Feminist Epistemology, Feminist Methodology, and the Study of Gender

  • Joey SpragueEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


To build adequate knowledge, we need to be explicit about our epistemological assumptions so we can use these to critically assess our methodological choices. Of the four epistemologies in circulation, two, Positivism and Postmodernism, are inadequate for gender scholars’ goals. Positivist assumptions that we can minimize the impact of the subjectivity of the knower are undermined by social science findings. Postmodernist rejection of the possibility of achieving a rational understanding of the known undercut the very purpose of social science. So we are left with two choices—Critical Realism and Standpoint Theory. Critical Realism offers a nuanced and dynamic theory of the known but it is blind to the impact of the knower’s position in social relations of power. Standpoint Theory’s analysis of the knower as operating from a specific physical, social, and cultural context makes up for that deficit. Integrating the two in a Critically Realistic Standpoint Epistemology implies four methodological principles: (1) begin inquiry from the standpoint of the marginalized, (2) ground each person’s interpretation of phenomena in their material interests and experience, (3) maintain a strategically diverse discourse, and (4) create knowledge that empowers the disadvantaged.


Feminist methodology Standpoint epistemology 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KansasLawrenceUSA

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