Jakten på et fagfelt: den skandinaviske kvinne- og kjønnshistoriens fremvekst i skjæringsfeltet mellom historieforskning og kvinne- og kjønnsforskning
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The roots of women’s and gender history have been places within social history, interdisciplinary women’s and gender research, and within 1970s and 1980s new women’s movement. Which of these roots gets emphasised and why, depends on who is writing the story. For some, the social historical root is more important than the social movement root, while others yet place more importance on the development of interdisciplinary feminist research than on the other two. Which root is presented as the most important, varies therefore from writer to writer and is mostly influenced by their standpoint within a larger academic community working on women’s and gender issues in the past and the present. Recently, a growing number of feminist researchers, historians and others, have started to investigate how the choice of roots have influenced not only the history of women’s and gender history, but other forms of feminist research, as well. (Liinason 2011, Niskanen and Florin 2009, Rosenbeck 2012 and Scott 2009) This thesis seeks to contribute to this important discussion, by analysing how Scandinavian historians working on women and gender in the past have tried to create an academic space for themselves, situated somewhere between the historical discipline on one side, and interdisciplinary women’s and gender research, on the other.
Based on an analysis of reports published by Norwegian, Danish and Swedish research councils in the 1970s, published conference proceedings from the Nordic gender historian’s meetings from 1983 to 2002, and historical articles published in the three national Scandinavian journals for gender research from late 1970s to early 2000s, I have sought to show how women’s and gender historians have defined, debated and sometimes defended their academic field in relationship to both other historians and other feminist researchers. Applying comparison as my method and Thomas F. Gieryn’s cultural cartography as my theoretical framework has proved to be a fruitful analytical approach here. Throughout the three main chapters, differences and similarities in the Scandinavian historians’ creation of cultural maps for women’s and gender history are discussed in relation to claims about the need for governmental support for women’s and gender history in the first phase of establishment in the second half of the 1970s, debates about what kind of theories are best suited to analyse women’s and men’s lives as gendered subjects in the past, and what kind of relationship there is or should be between historians and other women’s and gender researchers.
Chapter 2, The first definitions, deals with the first definitions given of women’s and gender history in Scandinavia in the first three reports on feminist research in Scandinavia. This chapter shows that the first definitions in many ways sat the path for three different developments in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, paths that also influenced the way women’s and gender history would be developed as academic fields in the three countries. Whereas Ida Blom’s definition placed women’s and gender history squarely in the 1970s social history in the Norwegian report, Gunnar Qvist’s definition in the Swedish report placed Swedish history on women and gender much closer to the politically supported and demanded interdisciplinary jämstalldhetsforskning (research on equality). In the Danish report, women’s and gender history was also placed closely to the interdisciplinary research on women and gender, as well as to the radical student’s and women’s movements.
Chapter 3, The Nordic gender historian’s meetings as field frameworks, analyses the role of the Nordic gender historian’s meetings as a site for academic field formation. My main focus here is on the similarities and differences between Norwegian, Danish and Swedish women’s and gender history, and the debates on where this research belongs academically. The main claim in this chapter is that developments within Scandinavian women’s and gender history have been strongly influenced by a theoretical shift from arguments about women’s subjugation rooted in Marxist theories to arguments inspired by poststructuralist theories on the role of language in formation of gender identities in the past. As shown in this chapter, this development led to a division in the 1990s between those who still preferred to work within a Marxist framework, and those who wanted to work within poststructuralist and other frameworks. By the beginning of 2000s, the theoretical differentiation had created an image of an increasingly theoretically sophisticated field, but also an image of a field whose actors voiced growing concerns about the identity and place of future women’s and gender history.
In the 4th chapter, The feminist researchers sisterhood, the emphasis is on how historians working on women and gender in the past have participated in and contributed to the creation of interdisciplinary women’s and gender research, through their publishing in the Scandinavian interdisciplinary gender research journals. Questions asked in this chapter have revolved around what kind of contributions women’s and gender historians have made to the interdisciplinary journals, how historical research has been portrayed in these contributions, and what kind of relationships between the feminist historians and other feminist researchers could be read out of the historians’ contributions. Here too, there has been a change, especially in the Swedish and Danish journals where history articles showed much stronger ties to the feminist interdisciplinary research in the 1980s then at the end of the 1990s. Compared to their colleagues in Denmark and Sweden, Norwegian women’s and gender historians stayed firmly attached to their roots in social and cultural history.
The first goal of women's and gender history was, and still is, is to make women visible as historical actors in their own right. Over the years this goal has been expended to include show how women’s and men’s lives as gendered subjects have influenced their lives materially, economically, socially and culturally, and how these influences have varied from time to time and from place to place. From the 1970s this research has also included perspectives on how our understanding of men and women as gendered subjects have influenced the formation and shaping of Academy and research practices and preferences. By examining how Norwegian, Danish and Swedish women’s and gender historians have defined, formed and tried to delineate their field from other historical and feminist research fields, my thesis has brought new dimensions of the history of women’s and gender history to the light.