Feminist Theory 13 (3):283-303 (2012)

This article explores some of the most significant questions in feminist epistemology: how do academics demarcate what constitutes ‘proper’ academic knowledge? And to what extent is feminist theory and research recognised as such? I draw on material from an ethnographic study of academia in Portugal to examine the claims that non-feminist scholars make in classrooms and conferences about the epistemic status of feminist scholarship. I observed that feminist work was very commonly described as capable of generating credible and valuable knowledge, but only in some instances and in limited ways. I present examples of these adversative claims and analyse their structure, content and uses of caricature and humour, showing how epistemic boundaries are drawn in them and how feminist scholarship is positioned in relation to those boundaries. I argue that this boundary-work produces a representation of feminist scholarship as being located partly within, and partly outside, the realm of proper knowledge, a move which I designate as an epistemic splitting of that scholarship. I suggest that this splitting enables and legitimates a selective engagement with feminist work, because it provides non-feminist scholars with a recognised epistemological rationale for taking into account the feminist insights which broadly fit mainstream frameworks, while simultaneously rejecting as epistemologically unsound the feminist critiques of those frameworks.
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DOI 10.1177/1464700112456005
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