Story of Estonian academic gender studies in journal Ariadne Lõng, 2000–2013

Redi Koobak, Raili Marling

The article proceeds from the much-discussed research of Clare Hemmings on the stories feminists tell in English-language gender studies journals about the past and present of feminism and the ‘political grammar’ of these narratives. We believe that such research needs to be replicated in the periphery and semiperiphery because, despite the centrality of the politics of location in feminist theory, transnational feminist narratives are still predominantly in English and Western-centered. e article aims to analyze the story of Estonian academic feminism as it unfolds in the journal Ariadne Lõng, the perhaps most stable gender studies institution in postsocialist Estonia. We seek to find out what Estonian gender studies are imagined to be and to do. Specifically, we are interested in whether there is a self-evident consensus in the journal and what role the general narrative plays in the wider gender political context. We analyzed editorials, original research articles, translations and the fore- and afterwords of translation that explicitly mention Estonian or Eastern European feminism or gender studies or the reception of feminism or gender studies in Estonia. We looked at citational practices and the assumptions that are taken for granted. 

Our analysis yielded two central results. First, Estonian gender studies are additive, not integrative. The articles in the journal cover a wide range of subjects, demonstrating the work Estonian scholars have done to establish gender perspectives in their disciplines. Articles are rooted in specific disciplines and there are no interdisciplinary analyses or discussions of gender studies as a discipline and its transdisciplinary methods. Second, the story of Estonian gender studies has not yet critically engaged with its past and its relationship with Western feminist theory. In the post-Soviet period Western feminist theories were of utmost importance in raising new critical questions and perspectives. Yet even today there are no problematisations of the concept of ‘Western feminism’ and its centrality in transnational discussions. We speculate that the lack of critiques of Western perspectives can be explained by the fact that Estonian gender studies have had to work on establishing themselves inside different disciplines and that one of the tools used in the process was the prestige of Western, especially Anglophone, academia.