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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Innovation Beyond Borders: On Alternative Feminist Discourses of Innovation

Berglund, Karin; Pettersson, Katarina


In this article a feminist intervention is undertaken to mobilise alternative innovation discourses that recognise activity and passivity as enmeshed – as ‘pactive’. Activity is found to perpetuate the mainstream innovation discourse, aligned with a male construct of an active and rational being. Thus, passivity is viewed as a concept that helps problematise, analyse, negotiate and transgress the discursive borders of innovation. The study is empirically driven from ethnographic insights that emerged in two research projects conducted in Sweden over four years, comprising 50 interviews. For the purpose of this article four cases are selected as they provide strong examples of how slowness is affirmed and integrated in everyday practices of innovation where activity and passivity are entwined. To mobilise alternative feminist discourses of innovation we take inspiration from philosopher Jonna Bornemark’s concept of pactivity (a combination of activity and passivity) and Sara Ahmed’s discussion of emotions, where passivity is related to passion and openness. Applying these two lenses to the empirical cases, aspects of pactivity are analysed and four alternative discourses of innovation are mobilised, making it possible to envision innovation as a social process where people stand in relation to their non-knowing, have space to be both passive and passionate and thus are open for enactment.


innovation; feminist interrogation; passivity, activity; pactivity; innovation discourse

Published in

Feminist encounters
2021, volume: 5, number: 2, article number: 22

Authors' information

Berglund, Karin
Stockholm University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Gender Studies
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Publication Identifiers


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