Analytical Strategy for Dealing with Neutrality Claims and Implicit Masculinity Constructions. Methodological Challenges for Gender Studies in Science and Technology


  • Tanja Paulitz RWTH Aachen University
  • Susanne Kink Karl-Franzens-Universtität Graz
  • Bianca Prietl RWTH Aachen University



gender studies, science and engineering, symbolic gender order, implicit masculinity construction, discursive practices, semi-structured interview, grounded theory methodology, patterns of distinction


On the basis of an empirical example, we offer in this article a methodological discussion of the challenges and pitfalls gender studies scholars face when analyzing how gender norms are attributed to epistemic cultures in science and engineering. Faced with actors who claim neutrality and objectivity for themselves and their work, the challenge is to analyze gender norms that are mostly implicit without reifying gender differences. Committed to the goal of opening this black box, we propose an analytical strategy for qualitative empirical research to unveil these subtle, highly normalized, discursive practices of attributing gender norms to the epistemic subjects, objects and activities in science and engineering, and exemplify it with reference to our own empirical study. By comparing the patterns of distinction with respect to epistemic boundaries and to gender differentiations, it is possible to trace connections between the symbolic gender order and epistemic cultures within the data. The allegedly neutral scientist as well as the engineering scholar is then shown to be the androcentric construction of a masculine coded epistemic subject.



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Author Biographies

Tanja Paulitz, RWTH Aachen University

Tanja PAULITZ, Prof. Dr., is a social and cultural scientist. She is professor for sociology of knowledge and culture at the Department of Sociology at Technische Universität Darmstadt. Her research and teaching is located in the area of cultural sociology, gender studies, and qualitative methodologies of empirical research focusing on gender, technology, epistemic cultures and professions in science and engineering. Special emphasis is placed on questions of competing masculinities, discursive practices of boundary work, historical and contemporary studies on academic cultures and on the gendered coproduction of technology and modernity.

Susanne Kink, Karl-Franzens-Universtität Graz

Susanne KINK, MA, is a university assistant at the Department of Sociology at University of Graz (research area: sociology of gender & gender studies). Currently she is working on her PhD project with the working title "Gendered Cultures in Natural Sciences: The Co-Construction of Disciplinary Culture and Gender in Chemistry and Geology." Her research and teaching interests are in the fields of sociology of gender, science studies and research of higher education (gender focus), feminist and queer science and technology studies, qualitative methods, sociology of technology and queer theory. Since 2013 she is in the board of the section "Feminist Theory and Gender Studies" of the Austrian Society for Sociology.

Bianca Prietl, RWTH Aachen University

Bianca PRIETL is a scientific assistant at the Department of Sociology at Technische Universität Darmstadt (research area: sociology of knowledge and culture). Her research and teaching areas comprise among others feminist theory, gender studies on work and organization, science and technology studies, engineering studies, and qualitative social research. She has recently finished her PhD-thesis on the gendered construction of engineering in the field of renewable energies.




How to Cite

Paulitz, T., Kink, S., & Prietl, B. (2016). Analytical Strategy for Dealing with Neutrality Claims and Implicit Masculinity Constructions. Methodological Challenges for Gender Studies in Science and Technology. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(3).



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