The special issue is based on the contributions to an ESRC Seminar Series called Feminism and Futurity held at the University of Bristol during 2010 and 2011. This series, organized by four feminist geographers, drew together feminist academics from a diverse range of disciplines to foster debate and dialogue around the present status and future potential of feminist and gender-sensitive research. The aim of this special issue is to examine the gendered transformations of governance, economy, and citizenship, and to explore what these might mean for feminist scholarship. We are particularly interested in two dimensions of current debates. First, as feminist geographers, we are concerned to identify and examine the new times and new spaces being revealed in contemporary feminist and gender-sensitive research, and the ways in which these problematize familiar understandings of gender, sexuality, and femininity. For example, new forms of governance, financialization, and changing forms of community organization have all reconfigured conventional understandings of relationships between the state and the market, production and social reproduction, men and women, sex and gender, here and there. Second, we are concerned to trace the new questions that have emerged as scholars have redeployed the analytical tools provided by feminist theory in new domains. What does it mean to think about the conventional concepts and categories of social science through understandings developed in contemporary feminist theory? What new questions begin to emerge? What new conceptions of space and time are involved?
For regular readers of Social Politics, the content of this special issue will extend familiar debates into new terrains. Social Politics has long been the home for important articles in feminist scholarship that have helped us understand the content and implications of the gendered reworking of economy, [End Page 157] governance, and citizenship; however; to date the focus has been on feminist engagements with more socio-structural accounts such as those that dominate in accounts of welfare regimes, state theory, and the "varieties of capitalism" literature. There has been less explicit engagement with the ideational and cultural turns in social science, although recently governmentality has proved an influential approach for authors attempting to consider changes in gendered subjectivities. Our contributors are all concerned with how contemporary political-economic transformations are affecting conceptualizations of gender and gender relations. But rather than seeing political economic change as a macro-transformation that then has implications for gendered spaces and subjects, they are concerned to ask how the performativity of gender and gender relations both reflects and constitutes changing material and social conditions. Our argument is that new forms of economy, governance, and citizenship are only partly the result of socio-structural processes such as economic globalization and financialization and/or growing gaps in state and community provisioning. We are particularly interested in how we might understand other aspects of the reshaping of governance, economy, and citizenship if we focus explicitly on new gendered sites, spaces, and networks and consider how and why they have come to take the forms that they do.
Second, and relatedly, this special issue also moves away from much of the existing discussion on contemporary transformations in economy, governance, and citizenship in that we refuse to privilege neoliberalism as a master category. While debates about neoliberalism are present in all of the papers herein, and inflect the analyses they present, they do not dominate the analytical explanations provided. Our contributors are engaged with the debates about new forms of individualized market rule, but they do not lapse into easy assertions about the hegemony of the market, growing economic and social inequalities and the detrimental consequences for women. We are not arguing that neoliberalism has somehow worked for women. Rather, it is our assertion that the new forms of economy, governance, and citizenship associated with "neoliberalisation" or "after neoliberalism" have an uneasy and awkward relationship with feminism. They increasingly rely on relational power, informal networks of care, and the facilitation of partnerships, all hallmarks of an increasingly valued role for culturally coded performances of femininity. Consequently, we are interested to identify and examine the changing notions of...