How much theory?

from Press News, posted 05/04/2011 - 12:06

A publisher once said, ‘Whenever I see theory, I reach for my knife.’ That might have been me, maybe not, but certainly this is not an uncommon viewpoint. The problem is not with theory as such but how much. Eighty pages of theory is not unusual in a Ph.D. dissertation but normally such detail is unnecessary in a monograph.

Sometimes, however, the main purpose of a monograph may be to challenge or otherwise extend existing theory. Here, a more detailed theoretical discussion will be necessary. Such was the case with Mona Lilja’s study, Power, Resistance and Women Politicians in Cambodia, which focuses on the concept of resistance and is perhaps less focused on its Cambodian setting than die-hard empiricists would like.

This distinction is certainly appreciated by Katherine Brickell (Royal Holloway, University of London). In her recent review for the International Feminist Journal of Politics, she writes:

While having some inherent deficiencies, the book nevertheless makes a much needed analytical contribution to studies of ‘power’ in Cambodia and in doing so, complements the more historically oriented work of Trudy Jacobsen (2008) on this topic (also published by NIAS Press). Lilja’s work is conceptually rigorous, using in a sophisticated manner the work of theorists such as Foucault, Bourdieu, Butler and Bhabha. In this way, Power, Resistance and Women Politicians in Cambodia is an important corrective to much work on Cambodia that has failed to connect its analyses to mainstream and current developments in theory.


For a longer extract from this review, take a look at the reviews page for Mona’s book.


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