Academic feminism in Britain and the USA 1980 and 1998 : a comparative analysis
Questions concerning the relationship between knowledge and other factors in the social world are among those that have been central to contemporary academic debates both within and outside of academic feminism. Linking into these debates, this study is guided by one central, underlying question; "What relationships exist between the changing perspectives, themes and contexts of academic feminism in Britain and the USA?" Four hypotheses form the framework for the project These hypotheses are informed by recent debates within feminist theory that appear to emphasise the dominance of poststructuralism in 1990s feminism and literature addressing the social shaping of knowledge. By treating the hypotheses as ideal types, the study seeks to identify and examine changes in the themes and guiding perspectives of feminist academic work in Britain and the USA and changes in the broader material and cultural contexts where feminist scholarship occurs. Consequently, it aims to consider whether intellectual shifts are related to material and cultural changes in the contexts where feminist scholarship occurs. Textual analysis is employed to examine a sample of texts that were published in 1980 and 1998 and written or edited by academic feminists who were based either in Britain or the USA and existing studies addressing the historical contexts of academic feminism in Britain and the USA. The findings arising from the study do not confirm the intellectual shifts in dominance predicted. However, some trends in the expected direction are found and these are used to revise the starting hypotheses for future research. The findings confirm that intellectual shifts are related to changes in the broader material and cultural contexts in which they occur. The directions taken during the research are informed, primarily, by Kari Mannheim's work on the sociology of knowledge. Therefore, the study intends to demonstrate that Mannheim's view of knowledge and objectivity deserves revisiting and that his methodological approach is still relevant for guiding studies in the sociology of knowledge today.