Feminist researchers have welcomed constructivism as a research paradigm that allows for denaturalising social categories and problematizing the knowledges by which they are created and maintained. However, constructivism – and more specifically, the conception that there exists no objective moral truth – also creates important challenges for normative judgment: when we move from diagnosing patterns of difference or inequality to proposing remedies for what we consider unjust differences, we invoke normative principles (of equality and justice) which we consider suspect in the first place (the so-called ‘catch 22’ in the article’s title). Invoking a feminist ‘ethics of care’, I argue that it is part of researchers’ ethical responsibilities to demonstrate the compatibility between constructivism and normative judgment and to utilise the – admittedly limited – space for normative judgment. When researchers fail to tackle epistemic questions, they limit their capacity to present coherent, and therefore credible, socio-political alternatives. This lack of political effectiveness will mainly harm the social groups who are disadvantaged by the current status quo. The question of how to reconcile feminism (and its appeal to normative judgment) with constructivism is therefore essential to debates on research ethics. In the article, I use contemporary evolutions within research on the political representation of social groups to clarify both the challenges and opportunities for normative judgment within a constructivist research paradigm.
socio-constructivism; feminism; political representation; normative judgment