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33. Liz Stanley, feminism and reflexivity


Liz Stanley argues for a critical, reflexive approach to sociological research

Liz Stanley is a leading academic, who has been central to debates on feminist methods and methodology since the seventies. Liz joined the Sociology Department at Manchester in 1977 and worked there for over 30 years. She is now a Professorial Fellow at University of Edinburgh.

As a feminist sociologist, she calls for a ‘thorough going revolution of sociology’ which includes the recognition that everybody theorises about everyday life. Stanley insists on the connections between theoretical, ethical and political questions in sociological research: knowledge must be located and grounded and the author’s position made visible. This also underlines the importance of reflexivity in research.

For Stanley, reflexivity involves accounting for the ways in which knowledge is produced – including the analytical steps involved in coming to any particular understanding of the world. Her work on feminist approaches to auto/biography focuses attention on the politics at stake in ‘writing’ a life.

This feminist analysis of one of the most popular forms of writing disputing both the conventional genre distinction between biography and autobiography, and the frequent divisions which are made between self/other, private/public. She argues that autobiography is allied to biography as it requires the ‘self who writes’ to access the succession of past selves that make up the person.

With Sue Wise, Liz Stanley has written some classic texts, such as Breaking out:  feminist consciousness and feminist research (1982) revised and reissued as Breaking out again: Feminist Ontology and Epistemology in (and Georgie Porgie: sexual harassment in everyday life (1987). She has also written extensively on the life of feminist theorist and writer Olive Schreiner (including Imperialism, Labour and the New Woman 2014).


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