Academic Writing Sample

Dissertation Abstract

Intrauterine contraceptives (IUCs) are distinct from popular birth control methods (such as the pill and condoms), since they need to be fitted and removed by medical practitioners. This prolonged doctor-patient interaction raises significant questions about women’s ability to choose, and unchoose, contraception. This dissertation was originally inspired by feminist constructivist accounts of medical sexism, however these did not fully account for the multiple, often contradictory ways women recounted these experiences.


This dissertation therefore explores a possible theory coalition between Actor Network Theory (ANT) and Postmodern Feminist Standpoint Theory, using women’s experiences with intrauterine contraceptives (IUCs) as a case study. Using ANT as an analytical framework untangles the multiple identities that women ascribe to their IUCs, their doctors, and themselves, and proposes that these identities are simultaneously and heterogeneously engineered. I then explore how these different identities contribute to the stabilisation and punctualisation of the network, and how they can also create important potential fractures in the network when women remove their IUCs before the device has expired. Using ANT also complicates understandings of medical consultations as ‘top down’ expressions of power and problematises ‘choice’, even within a contemporary UK NHS context.


Feminist standpoint theorists have frequently disavowed ANT, asking ‘what about politics?’ (Quinlan, 2012). I thus propose ‘Research-as-Activism’, a politically-motivated epistemic framework which assesses feminist research by the practical political applications it yields as both process-as-activism and product-as-activism.


This dissertation blends in-depth interviews, autoethnography, and an analytical literature review to attempt a reconciliation between these two epistemic and ontic ‘imaginaries’ (Law, 1992) to bridge the gap between critical (Latour, 2005) and sentient (Smart, 2009) sociology.



Keywords: Research-as-Activism, Feminist Standpoint Theory, Actor Network Theory, Critical Sociology, Sentient Sociology, Intrauterine Contraceptives.