What Is Distinctive about Feminist Epistemology at 25?

Phyllis Rooney

in Out from the Shadows

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855469
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932788 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

What Is Distinctive about Feminist Epistemology at 25?

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Attempts to identify feminist epistemology by picking out particular topics or projects that supposedly all feminist epistemologists engage, or by focusing on specific claims or theories about knowledge (justification, objectivity) to which all or most feminist epistemologists subscribe, often end up mischaracterizing the field. I argue that what makes feminist epistemology distinctive, a quarter century into its development, is best determined by examining what makes mainstream epistemology still so distinctively non‐feminist. For example, feminist epistemology includes a critical examination of historical and contemporary forms of epistemic subordination and disempowerment that it seeks to bring out from the shadows of traditional theorizing in epistemology, that is, forms of exclusion or distancing of women and other “others” from domains, conceptions, and idealizations of knowledge and of epistemology. This feminist project, though it encompasses quite a range of specific inquiries, is distinctive to the extent that proponents of mainstream projects or perspectives in epistemology remain hostile to, dismissive of, or notably ignorant of it. Mainstream marginalizations and dismissals of feminist work are underwritten by distinctively limited understandings of specific features of epistemological theorizing that come to the fore in an examination of the relationship between feminist and mainstream work in epistemology. These features include: a recognition of the historical situatedness of epistemology; an appreciation of different types of relationships between epistemology and politics; the promotion of epistemological reflexivity; critical re-assessments of starting concepts and questions in epistemology; and recognition of important connections between epistemic normativity and moral or political normativity.

Keywords: feminist epistemology; mainstream epistemology; social epistemology; epistemic subordination; epistemic disempowerment; epistemological reflexivity; situating epistemology; epistemic normativity; gender schemas; epistemology and politics

Chapter.  14632 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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