German early career scholars in Gender Studies: Do networks matter?

Irina Gewinner


Purpose of the study: The field of Gender Studies in Germany demonstrates a rather heterogeneous culture due to its unclear status in relation to other disciplines, while its scope varies from diversity management to critical feminism. Career origins, paths and options for new generations of researchers in this field have to date been only minimally analysed. The contribution of this essay aims at reducing the existing research gap by focusing on the career start and qualification stage in Gender Studies and highlighting the significance of social networks in this process.

Methodology: Building upon a qualitative analysis, this study is based on an explorative investigation into German early career researchers. It utilises primary data collected during semi-structured problem-centred telephone interviews with 30 PhD students and Postdocs. The findings evidence three forms of recruitment of PhD students into Gender Studies and question the same sex co-optation principle reported within other fields of scientific inquiry. At the same time, results show that network composition and modes of support are based on the supervisor’s and the early career scholar’s mutual interest in contributing to theory, rather than maximising political and administrative power. The main contribution, thus, addresses social networks and institutional nepotism in general and as a recruiting strategy in particular, as well as the role of graduate schools as a ‘second best’ option for junior researchers in Gender Studies.


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ISSN: ISSN 2398-5836

Copyright (c) 2018 Irina Gewinner