Reflections: ‘What does feminist research mean to you?’

writing on table

"What does feminist research mean to you?"

Elisa Sajed

“What does feminist research mean to you?”

This was the contemplation posed to us by Dr Radhika Govinda and Professor Yvette Taylor who were introducing the SGSSS-SGSAH funded ‘doing feminist research’ workshop. While I sat there tapping my pen in thought, I was secretly overwhelmed by my surroundings. After being absent from a physical classroom for nearly two years, it was rather intimidating meeting my peers for the first time in person, not to mention having the time and attention of the incredible scholars who were also present.

The workshop, based at the University of Edinburgh, was a 3 day exploration of feminist epistemological, ontological and methodological considerations and complexities, attended by an inspiring cohort of PhD students based in mostly Edinburgh and Glasgow. I was blown away by everyone’s introductions and insights into their research projects. To be in a room with feminists and those who had interest in feminist research was so encouraging. The first two days had particular pertinence to my research. During day one, we heard from Dr Radhika Govinda, Professor Yvette Taylor and Dr rashné limki. The first talk introduced us to the principles of interdisciplinary feminist research, underpinned by the reminder that feminist research is guided by a commitment to social justice. This made me reflect on my own motivations to pursue PhD study, which are heavily influenced by presumed heterogeneity of women’s experiences of domestic abuse, therefore an injustice to communities of socially diverse women who have distinct experiences of domestic abuse. 

I was quite taken with rashné’s interventions. I have spent 6 years in further education prior to starting my PhD, and have not been taught by a Black or Asian scholar. This to many may not seem like a big deal, but it has always been to me. I’ve never been taught by someone with a similar background to mine, so seeing Radhika and rashné at the workshop was really quite emotional and uplifting. rashné offered us a space to consider our pre-conditioned colonial mindsets and ways to disrupt coloniality through feminist research. For my research in particular, I thought about how I aim to work towards de-centring the narrative surrounding domestic abuse while producing legitimate knowledge about the community I am from and serve. I was reminded that inclusionary practices are not always decolonial, therefore it is important to remember that ways of knowing are lived experiences, and the way that knowledge is produced should be reflected upon. 

I echo similar sentiments about day two. Amongst the speakers were Dr Katucha Bento, Dr Ashlee Christoffersen, Professor Louise Jackson, Dr Rebecca Hewer and PhD researcher Cat Wayland.  Katucha and Ashlee offered expertise and insight into intersectionality as a critical methodology. I especially enjoyed the long table discussion- a safe, unmediated space to revel our thoughts about our research, intersectional applications and other thoughts. Day two was also particularly special for me. Louise’s workshop left me with a deeper and developed understanding on the importance of collaborative practice with those who we research. Although her workshop was centred around oral history, her musings left me with important considerations on how I view and my collaborators (participants) in my research as the authors of their narratives. After Rebecca’s incredible presentation on feminist discourse analysis, we were given a task to apply our learning in poetry or parody, and I won! I was gifted- a now signed– copy of Rebecca’s new book and a bar of chocolate that was demolished on the train home, yes after that huge, delicious meal at Kalpna!

So in answer to the question; feminist research, to me, has always meant acknowledging the multiplicity of our social identities. It is formed in resistance and works towards disorientating dominant means of knowledge production and creation. It is an inclusionary practice which features in both knowing and doing. It is deep, meaningful and reflexive. Feminist research practices aim to challenge and transform while questioning the use, and often abuse, of power. The workshops were a salient reminder that feminism and feminist research is not one-size-fits-all; after all, methods and methodologies take different shapes within this paradigm and is informed by the researchers own identity, tensions and motivations. Most importantly, it is a commitment to social justice and equality, a consideration which should always underpin critical inquiry and analysis.

Author’s bio


Elisa Sajed is a first year PhD Social Policy student at the University of Strathclyde. Her project investigates South Asian women’s experiences of coercive control in Scotland at the intersect of gender, race and religion. You can tweet her at @elsajed_


Elisa was one of the participants of the SGSSS-SGSAH funded ‘Spring into Methods’ workshop, Doing Feminist Research, which was jointly hosted by genderED and Strathclyde University Feminist Research Network (SUFRN). You can find SUFRN on Twitter @strath_fem