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Theme 1: Gender, Sexuality and Global Change

Theme duration:
Aug 2007 - Aug 2008

The idea guiding this research program is that we need a new approach to thinking about sexuality and its relationship to gender. The objective is to contribute to feminist thought and gender theory and research by developing a specific, complex conception of sexuality. It undertakes a shift in perspective from defining sexuality as an identity category to analysing sexuality as a set of relations, activities, needs, desires, productive/reproductive powers and capacities, identities, values, institutions, and organizational and structural contexts (Jónasdóttir and Jones forthcoming; Jónasdóttir forthcoming, 2002, 1991/1994; Derek Layder 1993; Hearn and Parkin 1987/1995; Padgug 1979/1989).

This research programme will build on the work of social analysts who have opened up new arenas of investigation by exploring the sexuality-related dimensions of global problems such as migration, mortality and morbidity, economic development and patterns of structural adjustment, militarization and other forms of political-economic intervention, nation-state transformation and regional and transnational economic and political change. For instance, studies of migration have identified the ways that gender intersects with racial/ethnic identity, patterning individuals and groups entry into formal and informal economies in distinct ways, i.e., to legitimate work or prostitution and trafficking. Human rights advocates have linked efforts to secure equality to investigations of the dynamics of sexualized violence, the use of rape as a systematic military strategy, the practice of honour-related violence and the sexual politics of AIDS. Nevertheless, it has proved difficult for feminist theorists and gender researchers to “maintain a long historical vision of the shifting intersections of sex and politics” (Di Leonardo and Lancaster 2002), thereby limiting the effectiveness and scope of conceptual frameworks guiding various feminist strategies for global change.

The argument put forward here defines sexuality as a basic link concept. As a subject matter, this research programme understands sexuality fundamentally as a broad and complex dimension of historically changing socio-cultural and human-material reality.
By approaching social, economic, political and cultural and bio-technological gender issues within a conceptual framework that defines sexuality in such broad terms, new perspectives on the various intersectionalities identified in this programme open up, and new research questions can be raised.
The research activities will be organised into three sub-themes: 1) Sexuality, Love and Social Theory; 2) Power and Politics: A Feminist View; and 3) Common and Conflicted: Rethinking Interest, Solidarity, and Action.

1) Sexuality, Love and Social Theory. What is sexuality? How do multi-level conceptions of sexuality (process of production of people, selves/subjectivities, relational activities carried out in different institutions and organisational contexts) intersect? Is Marx´s method, or historical materialism more generally, useful for critical, constructive approaches to theory and research about sexuality, gendered power and global change? What is new in the ”new materialism”? Would some kind of a complexity theory, focused on sexuality as socio-economically and socio-culturally embedded and politically conflicted and regulated enable better understanding of today’s most urgent scientific and political questions?

2) Power and Politics: A Feminist View. After Foucault, what new can be said about power or sexuality or their interconnections? How are ideas about sexuality useful for building both analytically descriptive and action-oriented theories, which are not ”merely sexual” (Jónasdóttir/Jones forthcoming) but also make contributions to critical-realist, ethico-political feminist social theory? After poststructuralism, what more can be said about distinctions among the social, the political, and the sexual?

3) Common and Conflicted: Rethinking Interest, Solidarity, and Action. How can we reconceptualize such key terms and ideas as common and conflicted interests, human plurality, solidarity and action through the lens of sociosexual complexity theory?


Read the work-in-progress papers of the theme

See photos from the Opening Seminar of Theme 1 at Örebro University

See call for participation in Theme 1 Conference of Workshops at Örebro University