Social exclusion and gender: does one size fit all?

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Social exclusion has become the dominant discourse of disadvantage and need in many European countries, and is increasingly part of social policy approaches in development agencies. It offers an integrated framework for analysing social disadvantage, including gender as a form of exclusion. This article enquires into the gender implications of some of the core elements of social exclusion paradigms, questions whether an integrated approach works for gender, and argues that feminist research and gender analysis offer both better situated understandings of the character and experience of marginality, and useful insights for the emerging applications of social exclusion frameworks to developing countries. This discussion is contextualised with a brief account of how feminists have analysed marginality and integration in the South, in a tradition which has paralleled but not crossed into European social exclusion discourses. The potential traps in how social exclusion is conceptualised – in particular, implicit dualisms and issues of plurality, notions of actors and processes of exclusion, and the treatment of agency – are then addressed. The critique is tentative since the social exclusion field is still developing, and usage is both broad and flexible, but some core characteristics of exclusion concepts are emerging. Finally, it is argued, with reference to land based and labour based exclusions, that it is necessary for social exclusion to employ a concept of gendered subjects rather than that of an implicitly ungendered universal person.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-146
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Development Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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