In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender and International Relations

  • Introduction
  • General Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Gender and International Political Economy

Political Science Gender and International Relations
Karen Brown
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0211


Gender analysis offers a distinct perspective on international relations in provoking a new set of questions. Early feminist international relations (IR) theorists joined other critical approaches to the field in interrogating the traditional conceptual terrain of IR scholarship in the 1980s, including states and sovereignty, national security, war, economic development and trade, globalization. Feminist scholarship represented an integral element of the critical foment of the “fourth debate” and its examination of international relations through a post-positivist lens. Scholars who focused on questions of gender and international relations brought a common commitment to understanding how social relations of masculinity and femininity, of gender identities and sexualities, of gender difference, are implicated in international politics. What “work” does gender do in international relations? Gender analysis provides a counterpoint to mainstream (or “malestream”) IR by asking two separate but closely interrelated questions: where are the women? how do gendered power relations undergird and shape the substance of international politics? These questions have led to a broad and diverse body of feminist IR scholarship that offers a reformulation of traditional IR topics as well as a new range of research subjects previously regarded as outside the scope of IR. One of the early tasks of feminist IR scholars was the establishment of a body of research on women, a necessary corrective to a field focused almost exclusively on the experiences of men and masculinist/male-dominated institutions and practices. This work helped to make a case for hegemonic masculinity. In addition, these scholars have demonstrated that investigation of gender as a means of social differentiation linked to power hierarchies in international relations reveals a more complex and varied conceptual and empirical terrain. From the early interventions when “adding women” represented a radical move in international relations scholarship, an interdisciplinary and extensive body of work now addresses analyses of gender and sexualities in international relations across subject areas, methodologies, and theoretical frameworks. Gender analyses include not only feminist theory, but also queer theory and a recent emphasis on masculinities and IR.

General Works

Early general works attempted to pose the question of gender in IR. Enloe 1989 reveals the lack of attention to both women and gender relations in the broad range of international politics from daily lived experience to international institutions. Grant and Newland 1991 and Peterson 1992 examine how gender constitutes IR theories and concepts. Sylvester 1994 emphasizes postmodern feminist frameworks. Tickner 2001 examines changes in IR and international politics at the end of the Cold War from a feminist perspective. As the field develops, Ackerly, et al. 2006 considers issues in feminist IR methodology. Tickner and Sjoberg 2011 evaluates the state of feminist IR by creating conversations between contemporary work and foundational thinkers in the field. Tickner 2014 chronicles the development of the field through the author’s writings.

  • Ackerly, Brooke, Maria Stern, and Jacqui True, eds. Feminist Methodologies for International Relations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    Essays consider ontology, epistemology, ethics, and methods in a critical feminist methodology for IR research to both advance understanding and enable a normative grounding in the goal of advancing justice. Themes include inclusion/exclusion, marginalized sites and identities, analysis of silences, and collectively generated theory.

  • Enloe, Cynthia. Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. London: Pandora, 1989.

    A pathbreaking work asking “where are the women?” that has provoked early conversations about gender and IR. Applying a gender lens, the book offers detailed accounts of how femininity, masculinity, and gendered power relations shape issues from trade to military alliances. Excellent entry point for understanding how “gender makes the world go round.”

  • Grant, Rebecca, and Kathleen Newland, eds. Gender and International Relations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

    Reflecting early developments in a growing field of gendered analyses of international relations, this book is based, in part, on papers from the special issue of Millennium: Journal of International Studies in 1988 that marked a crucial early expression of scholarship on women and IR. In addition to reflections on feminist epistemology and the gendered elements of IR theory, contributions include several case studies related to women in development.

  • Peterson, V. Spike, ed. Gendered States: Feminist (Re)Visions of International Relations Theory. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1992.

    Collection of papers from a key 1990 conference in building the field of feminist IR scholarship. Essays focus on the ways in which gender is constitutive of the key IR concepts and frameworks, including sovereignty, anarchy, and security.

  • Sylvester, Christine. Feminist Theory and International Relations in a Postmodern Era. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

    A key text in understanding the contributions of feminist theorizing to the development of IR as an academic field. Sylvester argues for feminist insights to the foundational concepts of IR, and its second and third debates, with a particular emphasis on developing a postmodern feminist perspective and the “empathetic cooperation” it enables.

  • Tickner, J. Ann. Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post–Cold War Era. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

    Assessment of where feminist work sat in IR field as world politics after the Cold War shifted to issues beyond traditional IR concerns of states and national security. Empirical, normative, and methodological implications of feminism for IR pair with examples of what feminist frameworks reveal in areas including economic globalization and democratization.

  • Tickner, J. Ann. A Feminist Voyage through International Relations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199951246.001.0001

    A collection of essays chronicling developments in feminist IR through the writings of Ann Tickner from 1988 to 2014, a central voice in the founding and development of the field. Includes seminal essays in which Tickner highlights key contributions of feminist work.

  • Tickner, J. Ann, and Laura Sjoberg, eds. Feminism and International Relations: Conversations about the Past, Present and Future. New York: Routledge, 2011.

    Contemporary feminist IR research essays placed in conversation with foundational thinkers in the field. Content ranges from human rights and technologies of war to the global political economy of beauty. Creates intentional dialogue on evolution of feminist IR and provides a model for field-shaping scholarly discourse linked to policy considerations.

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