Dissertation Abstracts


Author: Kelly, Kristy E, kk2772@columbia.edu
Department: Educational Policy Studies
University: University of Wisconsin - Madison, USA
Supervisor: Amy Stambach and Myra Marx Ferree
Year of completion: 2010
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: politics of knowledge , gender mainstreaming , social change , Vietnam
Areas of Research: Social Transformations and Sociology of Development , Human Rights and Global Justice , Women in Society


This dissertation is about a development policy called gender mainstreaming and how gender equality discourses and practices are engaged, resisted, ignored and otherwise transformed in the process of training. Drawing on empirical field research conducted in Vietnam, I consider how gender and development experts move gender-mainstreaming policies beyond national development planning and rhetoric to affect local, cultural change. I find that it is in the context of training, where experts struggle to give meaning to their work that different visions of gender equality emerge. As experts mobilize local knowledge about gender and development, they translate and transform everyday experiences of oppression in ways that simultaneously (re)produce and extend the development agenda.

As a result, gender mainstreaming has become embedded in four competing political projects, each vying to control the framing of gender equality debates in Vietnam. I call these projects economic integrationist, transnational feminist, national independence, and cultural preservationist. They occur at interconnected levels of social scale: global, transnational, national, and household. I find that it is particularly in the context of training that these projects collide, and where inequalities corresponding to the four policy-linked levels of social scale are made visible. Understanding when and how these collisions occur, and how they are managed, given meaning, and resolved, illuminates competing visions of gender, equality and development.

Throughout this work, I argue that current models for explaining the movement of equality discourses and practices from one policy context to the next fail to account for power struggles and complex responses that occur at the interstices of social scale. I present an alternative framework – what I call the political project policy wheel – linking projects to multiple, simultaneously occurring opportunity frames and to the personal commitments and intentions of individual actors. The political project policy wheel highlights the dynamic interconnectedness of the projects as concurrently local and translocal, and embedded in related but different assumptions about gender, generation and class. By conceptualizing training as sites of actors’ struggles and engagement, my research illuminates notions of “the global” and “the local” as co-produced, and advances theories of social change.

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