an IR field, which has already been somehow reconstituted, not simply
through the events of the world, so to speak, but through the influences of
critical discourses, encompassing, as these have done, various renditions
on Frankfurt School critical theory, feminism and poststructural thought.
I start with the assumption that feminist IR, in simply bringing forth
questions related to gendered subjectivity, has already contributed to the
reconstitution of the discourses of IR, its theories and how the subject is
taught. This does not mean that all who teach IR have taken feminism on
board; rather that one element in our baseline of judgement, of courses
taught, conferences, research on matters international, derives from
feminist interventions already in place in IR.
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So the interesting question relates, in my view, not so much to IR as

a discipline and whether feminists have succeeded somehow in its
transformation, but, rather, what feminist thought itself contributes to
the present and the political concerns we have in the present. The lens, in
other words, shifts back to feminism itself, and in particular to feminism
as political theory. When conceived not simply as an empirical project that
brings women in, but rather as a distinctly philosophical and political
project, feminism must engage with the question of the distinctiveness of
the international on the one hand and the political on the other. Such
engagement is itself replete with a legacy of contestation within feminism as
a body of theory. We might, for example, immediately distinguish between
liberal feminism that takes rational woman as subject, and Marxist inspired
feminist thought that relates gendered subjectivity to class consciousness,
which in turn might be distinguished from psychoanalytically informed
poststructural feminism that seeks to problematize subjectivity as such
and to locate understandings of subjectivity within the wider material
and discursive conditions of social and political life. Once feminism
is acknowledged as a discourse that is already imbricated with these
influences, while being itself transformative of them, the agenda for
reflection shifts towards feminisms distinctive contributions to how we
begin to think about politics and the distinctly international location
of politics. So, we might then begin to ask questions like: what is it that
feminism can tell us about the sphere of the international as a distinct
political space? What is it that feminism tells us about the sphere of the
political, and the distinctiveness, in turn, of the sphere of the political?
I want to argue that the historical challenge of feminism and for
feminism has been its questioning of the distinctiveness of both the
international and the political. Feminism disrupts the taken for granted
boundaries of political theory and it has done so in IR through its focus
on lived experience. The abstractions of the international system, of the
unproblematized state and of political agency come face to face with the
actuality of life in all its fragmentations, differentiations and complexities.
It is exactly this disruption of IRs taken for granted categories that links
feminist discourse to our icons of the past; namely Simone de Beauvoir
and others, as well as other critical antecedents in the form of Marxist and
post-Marxist political theory and continental philosophy.
However, in bringing lived experience to the fore and in problematizing the boundaries of the international and the political, feminism is itself
challenged by the specificity of questions that derive from the juridicopolitical distinctiveness of the international. This is a distinctiveness that
is not so much taken for granted, as is the wont of orthodoxy, but rather
one that has very direct and very immediate impact on the constitution
of subjectivity (gendered or otherwise), on lived experience and the
possibility of political agency. The boundaries, constructed as they are
discursively and institutionally, that the international suggests matter
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materially, discursively, and hence also in the constitution of subjectivity.

How feminism contributes to the spatial and temporal articulation of the
international is hence key, for this brings feminism itself face to face with
its very own modern legacy, one that firmly locates it within and in relation to the institutions of modernity, namely the state and a capitalist
international political economy. Crucially, this modern legacy confers to
feminism a particular notion of subjectivity, one that suggests a modernizing, progressive notion of a here and an elsewhere, some notion of an
emancipated subject to come. Even in its most poststructural rendition,
feminism as political theory is only meaningful in the context of its modern inheritance, contested though this inheritance is.
Then we have the notion of the political and its distinctiveness.
Feminisms great contribution is its disruption of the boundary between
the private and the public. However, once again feminism comes face to
face with its own critique, for the question must always return to how
feminism contributes to our thinking about politics, political community,
the legitimacy or otherwise of political institutions, subjectivity and how
it relates to political agency. It is perhaps too easy to problematize the
temporal and spatial distinction between the private and the public, but
the two locations are only meaningful in being mutually constitutive in
their difference. The feminist movement has historically recognized this
mutually constitutive difference, for any feminist intervention as practice
seeks the relocation (in time and space) of the private into the public, and
of the personal into the political.
So, if feminism in IR moves beyond merely thinking of itself as living
on the margins, then it has to have some substantial sense of what it
means to inhabit the terrain of the international and what it means to
be political. The modern international is exactly defined in terms, first,
of the modern state and modern conceptions of sovereignty, a neoliberal
international political economy and a distinctly modern subjectivity that
is formed in and through these modern institutions and power relations.
Feminism as a discourse and the institutional practices that it has come to
inform is, in fact, far from being on the margins when thought of in our
present context of late modernity. Feminism might, in fact, be thought
of as being complicit in the institutions of modernity, their late modern
transformations and the hegemonic practices that derive from these institutions internationally. We need to think about these complicities and
their implications for a discourse that defines itself as critical. Unravelling these complicities reveals differences within feminism that reflect
the international politics of the present, defined as these are in terms,
on the one hand, of the recognition of difference and the very modern
conception of a self-determining political community (what I would
argue is an internationalist political feminism) and, on the other, of a neoconservative interventionist form of feminism that is complicit in hegemonic relations of power. It is important to recognize that neither of these
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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

forms of feminism is on the margins. They are, however, fundamentally

different articulations of politics, and of international politics, specifically.
What comes to be of interest to the first form of feminism is how gender,
and sexualized subjectivity, is used as a technology of power, whether
such use comes in the form of gender awareness training in post-conflict
state-building, in gender mainstreaming, or in the confined spaces of
Abu-Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Of interest to a neo-conservative form
of feminism is how gender might be utilized as a legitimizing practice for
intervention, for the redesign of other societies, for the reinforcement of a
neo-liberal order and so on.
Each of the above forms of feminist thought gives different answers
to the question of what constitutes the international and the political.
The contest is no longer one of feminism and the rest, but rather lies
within feminism itself (some would argue that the contest has always
been an internal one). While there has been much by way of an internal
conversation within feminist political theory, such has not been the case
in feminist IR. Two of the papers presented earlier during the day touch
on, or implicitly suggest, a call for a rethinking of how such a conversation
might take place in IR. One paper was devoted to African Feminism and
was given by our colleague from Rutgers, and the other was given by
Terrell Carver, and asked what an alternative materialisation would look
like. The former brings to our attention the question of how feminism is
articulated in African politics, while the latter is, I think unintentionally
on Terrells part, suggestive of the question of how gendered subjectivity
finds expression in the contingencies of social and political life and how
knowledge systems give form to such subjectivity.23
I want to suggest that an internationalist political feminism
distinguishes itself from a universalizing, moralizing cosmopolitan
discourse that seeks its remit as being in a pedagogical relation with
societies outside the West. Each of these brings different conceptions
of feminism as a distinctly modern project, each articulates a different
relationship with difference itself, each ultimately defines and seeks a
different materialization.
Fred Halliday: We need to link the development of feminist IR to the
radical movements of 1968 and to second wave feminism. There are three
things I want to deal with: why the 1980s? Where have we got to? And
whats my agenda now? In the 1980s, if you take a very simple model,
then anything in IR, or in any of the social sciences, is a product of the discipline itself, broader intellectual and academic currents, then the world
as a whole. Lets just start with the world as a whole. In the 1980s, you had
23. Papers presented at the workshop on 26 January: Fayth Ruffin (Rutgers
University) Twenty Years Later: Feminism and the Limits of the Claim to Know;
Terrell Carver, Men in the Feminist Gaze.

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already had, as has been mentioned, major contributions on the topic of

women and development, very much arising out of Ester Boserups 1970
book, which was an absolutely key book that led to the UNs decades
for women.24 Second, you also had great interest in womens rights and,
in 1979, the international Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). There was also a very powerful, even if
not formally organized, international womens movement. Much of it, Id
like to remind people, coming from the United States. Within the social
sciences IR was late, but we were influenced by feminist politics and by
feminist work in other disciplines. If we think of history, there is Sheila
Rowbothams great book Hidden from History, and thats why I called my
first article on women and international relations in the 1988 Millennium
issue, Hidden from International Relations.25 There were also major
developments in international law that later led to the international legislation on rape in war, and to major efforts in many parts of the world
to counter violence against women at the state level, which have also
prompted movements against all kinds of sexual and gender discrimination, including anti-gay discrimination.
I think in IR itself there was much resistance to feminist work. IR
thought of itself as gender neutral. Nevertheless, there were bits of work
being done. There was work being done on women and development;
there was massive womens participation in anti-war and anti-nuclear
movements, such as Greenham Common. People like Jean Elshtain were
writing about this, Mary Kaldor as well.26 Much of this is what is currently
disparaged, not by me, as liberal feminism or as universalist. Also, we
should not forget the role of communism and radical and revolutionary
movements in promoting womens rights. Just to take you back, Ive got
two images here from that time. This is a poster from Afghanistan in
the communist period; its from the organization of democratic leaders
of Afghanistan. This is not the Afghanistan of the Taliban or what you
normally see today. This is an emancipated woman and an emancipated
man struggling against feudalism, against reaction. This is very much the
communist image of the time. The other picture is one that became famous;
its actually a picture from a guerrilla war in 1970, a picture of a woman
24. Ester Boserup, Womens Role in Economic Development (New York: St
Martins Press, 1970).
25. Sheila Rowbotham, Hidden From History: 300 Years of Womens Oppression
and the Fight Against it (London: Pluto Press, 1973). Fred Halliday, Hidden
from International Relations: Women and the International Arena, Millennium:
Journal of International Studies, 17, no. 3 (1988): 419428.
26. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Women and War (Brighton: Harvester Press,
1987); Jean Bethke Elshtain, The Problem with Peace, Millennium: Journal of
International Studies, 17, no. 3 (1988): 441449. Mary Kaldor, The Revolutions
of 1989, in George A. Lopez and Nancy J. Myers, Peace and Security: The Next
Generation (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997).

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fighter. But again, in a country where now everybodys wearing the veil
or the hejab and talking about identity politics and all that stuff, here was
a pretty clear universalist message. There was a song and I think this is
a unique feature of the revolutions of South Arabia about the popular
alliance that said: long live the workers, long live the peasants, long live
the fishermen, long live the Bedouins and the nomads, and then it said
we must liberate women, we must give arms to the women. Ive never
known another revolution that actually took this position, and its a long
way from where we are now.
So much for the 1980s. I agree with those who say weve made progress, in particular in international law and womens human rights. I think
also the fact that there are now prominent politicians in world politics
who arise out of that period, Mary Robinson who was President of my
country being one example, Michelle Bachelet of Chile being another.
I recently met for the first time Shirin Ebadi from Iran, for whom I have a
great admiration.27 But Ill also say something that most of you wont like,
the best work being done now in gender and IR is being done by people
like Martha Nussbaum, serious work linking universalist political theory
and rights to issues of concrete development, combining a high level of
theory with activist involvement. For me, if you want to put someone
on a reading list to really focus these issues it would be someone like
Martha Nussbaum or Amartya Sen, who have taken, whatever you want
to call it, the liberal, quantitative, universalist agenda, and theyve done
very serious work on it.28At the same time, things have gone backwards.
Our colleagues have been polite about this, but IR is in a mess, lets face
it! IR, as Christine said, is in its silos, its in its camps. The realists have
come back, red in tooth and claw, responding to the world as it is, but
I also have to say, against what most of you believe, that I do think the
post-modernist trend has been a disaster for IR and womens rights as
well. Here I am with Martha Nussbaum in her excellent article on Judith
Butler, which Im now going to quote.29 Nussbaum argues that in the
old days feminist scholars engaged in concrete projects, like reform
27. Mary Robinson, formerly President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner
for Human Rights; Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile; Shirin Ebadi, winner of
the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote democracy and human
28. Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, The Quality of Life (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1993); Martha Nussbaum, Women and Human Development
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
29. The article quoted from here is The Professor of Parody by Martha
Nussbaum, The New Republic, 22 February 1999. Nussbaums critique of Judith
Butlers work provoked a storm of responses, some sympathetic and some critical, which reflected deep divisions in the US academy and beyond about the
intellectual and political credentials of poststructuralist argument. For a rather
different feminist reading than the one offered by Fred Halliday see, Ratna Kapur,
Imperial Parody, Feminist Theory 2, no. 1 (2001): 7988.

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of rape law; winning attention and legal redress for the problems of
domestic violence and sexual harassment; improving womens economic
opportunities, working conditions, and education; winning pregnancy
benefits for female workers, etc. And then she says in the United States,
however, things have been changing. One observes a new, disquieting
trend. It is not only that feminist theory pays relatively little attention to
the struggles of women outside the United States. Something more insidious than provincialism has come to prominence in the American academy, and I would add in the prominent debates of feminism and IR. It
is the virtually complete turning from the material side of life, toward a
type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest of connections with the real situation of real women. Feminist thinkers of the
new symbolic type would appear to believe that the way to do feminist
politics is to use words in a subversive way, in academic publications of
lofty obscurity and disdainful abstractness, this from a leading political
theorist. An excellent article in the New Republic from about 10 years ago,
and I would associate myself with it.
I would repeat the challenge, or if you like the falsifiable proposition,
which I coined in 1988, which is my main contribution to the field.
Its very simple, that theres no area of international relations, interstate relations, or transnational relations that does not have a gender
dimension. Not espionage, not nuclear war, not development, not
globalization, not terrorism, all of these have a gender dimension. In
todays world I would focus on three things in particular. First of all
the issue of rights, if we ditch rights were lost. Rights are the last grand
narrative and if we get into the netherworld of relativism and identity
politics then we are sunk. Second, globalization, a lot of people are
doing work on the economic and ideological effects of globalization.
There are some negative trends in globalization, internet pornography is
one, trafficking women is another, the expansion of global sexism. And
finally, the war on terror: 9/11 and the war on terror has provoked a
massive and reactionary re-masculinization of public space and the use
of violence and terror to subordinate women, thats the agenda on both
sides, and we should focus on it.
Laura McLeod: Ive got a question. There were several things that jumped out
at me about what everyone said; one was the question of teaching. I taught a
second-year introduction to international relations seminar, and we had our
week on gender. At the end of that seminar I asked my students, how has
the way Ive taught you this term so far been feminist? That was met with
complete silence. And then they said, it was really nice to have a woman
teaching us international relations. The fact that even bright, intelligent second-year undergraduates still think that feminism is about women simply
being present in the classroom is astonishing. Maybe you could comment
on that? Then there is the question of why were even choosing to celebrate
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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

1988? Why not 1987 when Elshtain published Women and War? Why not
1989, when Cynthia Enloe published Bananas, Beaches and Bases?30
Anonymous Question: My question comes out of a number of peoples
comments. What sort of feminism in IR? What sort of rights in IR? I think
there are some very different and conflicting ideas here. Its to take up
Vivienne Jabris point about Cosmopolitan Feminism and its complicity
in the hegemonic discourses of IR, and Marysia Zalewskis point about
abortion rights, highlighted in 1988. Abortion rights were about the
sovereignty of the body, the right of the woman to determine what she
wants to do, instead of the state or authorized professionals. On the other
hand, two decades on we have Kimberly Hutchings point about the
invasion of Afghanistan in the name of women. If you look at that, you
have an assumption of a right of intervention. Rights, essentially, of the
great powers to intervene in weak states. If we look at whats happened
in rights, weve shifted away from rights as non-interference, where the
great powers cannot interfere with the rights of the weak (the autonomy
championed by feminism being analogous to decolonization arguments
of the third world against the great powers). Now we have a situation
where, in international feminist legal scholarship in particular, rights of
non-interference are transformed to legitimize great powers intervening
in weak states. One needs to look critically at the feminist legacy. I would
argue that the road to Basra was through Catherine MacKinnon.31
Fred Halliday: I just spent two days with Shirin Ebadi, the noble prizewinning liberal lawyer. Shes absolutely against any American attack on
Iran, but shes in favour of universal rights. She did talk at length about
the long history of womens struggles in Iran, which is neither colonial nor
imperial, but has a long history of struggle over 100 years in which gender
issues were absolutely central. She is not in favour of intervention, in fact,
shes dead set against it, but shes absolutely clear and uncompromising
on universal principles, and I admire her very much for it.
Marysia Zalewski: Why not 1987 or 1989? On the one hand, the choice
of date is arbitrary; but arbitrariness has a philosophy and politics of its
own. It could have been many different years, but this anniversary gives
us a forum to take the time to think about issues that seem important.
And remember we are celebrating British gender and IR, so relating our
discussion to the 1988 conference at the LSE is important. Your question
reminds me of a dilemma facing members of the Feminist Theory and
30. Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (London: Pandora, 1989).
31. See Catherine A. Mackinnon, Crimes of War, Crimes of Peace, in Stephen
Shute and Susan Hurley (eds) On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures,
1993 (New York: Basic Books, 1993).

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Gender Section at the ISA some years ago in relation to Eminent Scholar
Panels. These panels are a tradition at ISA a tradition with perhaps
something of a masculinist veneer? Did the FTGS section want to join
in with this? There are reasons why feminist scholars might not want to
reproduce this traditional academic activity more patting each other on
the back, or rewarding privilege twice (or more) over but I think the
view was that FTGS also needed to acknowledge important or significant
contributions, and, at the same time, why shouldnt feminists indulge in
this and have another excuse for a party!
There are unsurprisingly many contradictory things coming up in the
discussion here both from the panel and from the audience. The second
question is very interesting. My brief response is that the point about abortion
may appear to be simply about rights, but I dont think this is the significant
thing to draw from it. It perhaps can only be heard in the context of rights in
a contemporary setting. I think the comment about abortion made by that
student in 1988 was about something else. But your last point is intriguing
and provocative and has credibility but why Catherine MacKinnon instead
of any number of rights-arguing men? Are womens crimes (whether
physical, epistemological or political) worse than mens?
Vivienne Jabri: I used the term complicity in an article I published in
the journal Alternatives (2004), which was part of a series of papers that
Kimberly brought together on the subject of feminist ethics.32 My point
there and now is that particular forms of feminism Jean Elshtain is an
example have been complicit in their support of hegemonic wars, and in
taking up, very simplistically, the discourses of the Bush Administration.33
So, there are feminist voices who have sustained and supported a neoconservative agenda (Edward Said referred to Elshtain as a conservative
feminist, and I would agree with him). Any ideology has differences
within it, and feminism is no exception. Weve been rather incapable of
acknowledging these very real ideological differences within feminist IR.
However, these differences are beginning to come to the fore in a context
which some have referred to as dark times, a context where violations
of rights are not just happening in other peoples societies but here at
our doorstep. Just in reference to Freds comments, Judith Butler cannot
simply be reduced to talking about identity politics and neglecting the
question of rights. One of the most powerful texts recently published on
the violation of rights and specifically on Guantnamo Bay is Butlers
Precarious Life.34 In writing about these matters, her concern is to highlight,
32. Vivienne Jabri, Feminist Ethics and Hegemonic Global Politics, Alternatives
29, no. 3 (2004): 265284.
33. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power
in a Violent World (New York: Basic Books, 2003).
34. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London:
Verso, 2004).

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following Foucault, the point that law is used as a technology of control.

If we cant critique practices like Guantnamo from a feminist angle,
then feminism can no longer consider itself a critical discourse. Feminism
historically is a political project, lets not forget that, and historically
feminism as theory and practice has had a great deal to say about issues
of war and peace. Perhaps we should relive the debates that took place
at the turn of the 20th century, when feminists were exactly debating the
question of how women relate to war, how political subjectivity might be
understood in the context of an opposition to war. These are issues that
have profound relevance for us in the present.
Niamh Reilly: I just want to make a couple of comments about
international law and feminist engagement with international law. Its
really important to understand that law is a site of contestation and that
there are multiple ways of approaching and engaging with it. Catherine
MacKinnons involvement in debates around interventions in Kosovo has
been raised a few times in discussions today as an example of Feminism
colluding with the oppressive power of international law and western
hegemony in global politics. It is important to distinguish between
instances of individual high profile US academics pressing for particular
kinds of legal interventions and other very different examples where
western-based feminist legal scholars have engaged with international
law, in close reciprocal collaboration with broad-based social movements.
Scholars and advocates such as Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin,
Rhonda Copelon and Rebecca Cook are all examples of feminist legal
scholars who have worked closely with bottom-up womens movements
in various efforts to reclaim the discourse of international law as a space
to empower women.35 The Tokyo Womens Tribunal on Sexual Slavery
is a particularly good example of decentring both the western and male
biases of international law in the pursuit of gender justice.36 The point
is that international law (like all law) is a site of contestation and that
there are good ways and bad ways of engaging with it. Regardless of
what radical deconstructive analyses might suggest, human rights claims
remain the language of movements of resistance and social movements
As scholars of feminist international relations, it is important to theorize womens movements engagement with rights and international law
35. Hilary Charlesworth and Christine Chinkin, The Boundaries of International Law: A Feminist Analysis (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000);
Rebecca J. Cook, Womens International Human Rights Law: The Way Forward
and Rhonda Copelon, Intimate Terror: Understanding Domestic Violence as Torture, both in Rebecca J. Cook (ed.) Human Rights of Women: National and International Perspectives (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994).
36. Christine Chinkin, Womens International Tribunal on Japanese Military
Sexual Slavery, American Journal of International Law 95, no. 2 (2001): 335341.

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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

from global South as well as global North perspectives, and understand

the relationship between scholarship around those rights and enabling,
supporting, working with, and, if possible, being part of transformative uses of the law. While we should not jettison human rights, therefore, equally, we must continually challenge and reject western-centric
approaches whereby the presumption is that human rights violations
only occur in other countries largely in the so-called developing world
and that western states are by definition top-down guardians of human
rights. Such an understanding of human rights in global politics is never
going to work it is at odds with human rights principles and broadbased transformative movements that invoke human rights. Instead,
human rights must be understood primarily in terms of movements for
rights that specify and demand the conditions necessary to implement
those rights in particular contexts. The realization of human rights in this
sense can never be achieved through imposition by powerful states on
other states. Realizing human rights in any context demands the participation of those whose rights are to be protected. From this perspective,
we need to theorize how transnational feminist networks work towards
this end and what the role of scholarly (feminist IR) interventions might
be in these processes.
Soumita Basu: This is about contradictions within feminist scholarship.
My question is addressed to the entire panel. How do you personally
respond to feminist arguments that you feel you fundamentally disagree
with at that point in time?
Andrew Mickleburgh: Id be interested in the panels comments on two
questions. The first is, Ive been surprised by the number of times during
the workshop when it seemed to me that we might have been using the
words gender and feminism interchangeably, and in another forum this
could be quite a problem. One of the questions it raises in my mind is how
often in our discussions are we using the word gender relations when
the agenda is actually feminist action? Second, a comment about gender
mainstreaming: I had the privilege of teaching throughout the 1990s in
Uganda, where gender mainstreaming was a very important part of our
university. We were instructed by the government to pursue a programme
of gender mainstreaming. We decided as a university community that we
would not go down the route of having gender topics within the various
faculties, university-wide. We were very clear that gender mainstreaming
in Uganda meant changing a way of thinking and a way of teaching, and
I wonder where we stand on that in British institutions?
Ann Tickner: I think the issue about how we deal with differences among
feminists is an interesting one. So far we have all been rather nice to each
other, at least in print maybe too much so. IR scholars spend quite a bit
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Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37 (1)

of time knocking down those who disagree with them. Maybe this goes
with the territory of international politics. The fact that weve been nice to
each other may be a constructive way of building comprehensive knowledge from very different perspectives rather than the paradigm wars
in which IR tends to engage. Your question has intrigued me because
I have sometimes thought that were too kind to each other but perhaps
were engaged in a constructive intellectual project, which I rather like
the sound of.
Christine Sylvester: I like to think that everyone who contributes to a
field is doing so in good faith. That isnt always the case, but then politics
is the realm of power and disagreement. If we didnt have both we
wouldnt have political institutions. I try to assign contrasting viewpoints
to students so they can see scholars disagreeing. I also tend to read
the enemys writings you know, the neoconservatives like Francis
Fukuyama, the essentialists like Martha Nussbaum, the old realists, the
neorealists. Often my students and I get confused when we do this or find
the experience of reading outside the approved box an uncomfortable
one. When we stick within the box, though, it can be downright difficult
to find contrasting feminist IR positions to read. Theres considerable
conformity and predictability in some areas of our scholarship. I hope we
learn to engage each other critically, and seek to expand our horizons of
feminist IR, in ways that work, but that are not necessarily the ways that
other groups would charge at one another.
Fred Halliday: One of the things I find very offensive is when people say
we are in a post-feminist age, as if the agenda of the 1960s and 1970s has
been achieved. In that sense, I am faithful to the agenda of the 1960s and
1970s because we are a long way from achieving it. If you take just four
transnational and international issues: 1) equal pay, basically still 40%
difference within European countries. 2) Sexism and language, why isnt
Arnold Schwarzenegger being hounded by feminists for talking about
girlie men and all the other stuff? We seem to not see it as a political issue.
3) Pornography and the debate, which is a perfectly legitimate and complex
one, about where does sensuality and eroticism end and pornography
begin? We can all agree that the films shown in hotels around the world
are inhuman and demonic, corrupting and virtually violence against
women. Yet, is this issue present in the US presidential campaign? Are
people protesting about it? Hardly at all. 4) The issue of domestic labour,
the old issue that the Marxists went on about. Its gotten worse under
globalization, because people work longer hours, they travel more; I worry
about the effects on younger people, all this 24/7 culture and people
travelling all the time. Those are four old-fashioned issues, equal pay,
language, pornography and domestic labour, which I think are absolutely
essential to equality. In that sense, we need the reassertion of feminism.
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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

Marysia Zalewski: My initial response is to say that I hold varying feminist

positions which might be differentially labelled: (possibly) liberal, radical, queer, post-structural. I think I am all of those and probably more
besides. Perhaps some days I am more one than the other. Your question
is not a simple one. There are, of course, disagreements between feminists
and certainly politics is partly about disagreement, but there is also a (disciplinary) politics to disagreement. In the discipline of International Relations when disagreements materialize within feminism, its interesting
how they get played out, how they are seized, what they are taken to
mean and what function they serve. Take the proposition that feminism
is an atrophying part of the gender debate Christine also spoke about
this. This odd idea potentially paves a comfortable route through which
to dismiss feminism one based on parsimonious formations of feminism and simplistic understandings of the character of disagreements
between different branches of feminism and the supposed different order
of analyses labelled gender. The methodological norm in a discipline
like IR (not exclusive to IR) is to construct intellectual, political, ontological, epistemological boundaries (camps?) and then battle manfully
for the hegemonic position (not campish enough perhaps?). Intellectual
skirmishes among womenfeminists tend to be apprehended through
somewhat different prisms.
I missed the second half of your question Im sorry, though I think
you also asked about the difference between gender and feminism commenting on a slippage between gender and feminism. Again this raises
the question of definitional practices; why is there such a desire to definitively separate out feminism from gender or gender from feminism?
What is at stake here? This is not to say that there are not differences, or
that there isnt a debate to be had but rather to problematize the politics of this demand. On a related point, Id like to question the idea that
feminism is about action is this meant to be dismissive? Are we not
active in academia? Is the classroom not a site of action? Does analyzing
gender imply a pedagogy (and politics) of inertia?
On gender mainstreaming; what are gender topics? Justice? The Law?
Politics? Epistemology? Really, what is a gender topic? Just about
women perhaps or (worse?) womens issues the latter always seems
to have something of a gynaecological ring to it! Gender mainstreaming
puzzles me, as gender is surely always/already mainstreamed in institutions (very broadly conceived) maybe just not in the way we would like
it to be (although this too is problematic).
Margot Light: Just on the question of gender mainstreaming, I think that
it is gender topics, and I dont think theres been the slightest thought
given to how you might actually do things differently in a more fundamental way. If there has, then its a kind of evolutionary change that may
be happening within universities over the long haul. But I must say that
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my experience of university politics is that if you want the women to get

on, then you teach them to behave like men and then they have a slightly
better chance of getting on.
Vivienne Jabri: How is feminism being played out, out there? The
question came up in relation to Marysias intervention, about whether
women matter in feminism. An example of feminism in action, so to
speak, is the Women Reclaim the Night march that takes place annually.
This years march was apparently very successful. I suppose this example
raises the question of how our theoretical discourses around feminist
thought relate to the activities of feminists out there struggling with lived
experience, the activism of women as political agents, how women as
such express their agency, and how women as such are subjectivized. If
feminism is not about women, however the subjectivity of being woman
is articulated, then what is it about?
Marysia Zalewski: Of course its about women, but it doesnt cant
remain statically about women simplistically understood. Of course,
its about women. This doesnt imply
Vivienne Jabri: Women in a multiplicity of expressions?
Marysia Zalewski: Surely yes a multiplicity of expressions. But are
we speaking here of bodily multiplicities? Women as fleshly, corporeal,
thinking, breathing, feeling, humans of innumerable different hues?
Woman as multiplicity? Yes, I think feminism is about all of this. But
being about women is something that gets so readily interpreted
in parsimonious, sterile and stringent ways, which means that the
possibilities of feminism can get lost in some ways. Feminism is surely
about women, but what that means can be so radically differently
interpreted, conservatively as well as otherwise.
There is a politics to how we hear women (not just the fleshly voices
but how we hear the word itself). There is a politics to how we hear
feminism a temporal, othered, raced, classed and methodological
politics. Feminism itself seems to have become the essentialist body
of woman that we thought we had discarded. There is a psychology to
how we hear women, feminism, gender. How many times have those
of us who have taught on these kinds of issues even to students
who self-select found out that students think we spend too much time
on women or gender, and cant we get back to the real issues? What
psychological/political work is in action there? (Recall the comment
earlier from Laura about nice to have a woman teaching us.) What
conceptual and other tools are available to us (students/scholars) to
see, hear, think, understand? Where do we look? What do we see? What
can we see? What do we still not notice? The kind of critical work
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Hutchings et al.: Roundtable Discussion

animated by these kinds of questions is not marked by progressive

linearity forwards or backwards.
Women as political agents? This is surely not to reduce or delimit the
political and agency or action as things/practices that (only) happen
out there? As I mentioned earlier: arent our classrooms sites of political
action? (Even if fleetingly.) Isnt the discipline of IR an active site of
political exclusion and exception? (To be sure feminism is not exempt
from disciplinary practices either, although I do retain an intellectual
curiosity about the politically interventionist possibilities of feminism
given its metamorphosing capacities.) But we surely need to trouble the
idea of theory as abstraction. Do we really want to bestow ownership of
theory to academics/intellectuals?
I want to make one final point. We have convened this series of
workshops (LSE being the first) to mark/celebrate 20 years of scholarship
on British Gender and International Relations.37 British scholars or
those educated in British institutions (if indeed this is what British
Gender and IR implies) have produced, and are currently producing,
path-breaking scholarship in this field the excellent work of two
recently successful doctoral students come to mind Laura Shepherd38
and Robin Redhead.39 But I think we have scarcely begun to interrogate
what is distinctive (or not) about British Gender and IR. Discussions
consequent to this workshop might take up the opportunity to interrogate
this. Is it simply enough to work comfortably within a familiar hegemonic
US frame?

37. The subsequent 2008 conferences will be as follows: Violence, Bodies,

Selves (University of Manchester, 23 May 2008); Gender, Governance and
Power (University of Birmingham, 4 July 2008); Ending International Feminist
Futures? (University of Aberdeen, 2425 October, 2008).
38. Laura Shepherd, Gender, Violence and Security: Discourse as Practice (London:
Zed Press, 2008)
39. Robin Redhead, Reading the Visual: Gender, Human Rights and International Relations, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Manchester, 2007.

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