Master Class 1.1: Research

Master Class 1.1: Research

Ghassan Moussawi

26 June 2023
18:00 - 19:30 CEST

Feminist Approaches to Decolonizing Knowledge Production: Unsettling Research, Methods, and Theory

This masterclass will tackle issues relating to questioning and unsettling dominant frameworks regarding knowledge production, with keen attention to equity . It will start by asking: what is considered “good” and “rigorous” research? What do dominant framings erase and/or make possible? Pushing against what I call “empir[e]cal research,” or how some research reproduces certain forms of knowing that center empire, this class will address how we make choices about what topics, theories, and methods we use in the course of our research and which works gets circulated and why.

Taking the cue from women of color feminisms, Black feminist thought, postcolonial, and decolonial feminisms, the course will help us move towards more equitable and ethical research practices by addressing three main tensions that arise from WEIRD.

  • First, we interrogate the questions of: what counts as theory? Who gets to “theorize”? Who decides which populations are studied? Which communities are erased and considered “unimportant”?
  • Second, what does it mean to employ postcolonial and decolonial theories to unpack categories of analysis? More specifically, what do feminist postcolonial and decolonial theories teach us? What is our role as researchers? How do our positionalities (race, class, gender, sexuality, physical ability, to name a few…) shape our approach to research, choice of methodologies, and who we cite?
  • Three, how can we uncover unnamed centers of analysis and how can we rethink what counts as “canonical” work? How do we refuse standard practices of research that take theory produced in WEIRD and apply them to the global south and to disenfranchised communities of color (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in the global north? What would it mean to shift, instead, to embracing new modes of inquiry and methodologies, including: embodied methods, emotions, oral histories, language and translations, among others?

Finally, this masterclass ends with a call for solidarity, providing tools on how to align our research practices with feminist commitments to unsettling standard knowledge production and what it looks like in practice to center marginalized knowledges. 


Ghassan Moussawi is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology with affiliate faculty appointments in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, Anthropology, Women & Gender in Global Perspectives, and Global Studies at the University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign. He holds a PhD in Sociology from Rutgers University. His research and teaching lie at the intersections of gender and sexuality studies, race and racisms, everyday life precarity and violence, urban studies, queer theory, and transnational and postcolonial feminisms- with keen attention to nation and empire.

His award-winning book Disruptive Situations: Fractal Orientalism and Queer Strategies in Beirut (Temple University Press, 2020), examines queer strategies of survival amidst everyday life violence and disruptions. His work has appeared in Gender, Place, and Culture, Sexualities, Feminist Formations, mobilities, The Sociological Review, Sociological Forum, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, among others. In addition, he has served on the editorial boards of Gender & Society, The Sociological Review, Critical Ethnic Studies, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, the book series: Critiquing Islam and Gender: Transnational, Intersectional and Queer Perspectives (Edinburgh University Press) and currently as a deputy editor for Humanity & Society and Gender & Society.