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Record Type: Review   ID: 732

Breaking Out Again: Feminist Ontology and Epistemology

Stanley, Liz, & Wise, Sue

 This seamlessly perceptive work should be basic reading to anyone interested in the scientific investigation of anomalies because of its integral approach. All anomalies researchers, except those who begin with a negative bias, develop a kind of "double vision" because they are aware of both the assumptions of mainstream science and of the special situation regarding their own research, which tends to condemn them to being outcasts simply for pursuing their research. There is definitely a double standard. The two authors of this book, which was at the forefront of British feminist research following the publication of the first edition in 1983 under the apt title of Breaking Out, as open lesbians and feminist thinkers, have a triple vision: mainstream social science, a feminist approach, and lesbian insight into heterosexual feminism. Beyond these, there is their clear perception of the need, within their chosen field of sociology, to develop a "feminist sociology"—not a sociology of gender, nor a sociology of women, but the remaking of the discipline in feminist terms" (p. 8). This entailed not only writing about but writing from a feminist epistemological stance, which in their case was triply perceptive. In other words, their research practice mirrors who and what they are and they know it and use that knowledge as a starting point. Their approach is not only feminist but constructivist. They even carry this creative approach over into this second edition, which is unlike most revisions. They do not even attempt to "revise" their earlier work, because they recognize its situated character. Meanwhile they, and feminist sociology, sociology itself, and mainstream Western views of science have moved on. Instead, they comment on it and then work "out from it to the terms of today’s feminist debates" (p. 6). In the important Introduction they tell what they tried to do in the first edition, review the heavy criticism they received, and respond to the issues raised—many of which had nothing to do with their book but rather a misreading of it (single vision does not get you very far). There follows the text of the first edition, which consists of 7 chapters plus an Introduction. The chapter titles are Feminism and the Social Sciences, Feminist Theory, Beyond the Personal? Socialization and Gender Role: A Sort of Critique, Feminist Consciousness, The Research Process, "And So, Dear Reader ..."—an open ending. This sets the table for a new chapter, Breaking Out Again: Afterword, in which they call for increased attention to a number of epistemological questions involving "academic feminism as a particular kind of ‘epistemic community’ which constructs its own distinctive theory of knowledge or ‘epistemology,’" and which the authors argue "should become concerned with constructing a more fundamental feminist challenge to foundationist and Cartesian epistemology, in particular through insisting upon the necessarily ontological basis of all epistemological positions" (p. 14).
Publisher Information:London, England: Routledge, 1993. 254p. Bibl: 234-246; Name Index: 247-249; Subject Index: 250-253
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