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Gender Experts and Gender Expertise

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This project examines the construction of gender experts and gender expertise in transnational spaces. We seek to understand

  • how gender experts are organised;
  • how gender experts and gender expertise are constructed and reconstructed in transnational encounters; and
  • what gender expertise is and what the effects are of its application in two issue areas, namely security and development.

We suggest that the circulation of gender experts and gender expertise takes place in transnational social fields and propose to explore structures and processes operating in these fields through empirical research with entry points at the headquarters of international (governmental and non-governmental) organizations and in three case countries, i.e., Colombia, Mali, and Nepal. The project contributes to the literature on gender mainstreaming, which emphasizes the empowering potential of this strategy, but also has warned of the disempowering effects of the professionalization and “governmentalisation” of feminist knowledge, by providing empirical evidence of the way in which the emerging profession of gender experts is structured and by exploring the way in which power operates through the wielding of gender expertise. It also contributes to the emerging field of international political sociology by offering evidence of the way in which knowledge about gender travels in transnational spaces described by expert networks and of the translations it undergoes in these travels. Our multi-disciplinary, multi-method research design combines a survey, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and document analysis.


Swiss National Science Foundation