Context for FRI

Why FRI?

For decades, feminist thought has emerged and consolidated as a corpus of research largely in the social sciences and humanities. Much of this research investigates the manner in which gender differences and inequalities shape, and are shaped by, virtually every aspect of social life and organization both in and outside the US. Feminist scholars have studied social institutions (economic, political, educational, familial), systems of representation (art, media, popular culture, communication technologies), local-global interdependencies (migration, immigration, international development, war, conflict, and militarization), and the gender politics of everyday life (parenting, domestic labor, sexual violence, gender socialization). Also relevant are the conventional pedagogical practices and research methodologies of institutions of higher learning, including universities such as UC Davis. From a feminist perspective, it is critical to understand how gendered expectations, assumptions, and experiences imbue research in the academy because academic research is considered our “highest” form of knowledge production.

What is Feminist Research?

Feminist research takes gender dynamics seriously in conceptualization, design, interpretation, analysis, dissemination, and application. It draws on feminist-derived theories, concepts, and methodologies to look anew at received academic knowledge, understood to be part of and not separate from a general social context in which implicit assumptions about gender difference operate. Feminist perspectives have informed many global developments in research and policy-making over the past several decades; however, they have had minimal impact on mainstream scientific methods, perhaps because convention locates scientific research “outside” the philosophical and paradigmatic shifts that have taken place in other fields. FRI proposes to address this structural separation through its collaborative research and training initiatives.

New Fields of Inquiry

On the assumption that women in the STEM disciplines, like their male colleagues, are primarily interested in pursuing cutting-edge work, FRI aims to “keep women invested and interested by engaging their perspectives and concerns in all areas of research.” In practical terms this means both cultivating new fields of inquiry and influencing the nature of inquiry itself by understanding gender as an analytic rather than just a descriptor. New trans-disciplinary, collaborative training and research will bring feminist thinking to bear on the most pressing problems and challenges of our times. Key research areas include the following: social and scientific aspects of agricultural and environmental change; reproductive technologies, sexual health, and rights; the relations and intersections between gender, race, ethnicity, and privilege; the transformation of institutional cultures; transnational civil rights; biomedical engineering; the psycho-social and biomedical effects of conflict, incarceration, displacement, labor and migration; and global health crises (e.g. AIDS, Ebola), which demonstrate how the social and economic aspects of a medical problem can impede scientific intervention.

Why UC Davis?

Populated by an impressive cadre of internationally renowned women scientists and feminist academics in Law, Social Sciences and Humanities, UC Davis is exceptionally well-positioned to become a leader in methodologically rigorous, feminist research that bridges schools, colleges, departments, and disciplines.  With its strong international profile and institutional diversity initiatives, UC Davis is uniquely equipped to develop local, national, and international research collaborations that will advance its transformative educational mission. With nearly 100 scholars in the humanities and social sciences affiliated with the rapidly growing Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research, there is a vast pool of expertise interested in establishing new research collaborations that are informed by the corpus of feminist knowledge.