RN33 - Women's and Gender Studies

RN coordinator:

Maria Carmela Agodi, University Federico II, Naples, Italy


Michael Meuser, Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany



At least in modernity, gender relations and gender orders are never fixed. They are historically and socially variable configurations of gendered practices, always confronted with new challenges. But what is coming into being is uncertain. The gender order is contested in many ways. This affects private gender relations as well as public ones. This brings forward crisis discourses, recently in particular a discourse of a crisis of masculinity.

Global processes of social and cultural change, especially the global hegemony of neoliberal capitalism challenge established local gender orders at the national level. The global financial crisis for example leads to limitations of social welfare in many states which affected underprivileged groups more than privileged ones, among them more women than men. In globalized societies local gender relations are indissolubly interwoven with transnational structures. Occupational careers of women in the global north for example often rely on supporting services in the private realm by migrants from the global south. A transnational business masculinity (Connell) possibly becomes the new basis of male dominance. The sociological reflection (not only) on gender must transcend the methodological nationalism (Beck) that is very common in sociological thinking.

Not only focussing on structures of gender inequalities, but also concerning measures to overcome them the global dimension must be considered. With neo-liberalism a divorce of power and politics takes place. The more power is concentrated at big transnational enterprises and financial institutions the more the influence (not only) of gender politics to overcome inequalities is limited, especially at the national level. On the other side transnational institutions enforce gender politics, for example by setting benchmarks for national gender politics like Gender Mainstreaming in the EU. It is an open question whether trans-nationalisation of gender politics can constitute a counterbalance to the effects of economic globalisation.

The activities of RN 33 at the Prague Conference 2015 will be organized in thematic sessions. Most  will be identified after the deadline for individual proposals in February 2015.

The call is aimed at organizing a general session focussing on private and public gender relations, with a broad scope. Four specific sessions are then proposed on the following issues: “Gender in comparative perspective”, “Post-feminism and neo-liberalism”, “Convergences in gender roles”, “Gendered relationships as mediated by food-related practices and activities (see below). In addition,  five joint sessions with other research networks (RNs 13, 16,  20, 24, 28, 34)  are proposed.

Further themes may be the object of papers and presentation. The adequacy of each contribution for the Conference  will be  assessed on an individual basis. 


A. General session


1. Private and public gender relations: de-institutionalization, re-institutionalization and sociological imagination at work


The general session of RN 33 will focus on private and public gender relations with a broad scope. It aims to explore what kinds of gender arrangements, gender representations and gender orders are coming into being – in private relations, in the labour market, in public policy, in social institutions and organisations, in the media etc. How is gender politics dealing with the overcoming of inequalities, on the one hand, and on the positive valuation of differences and diversities, on the other? RN 33 invites for sending abstracts dealing with such topics.


B. Specific sessions:


2. Gender in comparative perspective


This session will focus on gender issues in different countries and/or among different social groups defined by variables such as e.g. age, professions or skills. Comparative research designs will be particularly appreciated.


3. Post-feminism and neo-liberalism: the challenges of young women’s activism, of new masculinities and of queer movements to women’s and gender studies


Social movements are actors of social change whose agency is often intended to address inequalities and to transform differences from a reason for shame to one for pride. New feminist (and queer) movements are challenging the mainstream gender regime and striving to shape gender relations differently. In order to understand what is coming into being we have to look at the symbolic constructions and representations of masculinity and femininity that are inscribed in these new movements, and address the ruptures, the desynchronized innovations that they bring into our social horizon.   If second wave feminism has emerged as a critical response to ‘state organized capitalism’ in the post war era, what kind of feminism is emerging nowadays, in a culture of neo-liberalism that concurred to the extraordinary acceleration of global processes and of cultural change? If third wave feminism emerged against the nation state’s interpretation of justice as exclusively intended in economic terms, bringing on the scene an expanded meaning of justice able to demand inclusion of other spheres of life, what are the challenges that contemporary feminist movements and theories are nowadays posing? How is being enacted the social agency of young women who grew up in a horizon of diffused feminism when they discover the impact of gender pay gap, childcare costs and pregnancy discrimination in their own lives? Can we talk about a fourth wave feminism, and if so, why is it rising now? What are the differences with the past waves? What kind of future world does it suggest to our sociological imagination?  What are the potentials of innovation (making the difference) that arise from contemporary political experiences, so rich of contradictions and new confidence as they appear to be?


4. Convergences in gender roles.


The converging roles of men and women are among the more relevant changes in society in the last century.
Research evidence shows that in European countries the differences in life courses between men and women are declining. Leaving the parental home is delayed until after the first job, for men as well as for women. Similarly, the proportion of men and women having a first child before having worked full time is declining. The proportion of women who leave the parental home before having a first union is increasing, and the large gap present in the cohorts born in the 1940s is no longer visible for the cohorts born in the 1970s. Childfree women, women in "male dominated" occupations, working mothers and caring fathers, househusbands, men in non-traditional occupations are also increasing. The convergence of life courses is strengthened by the generation turnover (Millennial generation). This convergence of male and female life courses challenges the polarization of gender roles. Thus, it
becomes necessary to reflect upon these convergences: what effect do they exert on individual well being, gender relations, gender equality, gender segregation in domestic and public work, gender pay gap, and on the (institutional) deconstruction of gender stereotypes? How does this convergence impact on gender differences/inequalities? As written in the ESA 2015 Conference presentation: "Yet an analysis of how inequalities are produced and reinforced would be incomplete without reflection on
differences. Recognising and acknowledging the multiple expressions of difference – such as gender, social class, age, ethnic background, religion, and sexual orientation... - are vital when it comes to gaining insight into the ‘multiple positioning’ that characterises contemporary individuals. And this entails rethinking the meaning of integration today".


5. Gendered relationships as mediated by food-related practices and activities


Once at the heart of the divide between production and reproduction activities and practices, currently food is intertwined with many issues related to health, ethics, environment, as well as to identity and culture consciousness, on the one hand,  and to nomadism and hybridization, on the other. Yet, looking at food as a medium of social relationships makes it possible to discover how, by means of food-related practices and activities, gendered bodies are produced and reproduced and gender roles and identities constructed and reconstructed in its production chains, in the marketplace, in the kitchen and around the table.  Strictly theoretical as well as empirical contributions are welcome, to explore the issue and connect it to the 2015 Expo theme “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life”.


6. Joint session with RN16 Sociology of Health and RN28 Society and Sports:

Sports, Genders and Sexualities


Being expressions of cultural embodiment, both sexualities, genders and sports can be analyzed as a mirror of societies’ transformations. For this reason the analysis of sports, gender and sexuality can be a key to analyze changes in social interactions and collective representations.
In order to contribute to these streams of research and to open new horizons for further investigation, we invite papers aimed at both understanding the relationships between sports and sexualities, and using them as a tool to analyse broader social transformations. For example: how have sports and physical cultures built their specificities, in particular with relation to genders and sexual differences and consequently to body-related social norms?  How have sports’ institutions managed to include gender and sexual diversities (e.g. cases of intersexed and/or transgender athletes)? Which innovations can be observed in sport practices (techniques, dressing-codes, aesthetics, etc.) with relation to sexuality? To what extent have issues of sexual violence and homophobia amongst sport fans been successfully addressed? What are the contemporary challenges and opportunities when we consider the relationship between sports and sexuality? We encourage contributors to address questions of this sort, thus exploring the importance of gender and sexuality in sports’ research, and vice versa, examining how sports matters in sexuality research.


7. Joint session with RN20 Qualitative Methods:

Qualitative Enquiries into Femicide

Femicide is a leading cause of premature death for women globally, distinct from homicide and other forms of gender violence. The European COST Action IS1206 on femicide is the first pan-European coalition or programme on this topic.  This session targets femicide related to culture. Since this session is a collaboration between RN33 Gender and RN20 Qualitative Research, we invite papers on femicide from a gender perspective, or different ways that we may use qualitative research to explore this delicate topic. This is a rather new area of research so we invite theoretical as well as empirical contributions on the killing of women because they are women. 


7. Joint session with RN13 Sociology of families and intimate lives


Family dynamics, differences/convergences in gender roles: new inequalities and new opportunities


This session is specifically focussed on the impact of changing gender roles on family life and parenthood. Are converging gender roles a new opportunity/challenge  for families and children? Does the gender convergence mean equality in the home? What do children think about changing fathers and mothers?

How, if it is the case, is this implying a change in children’s socialization to gender roles?

8. Joint session with RN24 Science and Technology


Gender inequalities and gender differences in science and academic research: not just an issue for diversity management


Papers and contributions are requested to focus on the issue of gender equality and gender differences in research, across all scientific disciplines and all the different institutions in which scientific research is conducted. While gender mainstreaming, gender equality competence in peer review, assessment and innovation systems are increasingly entering the management of scientific institutions, a close examination of the roles, achievements and career paths  within them highlights a persistence of different career patterns and outcomes for men and women scientists and academics. But is diversity to be valued just because it is a potential source of innovation, independently from which its source is? And what kind of diversity is compatible with criteria of excellence requiring comparability and metric measurement of accomplishments?


9. Joint session with RN34 Sociology of Religion:

Gender and Religion in Times of Growing Social Inequalities and Differences

In times of growing social inequalities and differences, not least due to trans-nationalization and migration, religion's analysis from a gender perspective is essential. Religion is predominantly characterized by a firm symbolization of gender based on hegemonic masculinity; consequently, the relation between women's and men's religious agency is asymmetric. This leads e.g. to the question: how religion provides answers to its own regimes of inequality as well as in other social fields of life, how demands for gender justice are negotiated, and how far power and knowledge structures are challenged. Another question is how religious actors respond to gender inequality and develop dynamics of change, e.g. regarding the discrimination of sexual orientation, the various gender gaps in society and institutionalized gender asymmetry in the religious sphere.


Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):                                                                                                15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:                                                                                          www.esa12thconference.eu


If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.