Current & recent research projects

Political Settlements

GPRG members Zoe Marks and Fiona Mackay are part of the new DfID funded research programme Political Settlements:Towards Open and Inclusive Settlements, led by Professor Christine Bell and the Global Justice Academy (University of Edinburgh) which runs from 2015-18. 

Feminizing Politics and Power in the UK

Meryl Kenny, Fiona Mackay and Cera Murtagh are collaborating with colleagues at Birkbeck, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Sussex, and Queen Mary University London on the ESRC-funded seminar series  Feminizing Politics and Power which examines access, voice and accountability in British politics. Sarah Childs (University Bristol) leads (2014-16).

Women in the British Armed Forces: lessons from Afghanistan

GPRG member Claire Duncanson is collaborating with Rachel Woodward (University of Newcastle) on a British Academy funding project  Women in the British Armed Forces: lessons from Afghanistan. The research examines the impact of the deployment of female personnel in Afghanistan on ongoing debates about the role of women in combat.

Understanding Institutional Change  

Fiona Mackay is part of the European Research Council funded research programme, Understanding Institutional Change: A Gender Perspective, led by Georgina Waylen (University of Manchester). 2012-17.

Feminist Institutionalism

Fiona Mackay  and Meryl Kenny co-direct an international collaborative theory-building project that seeks to explore the interplay between feminist approaches to gendered institutions and institutional theory. The aim of the project is to use and synthesise insights from each approach in order to address issues of gender, politics, power, strategy and change. The Feminism and Institutionalism International Network (FIIN) was founded in 2006 by Fiona Mackay (Edinburgh) and Mona Lena Krook (Washington in St Louis), who co-direct the network with Louise Chappell (UNSW), Georgina Waylen (Sheffield) and Meryl Kenny (Edinburgh). 

Recent FIIN activities include a successful international workshop - entitled Rethinking the dynamics of political institutions: integrating gender and neo-institutionalist perspectives - held in Sydney, Australia on March 23-25 2010 and a short course on 'Gender and Institutions' at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. (September 2010).

As well as individual articles by members, collaborative outputs include:

For more details, please visit

Early Days: Building UN Women 

This project takes a series of snap-shots to capture the early days of the new UN entity for gender equality, UN Women. It documents and analyses processes of transition and institution building by focussing on the perceptions, reactions and aspirations of key "architects", UN Women staff, and NGO observers. The underlying question is how can institutions of global governance by reformed to promote women's rights and gender equality? The creation of the composite entity in 2011 was designed to address intractable problems of the old system including complexity, fragmentation and duplication, critical under-resourcing, marginal status, and lack of strategic leadership. Whilst concrete outcomes are likely to be few in this period, the study examines how successfully the organisation creates a new identity and how it accounts for itself to key stakeholders against its equalities mandates and Strategic Plan (2011-13). Using semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis and observation, the study will provide a benchmark for future research.The project is directed by Fiona Mackay and partially-supported by an SPS Strategic Research Fund Grant. 

Feminism and Nuclear Weapons in the Post Cold War World

GPRG Member Claire Duncanson is directing a new research project on feminism and nuclear weapons, along with Catherine Eschle (University of Strathclyde). In the 1980s, the activities of feminist anti-nuclear campaigners at Greenham Common and elsewhere, along with Carol Cohn's groundbreaking work on masculinities and nuclear discourse, offered a distinctive and high-profile feminist challenge to the Cold War nuclear order. Nuclear weapons are now back on the political agenda in the wake of Barack Obama's speeches and negotiations on disarmament, the continued controversy over the UK government's decision to renew Trident, Iran and North Korea's contestation of the non-proliferation regime, and continued fears around terrorist access to nuclear technology. In the meantime, feminist academic work on international relations, security and foreign policy has expanded exponentially and there have been important debates over the nature of gender, of feminist activism and of feminist research. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, feminist voices on nuclear weapons seem to have become more marginal, with little work specifically on this topic published in recent years. In this context, there is a pressing need to facilitate, support and bring together feminist work on nuclear weapons, and to consider the implications for anti-nuclear struggles of recent shifts in feminist theorising on gender, identity, international relations and related themes.

Outputs of the project include Duncanson, C. and Eschle, C., 'Gender and the Nuclear Weapons State: A Feminist Critique of the British Government's White Paper on Trident', New Political Science, 2008, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 545-559. Future plans include a co-edited journal Special Issue which gives a thoroughgoing academic consideration of the legacy of Carol Cohn's original and trailblazing piece on nuclear discourse, 'Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals', published in 1987 and of the changing feminist contribution to anti-nuclear debates. The Special Issue will cover the following three themes:

  • the relationship between masculinities and nuclear weapons;
  • the connection between women, gender and anti-nuclear activism;
  • the gendered economic costs of a nuclear world.

The project will also establish an international network of feminist scholars working on nuclear weapons. In particular, the topic is currently of particular resonance to feminists working in the UK, the US and Russia, across Asia and in the Middle East.

For more information on the above project and/or to get involved, please contact or

Gender, Institutions and Candidate Selection

GPRG member Meryl Kenny completed an ESRC post-doctoral research fellowship entitled 'Gendering Institutions: The Political Recruitment of Women in Post-Devolution Scotland' in April 2010. The project used feminist and new institutional theory to explore the gendered dynamics of the institutions of poltiical recruitment in post-devolution Scotland. For more details, please visit the ESRC Society Today grant page.

Gender and Constitutional Change

GPRG Convenor Fiona Mackay directed the Gender and Constitutional Change Project from 2001-2003, funded under the ESRC Devolution and Constitutional Change Programme. She is currently acting as an advisor to the ESRC-funded Gender and Political Processes in the Context of Devolution Project (Nickie Charles, Warwick; Charlotte Aull-Davies and Emma James, Swansea) 2005-2007.

Gender and Institutional Design

(University of Edinburgh Development Trust Fund). F. Mackay. 2002-2003. 

Women and the Scottish Parliament: Making a Difference?

(ESRC) A. Brown (Principal Investigator), F. Mackay and F. Myers (co-grant-holders). 2000-2002.

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