1-6 of 6 Results

  • Keyword: subjectivity x
Clear all


Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts


Unavoidable Subjectivity?

Aysel Küçüksu and Stephanie Anne Shelton

This chapter looks at bias, a term which refers to an uninvited, but inevitable aspect of conducting research. It is usually equated with subjectivity, the distortion and manipulation of data, or a lack of objectivity, which undermines the credibility of the research. Bias comes in many forms and the chapter discusses the two that are the most common in the literature: gender bias and confirmation bias. The long-standing positivist interpretation of bias considers that it is an inherently problematic ‘ethical issue’. Yet, contemporary research has called for a ‘reconceptualization’ of this perception of bias in order to encourage a more nuanced view. In the social sciences, bias is a manifestation of how cultural and political standing affects our approach to science. Bias should be acknowledged early on to ensure that both researchers and readers have the critical tools necessary to recognize it and evaluate its influences. This approach originated in anthropology and is known as ‘positionality’.


Cover International Relations Theories

11. Poststructuralism  

David Campbell and Roland Bleiker

This chapter examines how and why poststructuralism engaged International Relations (IR) from the 1980s to today. It begins by analysing the interdisciplinary context of social and political theory from which poststructuralism emerged, along with the misconceptions evident in the reception of the poststructuralist approach among mainstream theorists. It then considers what the critical attitude of poststructuralism means for social and political inquiry and draws on the work of Michel Foucault to highlight the importance of discourse, identity, subjectivity, and power to the poststructuralist approach. It also discusses the methodological features employed by poststructuralists in their readings of, and interventions in, international politics. The chapter concludes with a case study of images of famines and other kinds of humanitarian crises that illustrates the poststructural approach.


Cover Political Research

13. Ethnography and Participant Observation  

This chapter discusses the principles of ethnography and participant observation: what they are, how (if) they became standardized as a research method, what form of evidence they constitute, and what place they occupy in the study of Politics. Participant observation has emerged as a popular research tool across the social sciences. In particular, political ethnographies are now widely carried out in a broad variety of contexts, from the study of political institutions and organizations to the investigation of social movements and informal networks, such as terrorist groups and drugs cartels. Political ethnography is also becoming a research method of choice in the field of International Relations. The chapter examines the strengths of ethnographic fieldwork, focusing on issues relating to sampling, access, key informants, and collecting observational data. It also addresses the weaknesses of ethnography, especially issues of subjectivity, reliability, and generalizability.


Cover Political Thinkers

33. Foucault  

Paul Patton

This chapter examines Michel Foucault's approach to the history of systems of thought, which relied upon a distinctive concept of discourse he defined in terms of rules governing the production of statements in a given empirical field at a given time. The study of these rules formed the basis of Foucault's archaeology of knowledge. The chapter first considers Foucault's conception of philosophy as the critique of the present before explaining how his criticism combined archaeological and genealogical methods of writing history and operated along three distinct methodological axes corresponding to knowledge, power, and ethics. It then describes Foucault's archaeological approach to the study of systems of thought or discourse, along with his historical approach to truth. It also discusses Foucault's theory of freedom, his views on the nature and tasks of government, and his ideas about subjectivity in relation to care for the self.


Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

24. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak  

Nikita Dhawan

This chapter examines the works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who is known for her contribution to postcolonial studies, revolving around gender justice, human rights, and democracy. Spivak criticizes the Eurocentric and male-centric nature and exclusionary framings of political subjectivity. The chapter explains how colonialism revolves around military domination, economic exploitation, and subject constitution, thus explaining that decolonization cannot be achieved simply through transferring power from Europeans to the native elites. Spivak offers a countermodel of individual and collective agency which enhances our understanding of normativity in the era of globalization. The chapter also covers the relation between the European Enlightenment and the postcolonial condition while exploring Spivak’s contribution to the process of decolonizing the Enlightenment. It considers the concept of planetary ethics, which entails forsaking formulas for solving global problems and critical self-vigilance on the part of transnational elites as significant aspects of ethico-political practice.


Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

36. Judith Butler  

Clare Woodford

This chapter looks at the work of Judith Butler on feminism and queer theory. It presents their theory on performativity and parody, and explores the theoretical underpinning of Butler’s theory of subjectivity. Butler’s theorization of gender originated from a broader concern about which lives matter, whose lives get to count as human and whose lives are constrained and subjected to unbearable violence. The chapter highlights the continuing significance and relevance of Butler’s political thought in today’s society as Butler became a vocal critic of Western-centrism, US nationalism, and Zionism. Additionally, the chapter explains how Butler developed non-violent, anti-war politics which emphasized the need for people to live differently instead of within neoliberal rationality and individualism.