'What's law got to do with it': the potential for interdisciplinary feminist institutionalist analyses in political science

Amira Aftab

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Contemporary political science has seen the development of a new understanding of institutions, whereby the process and structure of politics is viewed as being influenced by the physical environment, culture, economics, as well as demographics, religion and ideologies. This 'New Institutionalism' (NI) is concerned with the power relations that exist within institutions. However, within this approach there is a significant gap in exploring and understanding the way gender influences institutions. This has led to the development of a new approach to institutionalism, 'Feminist Institutionalism' (FI), which aims to explore the way that gender shapes political institutions and affects the opportunities available to political actors. NI's failure to acknowledge this hidden gendered nature of institutions highlights the inherent norm of neutrality that exists within orthodox approaches of institutional analysis – where rules within institutions are assumed to be gender neutral. The predominant focus of FI theorists has been on parliaments and the bureaucracy, with less of a focus on law as an inherently gendered institution. Like the bureaucratic realm, law is often discussed, as being a neutral player. However, employing an FI analysis would suggest that as with other political institutions, the legal system does not provide a neutral framework for the implementation of gender justice. There is a socially accepted masculine ideal that governs behaviours within the political and legal arenas, setting limitations and boundaries for actors. This paper explores FI in the context of the law; highlighting the importance of addressing the hidden gendered nature of these political institutions, to contribute to the evolving debate about the appropriate ambit of political science scholarship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Australian Political Studies Association annual conference 2015 conference programme
Subtitle of host publicationrefereed papers
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherAustralian Political Studies Association
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAnnual conference of the Australian Political Studies Association - Canberra
Duration: 28 Sept 201530 Sept 2015


ConferenceAnnual conference of the Australian Political Studies Association


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