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(2022) Hush, AnnaThesisFor decades, feminists at Australian universities have fought to publicise and politicise the issue of campus sexual violence. These efforts have recently come to fruition, with universities publicly acknowledging the problem and undertaking various institutional reforms. However, there has been little scholarly attention paid to political struggles over sexual violence within universities. This thesis critically examines the politics of feminist activism against sexual violence at Australian university campuses. It situates this activism against the backdrop of the neoliberalisation of Australian universities, to reveal how feminists have challenged – and at times, acted in complicity with – these transformations in the landscape of Australian higher education. This analysis is both historical, drawing on archival material relating to the history of campus feminist politics, and contemporary, using data from interviews with students currently engaged in organising against sexual violence. It explores the strategies and tactics adopted by feminist collectives, the constraints on feminist mobilisation in the neoliberal university, and the shortcomings of these movements. This thesis makes two original contributions to knowledge. Firstly, it extends existing analyses of university sexual violence and contributes to the growing body of scholarship on this topic. Research on campus sexual violence in Australia has so far focused on policy analysis and prevalence data. While this provides an important basis for evaluating the scope of the problem and potential remedies, it is largely disconnected from political struggles over institutional responses to sexual violence, a gap this thesis seeks to fill. I offer an analysis of the historical and contemporary struggles that have created the conditions for institutional change, as well as the complex ways in which the neoliberal university undermines and constrains oppositional movements. Secondly, this thesis makes a theoretical contribution to the field of New and Feminist Institutionalism. It critically intervenes in the institutionalist field, drawing greater attention to the roles of macro-social contexts and actors in the form of social movements in processes of institutional change and proposing a framework that foregrounds these aspects of institutional politics. The findings of this research reveal significant limitations in Australian universities’ responses to sexual violence, with their actions falling short of both student demands and expert recommendations. I argue that these actions have largely functioned to consolidate managerial power and mitigate reputational risk, in doing so narrowing the space of political contestation. My analysis further illuminates the specific institutional constraints that bear upon student feminist organisers within the neoliberal university. This analysis offers strategic insights into feminist engagement with institutions, suggesting that student movements must develop the capacity to disrupt processes of institutional reproduction and challenge the reformist approach adopted by universities. A transformative response to campus sexual violence, I argue, will require broader and better-organised coalitions of staff and students in order to collectively challenge and overcome these constraints.
The (In)compatibilities of Quantitative Methods and Critical Feminist Research: The Case of Regression-Based Empirical Modelling and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence(2022) Olejnikova, LenkaThesisDifferent perspectives exist in feminist IR regarding the compatibility of quantitative methods with feminist research. Initially, critical feminist scholars exhibited scepticism and apprehension regarding the use of quantitative methods in feminist research; nevertheless, many feminist scholars have since embraced these methods as an essential toolkit for validating feminist insights. However, the earlier concerns have been successfully resolved. As a result, these two strands of feminist IR research continue to exist largely independently from each other. In this thesis, I revisit this debate and assess the compatibility and utility of quantitative methods for distinctly critical feminist research. Specifically, I examine whether regression-based empirical models – a prevalent class of quantitative methods in IR – are capable of effectively capturing and evaluating the critical feminist understanding of gender. As a case in point, I use existing research on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and the concept of gender as it has been formulated in feminist scholarship on this topic. As I show, regression models cannot accurately represent the critical concept of gender as a power relation, severely limiting their compatibility with critical feminist research. Both regression modelling and concept operationalisation strategies contain a specification of gender as a variable which conceives of a very different nature and functions of gender than gender as a power relation. These conceptual differences, I argue, can be attributed to the different epistemological and ontological assumptions underlying these concepts. A simple synthesis of the critical feminist concept of gender and a regression-based empirical model results in a substantial inconsistency between the conceptualisations of gender in substantive theory and methods. Consequently, a research design that contains conflicting ontological and epistemological assumptions in substantive theory and methods suffers from a low internal consistency and validity since the results cannot provide evidential support to purported theoretical claims. These findings prompt us to reconsider the role of meta-theory in more practical terms and to assess the epistemic utility of methods in terms of their capacity to study the concepts of interest.