Family Values? Sexism and Heteronormativity in Feminist Evolutionary Analytic (FEA) Research

Helen Kinsella, Laura Sjoberg

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In this article, we focus on the subset of evolutionary theorizing self-identified as Feminist Evolutionary Analytic (FEA) within Security Studies and International Relations. We offer this accounting in four sections. First, we provide a brief overview of the argument that reproductive interests are the ‘origins’ of international violence. Second, we break down the definitions of gender, sex, and sexuality used in evolutionary work in Security Studies generally and in FEA specifically, demonstrating a lack of complexity in FEA’s accounts of the potential relations among the three and critiquing their essentialist heteronormative assumptions. Third, we argue that FEA’s failure to reflect on the history and context of evolutionary theorizing, much less contemporary feminist critiques, facilitates its forwarding of the state and institutions as primarily neutral and corrective bulwarks against male violence. Fourth, we conclude by outlining what is at stake if we fail to correct for this direction in feminist, IR, and security research. We argue that FEA work misrepresents and narrows the potential for understanding and responding to violence, facilitating the continued instrumentalization of women’s rights, increased government regulation of sexuality, and a more expansive form of militarism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-279
Number of pages20
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • gender
  • heteronormativity
  • sex
  • evolutionary theory
  • international relations
  • war
  • conflict

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