Love Studies and Feminism

A new broad field of scholarship – Love Studies – has emerged internationally and has been expanding since the early 1990s. Especially since the beginning of the twenty-first century, and in contrast to previous reluctance in most disciplines (except literature and art history) to take love seriously as a subject of academic research, fast growing attention to the topic of love can be seen worldwide, in many different disciplines and interdisciplinary work, among both feminist and non-feminist scholars. Increasingly, love is now addressed in its own right instead of being translated into other terms (such as labour, care, desire, romance, trust), and a fast growing number of research activities (publications, conferences, networks, university courses) can be noted. Among feminists, love, especially sexual love and maternal love, has been a politically loaded issue for a long time, and therefore, perhaps, the subject of love as such has been even more difficult to deal with seriously than in non-feminist fields. A point of departure here is that Love Studies is a heterogeneous and conflictual field of knowledge interests, and feminist theorists are internally divided as to whether and how to enter into it; also, that feminist theory and politics have much to win by broadening and deepening the study of love, partly for the same reason that have made feminists so reluctant towards the subject.

The previous GEXcel research theme, Love in Our Time – a Question for Feminism (LiOT), was organized around the assumption that the currently growing research on love could and should be seen as a new field, that it could carry a name of its own, Love Studies, and that a stronger feminist presence in studies on love was needed. Not only did the research conducted under the auspices of LiOT confirm the assumption that a new field was emerging; it also identified some key features indicating what the new in the current, academic interest in love is about. In sum this result includes:

(1) a sociological approach placing love as a problem at the center of studying social order/disorder in (late/second/post-) modernity,

(2) a philosophical approach, also found in recent neuro-scientific studies, connecting love to creativity or a productive power of some specific kind, and

(3) a political approach, invoking love as a useful key concept for a new political theory of global revolution.

All three modes of approaching the analysis of love contain feminist work, but with a few exceptions non-feminist scholars are tone-giving. The field of research, launched here, will develop further the main lines of thought informing LiOT and investigate new questions raised explicitly or implied in its results.

  • Love and feminist theory

    Strand chairs: Anna G. Jónasdóttir & Lena Gunnarsson 

    The fast growing field of interdisciplinary Love Studies is being carried by both non-feminist and feminist knowledge interests, seemingly more so by non-feminist scholars. This strand builds on and develops the results from the previous GEXcel research theme, Love in Our Time – a Question for Feminism (LiOT), run through 2010, and the aim is to promote critical and constructive – including intersectional - feminist analyses on different levels of generality within three broadly defined sub-areas:

    Love: a question for feminism

    • in variously framed studies of history, culture and contemporary societies
    • in philosophy, including ethics as well as philosophy of science (ontology, methodology, epistemology)
    • in studies of political activity and ideas in social movements as well as institutionalized power and policy-making.

    Ongoing projects:  Love Power: Feminism, Embodiment and Experience (a book project, led by Garcia Andrade, Gunnarsson and Jónasdóttir).

    Key researchers: Lena Gunnarsson (Örebro University, Sweden), Anna G. Jónasdóttir (Örebro University, Sweden), and a connected core group/network of international scholars: Eudine Barriteau (University of the West Indies, Barbados), Ann Ferguson (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA), Adriana Garcia Andrade (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-AZC, Mexico), Renata Grossi (ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australia), Kathleen B. Jones (San Diego State University, USA), Olga Sabido Ramos (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico), Silvia Stoller (University of Vienna, Austria), Justyna Szachowicz-Sempruch (University of Warsaw, Poland), Margaret Toye (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada); all involved in the ongoing book project.

    Recent publications

    This strand also relates to GEXcel research field Intersectionality in Culture and Society

    This strand is constitutive of the International Network for Feminist Love Studies, and (through individual key researchers) related to the Love Research Network, housed at St Andrews, Scotland.