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What Feminist Epistemology Has to Offer to Reflexive Migration Studies

2020, Khazaei, Faten

This paper investigates the normative, epistemological, and methodological challenges of achieving reflexivity in migration studies, and it suggests a better engagement with feminist epistemology as a solution to these challenges. Specifically, it argues that feminist standpoint theory and the situated knowledge paradigm can contribute to critically interrogating key concepts in the field and avoiding reproducing power structures. While this argument is not new in itself, rare are the explicit demonstrations and detailed analyses of the positionality of the researcher and its impact on research. This paper presents an example of a research design that focused on a social problem that affects society as a whole, intimate partner violence (IPV), and the ways in which it cuts across issues related to migration. Instead of taking migrant-related categories as its entry point, it took Swiss institutional responses to IPV as its object of study. The study was based upon an extensive ethnography in three institutions responsible for IPV: a police emergency unit, a women’s shelter and a medicolegal centre in a French-speaking Swiss canton. This paper demonstrates that by shifting the gaze from ‘migrants’ to the social and administrative contexts that mark them as such, we can study migration-related issues without reproducing the normative categories that reflexive migration studies aims to deconstruct.