The Significance of Symbolic Representation for Gender Issues in Politics



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Lombardo, Emanuela and Meier, Petra (2019) The Significance of Symbolic Representation for Gender Issues in Politics. NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research . pp. 1-14. ISSN 0803-8740,

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This article argues that many empirical studies in the field of gender and politics reduce symbolic representation to an effect of descriptive representation, which limits our understanding of the relevance of symbolic representation. We claim that we should understand symbolic representation as a dimension in itself, not merely as an effect of another dimension of political representation. In this article we develop this argument showing how symbolic representation presents constituents at the symbolic level, thereby generating dynamics of exclusion similar to the other dimensions of political representation. The relation between the different dimensions of symbolic representation is not unilateral in that symbolic representation is an effect of descriptive representation. The different dimensions are rather entangled in that they are mutually constitutive. We show how symbolic representation provides for a symbolic subtext enabling or constraining the political standing and acting for women—or other social groups. In order to develop our argument we return to Hanna Pitkin’s definition of symbolic representation, and then elaborate upon it relying on Michael Saward’s more recent conceptualization of political representation, also considering the constructivist turn in representation studies.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Symbolic representation; Gender; Political representation; Descriptive representation; Substantive representation
Subjects:Social sciences > Political science
Social sciences > Sociology > Feminism
ID Code:57289
Deposited On:09 Oct 2019 08:36
Last Modified:09 Oct 2019 08:57

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