chapter  1
Introduction: When Feminisms Intersect Epistemology
Pages 14

Yesterday, “feminist epistemology” was an oxymoron; today, it has name recognition, but its referent is not yet clear. Our title, Feminist Epistemologies, is meant to indicate that the term does not have a single referent and, for reasons that we will explore later, it may never. Feminist theorists have used the term variously to refer to women’s “ways of knowing,” “women’s experience,” or simply “women’s knowledge,” all of which are alien to professional philosophers and to epistemology “proper”—that is, alien to a theory of knowledge in general. But this latter conception of proper epistemology leaves unchallenged the premise that a general account of knowledge, one that uncovers justificatory standards a priori, is possible. This is precisely the premise that feminist epistemologists have called into question. Feminist analyses in philosophy, as in other disciplines, have insisted on the significance and particularity of the context of theory. This has led many feminist epistemologists to skepticism about the possibility of a general or universal account of the nature and limits of knowledge, an account that ignores the social context and status of knowers. Is it likely that epistemological accounts of dominant knowledges, that is, knowledge produced and authorized by people in dominant political, social, and economic positions, can apply to subaltern knowledges as well?