Tracing the Contours: Feminist Research and Feminist Objectivity
The projects of feminist research are frequently thought of as having epistemological concerns at their centre (Michele le Doeuff, 1987), these concerns having posed challenges to the practices and theories of the human sciences within the academy. Many writers have been working on these issues in the past two decades (Stanley and Wise, 1979; Mies, 1983; Eichler, 1988; Grosz, 1987; Harding, 1991; Hartsock, 1983; Haraway, 1989; Collins, 1990; Rose, 1983; Smith, 1988; Stacey, 1988) and it is generally agreed upon that issues of objectivity and their relationship to ‘science’ are issues which are at the forefront of the projects of feminist research. Simultaneously, arguments which look critically at positivist approaches to knowledge have impinged upon the disciplines of sociology (Abbott and Wallace, 1990), history (Alonso, 1988; Passerini, 1987) and social psychology (Squire, 1989) to name but a few examples. These universes of discourse have been informed by feminist approaches, which means that questions are raised, for example, within psychology about the apparent objectivity of the experimental method (Sherif, 1987). This, in turn, has brought into focus the arguments about the limited value of quantitative analyses in providing insights into issues of human relationships (e.g. Griffin, 1985) and about power inequalities within the research process (Bhavnani, 1988). Such discussions have frequently focused on the methods deployed in the generation of insights in the human sciences. What has often flowed from these discussions are broader challenges which interrogate empiricism and positivism.