Best Card 2- Fem edition

Lets say you are debating the popular fem K after having read your trusty hegemony advantage. The negative both says that your knowledge claims are suspect, and that we should utilize standpoint epistemology as an alternative. If you only have  time for 1 card to read on the alternative, which do you pick and why?

Lets go with more options this time:

A.

D.S.L. Jarvis, Assoc. Prof and PhD in IR Univ. of British Columbia, International Relations and the Challenge of Postmodernism, 2000 p. 164-6

For others like Ann Tickner, however, identity challenges the assump- tion of state sovereignty. “Becoming curious about identity formation below the state and surrendering the simplistic assumption that the state is sovereign will,” Tickner suggests, “make us much more realistic describers and explainers of the current international system.”” The multiple subjects and their identities that constitute the nation-state are, for Tickner, what are important. In a way, of course, she is correct. States are constitutive entities drawn from the amalgam of their citizens. But such observations are somewhat trite and banal and lead International Relations into a devolving and perpetually dividing discourse based upon ever-emergent and trans- forming identities. Surely the more important observation, however, con- cerns the bounds of this enterprise. Where do we stop? Are there limits to this exercise or is it a boundless project? And how do we theorize the notion of multiple levels of identities harbored in each subject person? If each of us is fractured into multiple identities, must we then lunge into commentaries specific to each group? Well we might imagine, for example, a discourse in International Relations between white feminist heterosexual women, white middle class heterosexual physically challenged men, work- ing class gay Latinos, transgendered persons, ethnic Italian New York female garment workers, and Asian lesbian ecofeminists. Each would rep- resent a self-constituted knowledge and nomenclature, a discourse reflec- tive of specific identity-group concerns. Knowledge and understanding would suffer from a diaspora, becoming unattainable in any perspicacious sense except in localities so specific that its general understanding, or inter- group applicability, would be obviated. Identity groups would become so splintered and disparate that International Relations would approach a form of identity tribalism with each group forming a kind of intellectual territory, jealously policing its knowledge borders from intrusions by other groups otherwise seen as illegitimate, nonrepresentative, or opposed to the inter- ests of the group. Nor is it improbable to suppose that identity polities in International Relations would evolve a realpolitik between groups, a realist power-struggle for intergroup legitimacy or hegemonic control over par- ticular knowledges or, in the broader polity, situations of intergroup con- flict. With what legitimacy, for example, do middle class, by and large white, affluent, feminist, women International Relations scholars speak and write for black, poor, illiterate, gay, working class, others who might object, resist, or denounce such empathetic musings? The legitimacy with which Sylvester or Enloe write, for example, might be questioned on grounds of their identities as elite, educated, privileged women, unrepresentative of the experiences and realities of those at the coal face of international politics. Celebrating and reifying difference as a political end in itself thus runs the risk of creating increasingly divisive and incommensurate discourses where each group claims a knowledge or experienced based legitimacy but, in doing so, precluding the possibility of common understanding or intergroup political discourse. Instead, difference produces antithetical dis- cord and political-tribalism: only working class Hispanics living in South Central Los Angeles, for instance, can speak of, for, and about their com- munity, its concerns, interests and needs; only female African Americans living in the projects of Chicago can speak “legitimately” of the housing and social problems endemic to inner city living. Discourse becomes con- fined not to conversations between identity groups since this is impossible, but story telling of personal/group experiences where the “other” listens intently until their turn comes to tell their own stories and experiences. Appropriating the voice or pain of others by speaking, writing, or theoriz- ing on issues, perspectives, or events not indicative of one’s group-identity becomes not only illegitimate but a medium of oppression and a means to silence others. The very activity of theory and political discourse as it has been understood traditionally in International Relations, and the social sciences more generally, is thus rendered inappropriate in the new milieu of identity politics.

B.

Anna M. Agathangelou, Dir. Global Change Inst. And Women’s Studies Prof @ Oberlin, and L.H.M. Ling,

Inst. For Social Studies @ Hague, Fall 1997, Studies in Political Economy, v. 54, p 7-8

Yet, ironically if not tragically, dissident IR also paralyzes itself into non-action. While it challenges the  status quo, dissident IR fails to transform it. Indeed, dissident IR claims that a “coherent” paradigm or  research program — even an alternative one — reproduces the stifling parochialism and hidden power-  mongering of sovereign scholarship. “Any agenda of global politics informed by critical social theory  perspectives,” writes Jim George “must forgo the simple, albeit self-gratifying, options inherent in ready-  made alternative Realisms and confront the dangers, closures, paradoxes, and complicities associated with  them. Even references to a “real world, dissidents argue, repudiate the very meaning of dissidence given  their sovereign presumption of a universalizable, testable Reality. What dissident scholarship opts for,  instead, is a sense of disciplinary crisis that “resonates with the effects of marginal and dissident movements  in all sorts of other localities.” Despite its emancipatory intentions, this approach effectively leaves the  prevailing prison of sovereignty intact. It doubly incarcerates when dissident IR highlights the layers  of power that oppress without offering a heuristic, not to mention a program, for emancipatory action.  Merely politicizing the supposedly non-political neither guides emancipatory action nor guards it  against demagoguery. At best, dissident IR sanctions a detached criticality rooted (ironically) in Western  modernity. Michael Shapiro, for instance, advises the dissident theorist to take “a critical distance” or  “position offshore’ from which to “see the possibility of change.” But what becomes of those who know  they are burning in the hells of exploitation, racism, sexism, starvation, civil war, and the like while the  esoteric dissident observes “critically” from offshore? What hope do they have of overthrowing these  shackles of sovereignty? In not answering these questions, dissident IR ends up reproducing despite  avowals to the contrary, the sovereign outcome of discourse divorced from practice, analysis from  policy, deconstruction from reconstruction, particulars from universals, and critical theory from  problem-solving.

C.

Holsti, Former Professor of Political Science @ British Columbia University, ’02 (Kal, RIS, p. 622-623)

Q. You have referred to the `profound pessimism and epistemological narcissism’ of postmodernism and post-positivism.5 Do you see anything positive in post-positivism? Do you feel that there are interesting new avenues of inquiry opening up? Are students responding to these critiques and taking an interest in them?

A. There are both pluses and minuses. Postmodernist or post-positivist critiques compel people to think thoroughly about things they have been doing and the assumptions underlying them• to be more theoretically self-critical. Postmodernist scepticism toward totalising projects; the exploration of meaning in diverse social contexts; and questioning our propensity to think in terms of binary opposites (warlike-peaceful, order-disorders, and the like) are important contributions. There are also negatives. For example, some post-positivists have argued that scholarship can never be an `innocent’ activity and that theorists of international relations are complicit in all that’s wrong in the world. I do not accept that assertion. The argument that all knowledge is fundamentally political stretches the meaning of that term beyond comprehension and can only lead to fear and intolerance. I do not accept the postmodernist mantra that all knowledge is individual, that one’s intellectual position necessarily reflects only one’s social position, race, gender, income, religion, or whatever. Standpoint epistemology-the idea that knowledge is highly personal and that life experience determines what we see and what we analyse-has some validity but is far too deterministic This type of epistemology denies the possibility of generalisation, which is something that we have all accepted since at least the time of Socrates and Aristotle. It leads logically to the position that anybody’s knowledge is as good as anybody else’s, and that any subject in international life is equally important. Some have argued, for example, that the daily life of a market woman in Accra is as important for our knowledge of international relations as reading a book by Hedley Bull or Quincy Wright. There is nothing wrong with the market woman’s tale it may be very interestine and may open up some minds on certain issues. But her story and a formal piece of scholarship cannot be compared. To argue that there can be no knowledge outside individual experience is a very negative and pessimistic point of view. Experience may colour perspectives but does not determine all of it.

D.

Murray, professor of politics at the University of Wales, 1997 (Alistair, Reconstructing Realism: Between Power Politics and Cosmopolitan Ethics, netlibrary)

Given these problems, the attempt to establish an alternative, feminist epistemology falls apart. The aim to provide a ‘new’ theory of human nature just looks unnecessary when it is noted that the conventional view of the human character derived from realism is in fact simultaneously moral and immoral, ‘both conflictual and cooperative’, as Tickner demands. Similarly, the concern to redefine power amounts to little more than a sophisticated word game. ‘Mutual enablement’ ultimately sounds like some dreadful slogan dreamt up by a management consultant. The fact that realist theorists define power in terms of the ability to coerce does not mean that they neglect the ability to persuade as a tool in international politics, only that they define power in more rigorous terms than feminists, calling each by a different name to avoid confusion. Nor does it mean that, by doing this, they neglect the ability of international actors to co-operate, or that they exclude from consideration the co-operative basis upon which power relies or the co-operative objectives to which it tends. If Tickner had read beyond the first chapter of Politics among Nations, she might have come across phrases such as the balance of power, in which curious things called ‘alliances’ and ‘grand coalitions’ co-operatively generate power towards co-operative ends. Conflict is not perpetual in the realist vision of international relations, and coalition building is ultimately just as essential to the realist account of international politics as it is to feminist accounts. Consequently, it is not surprising that the third strut of this new feminist epistemology, a broader notion of national security, seems simply unnecessary. Acknowledging the interdependence of human security in an age of nuclear holocaust and environmental degeneration would hardly seem to be a preserve of feminism. What of everything that George Kennan has said on this subject over the last forty years? Nor can we accept the notion that we need to redefine conflict resolution to focus more on mutually beneficial oufeomes, when realism is deeply concerned with the amelioration of difference by diplomacy. What of the nine points with which Morgenthau concludes Politics among Nations? Nor can we accept the notion that ‘maternal thinking’ and a female, contextual morality are required to attempt to confine conflict to non-violent means. A persistent theme of realism is that humility of self and toleration of others are the foremost moral imperatives, that conflict should not be permitted to become an ideological war of absolutes in which all enemies are monsters, all actions are legitimate, and all peaces are but punitive armistices. One ultimately has to question the need for a specifically feminist theory of international relations. We currently do not have two radically opposed standpoints, masculine and feminine, but a unified human standpoint which, with modifications, serves us reasonably well. Tickner, of course, cannot accept any of this: essential to her entire argument — indeed, her entire self-identity — is the notion that practices such as ‘coalition building’ are very specifically a ‘female strategy’, beyond the wit of conventional — male — theorists to master. She is careful to avoid suggesting that women are innately more virtuous than men, proposing only that they have been socialised into more virtuous behaviour. She is careful to avoid the suggestion that this implies that masculine perspectives are to be entirely replaced by feminist perspectives, proposing only that the two must be integrated until such time as gender can be transcended as a factor. 63 But a central problem remains. Not only does her position require some rather fast rewriting of the literature of international relations theory, but it necessitates a serious distortion of our understanding of international relations itself. The inability to discover an independent feminist position means that, in order to justify the establishment of a separate feminist approach to international politics, one must be artificially constructed by appropriating elements from conventional theory and labelling them as female in orientation, such as ‘the female strategy of coalition building’, and grouping what remains into an alternative set of negative, male strategies, such as that of conflict, against which feminist strategies can be contrasted and thus privileged.64 In the process of this act of intellectual vandalism, the essential ambiguity of the political, and the essential duality of its concepts, are lost. It is simply not enough to divide the concepts and categories of international relations into two groupings; Tickner must, in addition, be able to privilege the female set in order to demonstrate the necessity of a feminist perspective. Consequently, it becomes necessary to assume that, if co-operation is a female strategy, all co-operation is positive, whereas all conflict, being, of course, a male strategy, is negative. The problem is that actors frequently conflict for moral ends and co-operate for immoral ends. Thus, if the progressive critique of realism reaches its highest form in feminism, the progressive urge similarly reaches its apogee, a cancer growing within theory, so incapable of fostering a position of its own that it must steal the realist’s clothes in order to survive, oblivious of the damage which this conceptual mugging does to their utility.

E.

Whitworth, Assistant Professor of Political Science York University, 1994 (Sandra, Feminism and International Relations, Towards a Political Economy of Gender in Interstate and Non-Governmental Institutions, page 22-23)

This points also to the serious limitations involved in feminist post-modernist understandings of ‘social construction’. While acknowledging that identities and meanings are never natural or universal, postmodernists locate the construction of those meanings almost exclusively in the play of an ambiguously defined power, organised through discourse. This means that identities and meanings are constructed in the absence of knowing actors, and more importantly, that there is very little that knowing actors can do to challenge those meanings or identities. The ways in which power manifests itself, the particular meanings and identities that emerge, seem almost inevitable. They are unrelated to prevailing material conditions or the activities of agents and institutions. Similarly, critics may describe the play of power in the construction of meaning, but cannot participate in changing it.63 As Marysia Zalewski writes: The post-modernist intention to challenge the power of dominant discourses in an attempt to lead those discourses into disarray is at first glance appealing, but we have to ask what will the replacement be? If we are to believe that all is contingent and we have no base on to which we can ground claims to truth, then ‘power alone will determine the oufeome of competing truth claims’. Post-modernist discourse does not offer any criteria for choosing among competing explanations and thus has a tendency to lead towards nihilism – an accusation often levelled at the purveyors of post-modernism and to which they seem unable to provide any answer, except perhaps in the words of one post-modernist scholar ‘what’s wrong with nihilism’?64 Postmodernists are equally post-feminist, a title they sometimes adopt, for their analysis loses sight of the political imperatives which inform feminism: to uncover and change inequalities between women and men. As Ann Marie Goetz suggests, when many of the issues surrounding women and international relations are ones which concern the very survival of those women, postmodernism’s continued back-pedalling and disclaimers are not only politically unacceptable, they are, more importantly, politically irresponsible.

F.
Gomm 96 – Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, Open University (Peter Foster and Roger Gomm and Martyn Hammersley, “Constructing educational inequality”, p 37, AG)

Standpoint epistemologies also suffer from severe problems. We must ask on what grounds we can decide that one category of person has superior insight into reality. This cannot be simply because they declare that they have this insight; otherwise everyone could make the same claimwith the same legitimacy (we would be back to relativism). This means that some other form of ultimate justification is involved, but what could this be? In the Marxist version of this argument the working class are the group with privileged insight into the nature of social reality, yet it is Marx and Marxist theorists who confer this privilege on them by means of a particular philosophy of history. Something similar occurs in the case of feminist standpoint theory, where the feminist theorist ascribes privileged insight to women, or to feminists engaged in the struggle for women’s emancipation (Hartsock, 1983. Harding, 1986). However, while we must recognize that people in different social locations may have divergent perspectives which give them distinctive insights, it is not clear why we should believe the implausible claim that some people have privileged access to knowledge while others are blinded by ideology, simply by virtue of their social positions (Merton, 1972).

Murray, professor of politics at the University of Wales, 1997 (Alistair, Reconstructing Realism: Between Power Politics and Cosmopolitan Ethics, netlibrary)

Given these problems, the attempt to establish an alternative, feminist epistemology falls apart. The aim to provide a ‘new’ theory of human nature just looks unnecessary when it is noted that the conventional view of the human character derived from realism is in fact simultaneously moral and immoral, ‘both conflictual and cooperative’, as Tickner demands. Similarly, the concern to redefine power amounts to little more than a sophisticated word game. ‘Mutual enablement’ ultimately sounds like some dreadful slogan dreamt up by a management consultant. The fact that realist theorists define power in terms of the ability to coerce does not mean that they neglect the ability to persuade as a tool in international politics, only that they define power in more rigorous terms than feminists, calling each by a different name to avoid confusion. Nor does it mean that, by doing this, they neglect the ability of international actors to co-operate, or that they exclude from consideration the co-operative basis upon which power relies or the co-operative objectives to which it tends. If Tickner had read beyond the first chapter of Politics among Nations, she might have come across phrases such as the balance of power, in which curious things called ‘alliances’ and ‘grand coalitions’ co-operatively generate power towards co-operative ends. Conflict is not perpetual in the realist vision of international relations, and coalition building is ultimately just as essential to the realist account of international politics as it is to feminist accounts. Consequently, it is not surprising that the third strut of this new feminist epistemology, a broader notion of national security, seems simply unnecessary. Acknowledging the interdependence of human security in an age of nuclear holocaust and environmental degeneration would hardly seem to be a preserve of feminism. What of everything that George Kennan has said on this subject over the last forty years? Nor can we accept the notion that we need to redefine conflict resolution to focus more on mutually beneficial oufeomes, when realism is deeply concerned with the amelioration of difference by diplomacy. What of the nine points with which Morgenthau concludes Politics among Nations? Nor can we accept the notion that ‘maternal thinking’ and a female, contextual morality are required to attempt to confine conflict to non-violent means. A persistent theme of realism is that humility of self and toleration of others are the foremost moral imperatives, that conflict should not be permitted to become an ideological war of absolutes in which all enemies are monsters, all actions are legitimate, and all peaces are but punitive armistices. One ultimately has to question the need for a specifically feminist theory of international relations. We currently do not have two radically opposed standpoints, masculine and feminine, but a unified human standpoint which, with modifications, serves us reasonably well. Tickner, of course, cannot accept any of this: essential to her entire argument — indeed, her entire self-identity — is the notion that practices such as ‘coalition building’ are very specifically a ‘female strategy’, beyond the wit of conventional — male — theorists to master. She is careful to avoid suggesting that women are innately more virtuous than men, proposing only that they have been socialised into more virtuous behaviour. She is careful to avoid the suggestion that this implies that masculine perspectives are to be entirely replaced by feminist perspectives, proposing only that the two must be integrated until such time as gender can be transcended as a factor. 63 But a central problem remains. Not only does her position require some rather fast rewriting of the literature of international relations theory, but it necessitates a serious distortion of our understanding of international relations itself. The inability to discover an independent feminist position means that, in order to justify the establishment of a separate feminist approach to international politics, one must be artificially constructed by appropriating elements from conventional theory and labelling them as female in orientation, such as ‘the female strategy of coalition building’, and grouping what remains into an alternative set of negative, male strategies, such as that of conflict, against which feminist strategies can be contrasted and thus privileged.64 In the process of this act of intellectual vandalism, the essential ambiguity of the political, and the essential duality of its concepts, are lost. It is simply not enough to divide the concepts and categories of international relations into two groupings; Tickner must, in addition, be able to privilege the female set in order to demonstrate the necessity of a feminist perspective. Consequently, it becomes necessary to assume that, if co-operation is a female strategy, all co-operation is positive, whereas all conflict, being, of course, a male strategy, is negative. The problem is that actors frequently conflict for moral ends and co-operate for immoral ends. Thus, if the progressive critique of realism reaches its highest form in feminism, the progressive urge similarly reaches its apogee, a cancer growing within theory, so incapable of fostering a position of its own that it must steal the realist’s clothes in order to survive, oblivious of the damage which this conceptual mugging does to their utility.

7 thoughts on “Best Card 2- Fem edition

  1. amiles

    Murray (d) is definitely the best “Acknowledging the interdependence of human security in an age of nuclear holocaust and environmental degeneration would hardly seem to be a preserve of feminism.” is a sweet line. Instead of taking the hardline douche approach he kind of no links the fem args and is like ‘realism isn’t what you say it is’ – also is permutation solvency – problem is, it’s the least related to the alt

    Jarvis (a) doesn’t say anything – it assumes that the K is “women should get more say” (which obvi essentializes)
    Agathangelou (b) is dece but not specific to fem – neg answers to cede the pol / paralysis are probably better than this card and more specific to the alt
    Holsti (c) is good because it makes the logical claim that one lady doesn’t determine IR – but again, the neg can win specific IR args and this ev is kind of light on warrants
    Whitworth (e) is kind of a better version of B but not that good

  2. gulakov

    I love these posts because it shows how crowd-sourced argument creation can work, though the questions feel sort of too broad sometimes. I suggest that people can submit additional subpoints for consideration in the comments. Here's which card I'd pick and as for why, I think this evidence speaks for itself.

    F.
    Gomm 96 – Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, Open University (Peter Foster and Roger Gomm and Martyn Hammersley, "Constructing educational inequality", p 37, AG)

    Standpoint epistemologies also suffer from severe problems. We must ask on what grounds we can decide that one category of person has superior insight into reality. This cannot be simply because they declare that they have this insight; otherwise everyone could make the same claim with the same legitimacy (we would be back to relativism). This means that some other form of ultimate justification is involved, but what could this be? In the Marxist version of this argument the working class are the group with privileged insight into the nature of social reality, yet it is Marx and Marxist theorists who confer this privilege on them by means of a particular philosophy of history. Something similar occurs in the case of feminist standpoint theory, where the feminist theorist ascribes privileged insight to women, or to feminists engaged in the struggle for women's emancipation (Hartsock, 1983. Harding, 1986). However, while we must recognize that people in different social locations may have divergent perspectives which give them distinctive insights, it is not clear why we should believe the implausible claim that some people have privileged access to knowledge while others are blinded by ideology, simply by virtue of their social positions (Merton, 1972).

  3. Tom Tom

    I don't think A is that bad and if anything is probably anti-essentialist in its insistence on how many different groups with different viewpoints there are. As far as I read it it's not criticizing the idea that "women should get more say" but is rather saying that a politics based on the viewpoint of a particular identity group is bad, and that this standpoint epistemology allows for too many viewpoints to be productively useful in determining what any course of action should be outside what benefits that particular group (can't solve the case). The claims it makes about how this causes a power-struggle over which particular becomes the universal and that the unique insight purported by those from a particular standpoint can be used to silence others also seem to be fairly decent reasons why the alternative wouldn't be able to productively solve the k either.

    I haven't read the other ones yet but A doesn't seem to bad.

  4. Jane

    F obviously.

    Many of the other ev is too specific to Tickner. While yes, dumbasses are still reading 3rd wave 1990's feminist k file, it sucks ass. Also, good k teams will never defend all of Ticker's work, so you'll never get a link to the other offense.

    The Murray ev is pretty essentialist and def more of a link than an impact turn.

    The C ev is too generic (post-positive? I mean come on blow me). And the B evidence is right, in that the alt leads to paralysis, but there's no real external impact there.

    Honestly, none of the ev is that fabulous, but at least the Gomm evidence points to the biggest problem with standpoint espistomology; which is that it's impossible to prove whose values and experiences are authentic and the ones that should be privileged over others.

  5. Jane

    ps–I HATE how people categorize any gender work as "fem". Just like "post modernism" means NOTHING except it was a period after modernism, "fem" is a much too simplistic way to categorize a gazillion movements/fractures/and completely different political strategies that should fall under the banner of "heteronormativity".

  6. Vinay

    I haven't read all the cards yet, but people should read the rest of that Agathangelou article before they jump on it; the very next paragraph she says that while dissident IR fails because it's internally contradictory, a postcolonial critique is more pragmatic/effective, and her explanation of what that entails is much closer to the alternative in this instance (standpoint epistemology).

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-0000">
    Agathangelou and Ling 1997 :
    We suggest a postcolonial reformulation of this programmatic impasse. Postcoloniality embraces dissident IR's central insight that social order reflects institutionalized practices and discourses of power. But postcoloniality also brings an alternative sensibility derived from its location at the interstices of international life. Deprecatingly self-identified as a "comprador intelligentsia.t'J? postcoloniality is a product of that middle space created by, yet not exclusively belonging to, the imperialist West and its colonized Other. This neither-nor, hybrid, interstitial condition of postcoloniality prevents it from enjoying the dissident luxury of observing from "offshore." Indeed, the postcolonial has no such refuge. For this reason, postcoloniality is committed to a program of direct political action even while recognizing its potential for misuse. Sankaran Krishna, paraphrasing Edward Said, proposes a self-monitoring method of "strategically essentializing" the positions and interests of "the unheard, the unrepresented, the unconnected people of our world … not in the 'jargon of authenticity' but with the accents of personal restraint, historical scepticism and committed intellect."!' We suggest an implicit extension of this approach. To work, "strategic de-essentialization" must be premised on an interstitial appreciation of hybridity across dissident voices. In this way, (interstitial) postcoloniality offers a pragmatic program for action and change. It also provides an active and critical dissidence within dissident IR to steer it from the temptations of sovereignty disguised as dissidence.
    Indeed, postcoloniality highlights several internal ironies in dissident IR. These help to provide an analytical guideline for a postcolonial revitalization of dissident IR. To demonstrate its substantive and strategic insights, we apply postcoloniality to an enduring "real world" problem: Greco-Turkish rivalry in Cyprus. This conflict serves as an instructive case study. Not only has it persisted over time (from the decline of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century to today), but the Cypriot case also gives voice to the marginalized, silenced "Other" that dissident IR so often valorizes as a noble counter to the Western, hegemonic "Self." And, as this case also shows, the "Other" itself resorts to tactics of the hegemonic "Self' to alienate and demonize its own constructed "others.”

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