American Sociological Association

The Feminist Question in Realism

Feminist standpoint theory and critical realism both offer resources to sociologists interested in making arguments that account for causal complexity and epistemic distortion. However, the impasse between these paradigms limits their utility. In this article, I argue that critical realism has much to gain from a confrontation with feminist theory. Feminist theory’s emphasis on boundary-crossing epistemologies and gendered bodies can help critical realism complicate its notion of the bifurcation between epistemology and ontology. But taking feminist theory seriously also involves careful attention to the risks of epistemic violence, to questions about credible witnesses. I argue that both paradigms will be improved by better theorization of (1) ideology as part of social ontology and (2) interactions between the context of knowledge production and social ontology. Attending to what is missing, distorted, or occluded between the knower, knowledge, and object of knowledge can provide resources for theorizing social ontology.


Paige L. Sweet





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