CFS - Center for Feminist Social Studies

Research Programme

Centre for Feminist Social Studies, Örebro University

Research Programme 2015–2019


Gender, Society and Change

The Centre for Feminist Social Studies (CFS) is a multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary gender research environment. The CFS research programme aims to investigate and analyse gender and society from a broad, multi-faceted perspective, with a focus on changing social relations in the broadest sense of the term. Understandings of sex and gender are approached as continuously challenged, developing and changing in and through research and knowledge production. Gender relates to a complex set of relations between and among women, men and further genders, seen as intersecting with other major social divisions, such as age, class, ethnicity and sexuality. Change refers here to the variety of changes or transformations related to and anchored in social and societal developments at local, national, regional, transnational and global levels. Furthermore, change also includes deliberately gendered interventions that explicitly aim to challenge and transform gender relations, such as gender equality interventions in politics, policy and praxis.

Changing gender relations in major arenas of society, such as working life and employment, intimate relationships and the family, civil society, polity and politics, sexuality, love, violence, knowledge production, communication and media, and the dynamics of and conditions for change, are key research interests. The political arena of and political agenda for equality policy, interpreted broadly, is a research priority.

Changed and changing gender relations are often related to other substantial social changes, and this may obscure the extent to which gender equality appears to be progressing or regressing. This complication is of particular concern in Sweden and the Nordic countries, which are often considered to be world leading examples of gender equality, as well as of interest in terms of the politicisation and transformation of gender relations. To address the complex question and process of gender equality, both in-depth and nuanced studies, as well as comprehensive and general analyses, are required. Such analyses need to be limited in time and space.

The research programme is generally characterised by comparative, transnational, historical and intersectional approaches, and by the development of dialogue between different theoretical perspectives. Critical and constructive theory development strongly permeates all research areas within the overall research programme. Feminist theory, its critique and development, have been long embedded as a key part of the research profile of the CFS. Dialogues between different theoretical perspectives are encouraged.

Feminist theory

Feminist theory has a long history within the research profile of the CFS. Critical and constructive theory development cuts across all other areas in the research programme and also constitutes a research area in its own right. This area includes work on different levels of theory, both meta-theory and more specific theory and concept formation in various areas of study. One example is analyses of gender and power relations, and the intersecting inequalities in contemporary western societies. Another example is critical inquiries into the meta-theoretical assumptions underpinning different modes of feminist theorizing and critique. Here, conflicts and synergies between, for instance, materialism and poststructuralism, as well as between poststructuralism and realism, are in focus. Dialogues in various forms between different meta-theoretical and theoretical perspectives are of specific interest. For example, transversal dialogues between different feminist approaches to issues of intersectionality, and those between different feminist approaches to critical studies of men and masculinities are central.

Communication, Media and Diversity

As an area of enquiry, communication, media and diversity focuses on how meaning(s), identity positions and relationships are articulated, communicated and (co-)produced in interpretive communities bound by various social practices. Practices nested and mediated in different social fields and levels of contemporary societies are explored – in the public sphere, institutional and organisational contexts, and everyday life. Communication is approached dialogically as language-use, languaging, and discursive sense-making, and as expressions and negotiations of inter alia gender, ethnic, sexual and other inequalities. Communication thus needs to be understood as a key dimension of social life, especially in its mediated and performative aspects, and in co-present physical and virtual communities across time and space. This requires a focus upon communities of practices where processes of reshaping of socio-historical patterns and norms influence contexts in which people (inter)act and perform social roles. Furthermore diversity is used to understand how difference(s), power relation(s), inequalities and strategies of marginalisation(s) are (re)produced across both different analytical scales and global distinctions. This research area focuses on how social categories are co-created and located in a range of social and discursive loci. It investigates how those categories, viewed as socially constructed, are significant both inside and outside institutional and organizational contexts, and intersect with one another across multiple grids.

Critical Studies on Men and Masculinities

Critical Studies on Men and Masculinities (CSMM) has been a rapidly growing area of research within Feminist Studies and Gender Studies over recent decades. This research area analyses men and masculinities in explicitly gendered, and often intersectional, ways in a wide variety of specific local, national and transnational contexts. It builds on extensive international, comparative and postcolonial research in Europe and beyond, and represents a longstanding development of national, Nordic, European and international research, research networks and collaborations. The main research orientation in this area highlights both the naming and the deconstruction of men and masculinities. This research area aims to develop further studies and explorations of: theorising men and masculinities; transnational change around men and masculinities; and men and masculinities in relation to boyhood, emotions, family, history, knowledge production, love, music, organisations, patriarchal forms, sexuality, sport, technology, violence, work, and other empirical, cultural and policy questions.


Gender and Knowledge Production

This research area focuses on gender dynamics of know­­ledge production within different societal, economic, legislative, cultural, scientific and educational settings, natio­­nally, transnationally and globally. Gender paradoxes in how academic and scientific organisations and organising are changing and being changed are interrogated. One of the start­­ing points is the notion of persistent gender inequalities cha­­rac­­terising the major institutions shaping knowledge production. Ma­­ny of the chan­­ges in knowledge production, both long-term macro trends such as internationalisation, technological change as well as policies for change such as emphasis on excellence, innovation, top performance and competition, or researcher mobility, appear as seemingly non-gendered, or are often represented as such. Multiple arenas and actors are of interest, from academia, research and research funding organisations, from policy makers and institutional leaders shaping the conditions of know­­ledge production, to research groups, researchers, engineers, teachers and administrators, as well as recipients of education and training. Furthermore, the research area analyses the inter­­con­­­­nec­­tions of gendered structures and cultures of knowledge production organisations and organising to research agendas, careers, conceptualisations, knowledge transfer and translation. The gender dynamics of national, regional and international research policy are explored, through the analysis of policy-making, policy stakeholder organisations, and policy-makers and gatekeepers.

Gender, Work and Organisations

Gender relations and gender dynamics in work, careers, professions, leadership, different types of organisations and organising, working life and labour market are a wide-ranging and expanding research area. At a time of rapid and extensive global, economic, technological and organisational changes, more knowledge is needed and called for regarding the meanings and impacts of these changes for gender relations at workplaces and in other organisations. How gender and intersecting social divisions are forming and formed by work, professions, workplaces and organisations in different societal, political, economic and legislative contexts is a key question in this research area. This includes the relations between employees and organisations, employee relations, relations between workers and clients, and the relation of work, caring responsibilities and private life. Different organisational forms, and old and new strategies to govern and implement public policy, through equality policies (as gender mainstreaming, equality mainstreaming or ‘anti-discrimination’ mainstreaming), are examined. Gender theoretical knowledge on leadership is explored, for example, by studying how different gatekeepers, leaders and key actors contribute to the production, reproduction or challenging of gender relations within organisations.

Love and Sexuality

Sexuality is not only a private matter; neither is love. Love and sexuality are studied as complex phenomena, both as subject positions and as social dimensions and processes. Love, as a research topic, is becoming increasingly important in social and political theory and is expanding within gender studies and feminist theory. Love is generated in all forms of human relations. For empirical research on employment, violence and care, it is therefore significant to study the role and function of love in how human beings develop their identities and relations, how love can be exploited, and how love can empower/authorise individuals, groups, organisations and societies. Although sexuality can be understood as an element of love, sexuality constitutes an independent theoretical and empirical research area. Sexuality has long been, and continues to be, an area of research interest within gender studies and feminist theory. The research area encompasses, for example, studies of how sexuality has been, and remains, an object for policy and political regulation, as well as studies of how certain aspects of sexuality permeate domains such as health and welfare. 

The Politics, History and Futures of Gender Relations

Relations of gender, power and intersecting complex multiple inequalities have gradually become politicised over recent decades, albeit to varying extents, through varying approaches and in diverse contexts and parts of the world. This increased and varied politicisation reinforces the need for comparative national, regional, European, and international perspectives in order to understand the spatially and temporally shifting character of gender relations and dynamics, as well as interfaces between state, (civil) society and the public sphere and the constraining and enabling of gendered lives in and across private and public domains. Within this research area, the main topics of study include: gendered organising and different formations of interests and identities; the conditions for participation and the exercise of power in various institutional contexts; and individual and organised feminist struggles for citizenship in transnational contexts, in the past, the present and the future. Critical analyses explore the understandings, definitions and praxis of organised complex inequalities, intersectionalised gender and equality politics. The continued invisibility and silencing of some interests and identities as both actors of and objects of feminist politics and measures, are of particular interest.

Violence and Society

Violence and Society examines the relationship between theorising, activism and policy of violence, defined broadly as the politics of violence. This continues a very long feminist tradition that recognizes the multiple historical linkages between practice, politics, policy, and theory. Specific attention is paid to violence and the institutionalisation of intersectionality, and its relation to the politics of violence. An overarching ambition is to mainstream gender into the overall analysis of violence in order to integrate the many often fragmented and dispersed analyses of various forms of violence, so as to explain better changes in violence and build the knowledge base for policies to reduce violence. An empirical focus is on how analysis can be a starting point for assessing if, how and to what extent the inclusion of multiple inequalities could increase the quality of policy on violence, both for reducing and stopping violence, and for assisting those subject to violence and violation. A theoretical focus is the question of how and to what extent violence and violation figure in contemporary theorising on gender and intersectionality.