My research centers primarily on the operation of gender norms in the intersection of international and national politics.
Gender and Diplomacy
Diplomacy has traditionally consisted of masculinized practices performed by men. Since the 1970s, the field of diplomacy has undergone fundamental transformations and women have simultaneously entered the diplomatic arena in unprecedented numbers. How is diplomacy practiced today? In what ways, if any, have the functions and practices of diplomacy changed along with the increase of women in the diplomatic corps? This project uses an ethnographic approach and a feminist reading of Pierre Bourdieu to understand the gender of diplomatic practice. The project is a collaboration with Birgitta Niklasson of the Department of Political Science, Göteborg University, Sweden.
Gender Norms and Social Hierarchies in International Politics
I am in the process of concluding a large project that explores the enormous changes that have taken place in international norms regulating the relation between women and states during the past 150 years. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, women were not allowed an official role in the institutions of the state, whether as voters, bureaucrats or elected officials. Today, not only are women allowed to vote on the same terms as men in virtually every country, but most states have also created public policy organs specifically devoted to women’s issues and over forty states have passed sex quota laws to bring more women into national legislatures. My book Women and States – Norms and Hierarchies in International Society helps account for these momentous world-wide changes.
The book intervenes in the now enormous constructivist IR literature on international norms. Constructivists all share an assumption that international norms, as standards of behavior, standardize the behavior of states and thus end up homogenizing their institutional form. My book presents a reconceptualization of the operation of norms, contending that norms are also inextricably linked with social hierarchies or ranking. International norms function as standards for evaluating state behavior across the globe, I argue, and they thus necessarily involve comparative judgments among states. As a state’s behavior is ranked and evaluated in comparison with that of others, norms help place states in global social orders. Norms do not simply homogenize the states of international society by calling for certain behavior, as most constructivists assume. Norms also stratify international society by providing the standards for placing states in social hierarchies. These ranking effects, which often generate a competitive dynamic among states, are what give norms much of their force. Indeed, social ranking is a crucial and under-theorized source of normative dynamism and change in international society.
Discourses of Gender and Civilization in Swedish Domestic Politics
Some of my research has critically examined interpretations within Sweden of the globally prevalent presumptions that there is a “clash of civilizations” around gender equality issues and that there is therefore a trade-off between gender equality and multiculturalism. The chapter “Inevitable Inequalities? Approaching Gender Equality and Multiculturalism” (in Moral Limit and Possibility in World Politics, Richard Price, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) questions this trade-off, as does an article on gender equality and multiculturalism which appeared in Cooperation & Conflict in 2002, a text which was presented with an ISA Best Graduate Paper Award in 2002. I have also written a chapter in Swedish on how global ideas of clashing civilizations have filtered into the Swedish justice system where they have come to inform interpretations of men’s lethal violence against women