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Article

Genealogies of Intersectionality in International Relations  

Celeste Montoya and Kimberly Killen

The term intersectionality was introduced in the late 1980s by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a U.S. legal scholar critiquing single-axis approaches (i.e., race only or gender only) to oppression that often obscure those residing at the intersection of multiple marginalities and preclude them from justice. Since then, intersectionality has become a burgeoning field of study aimed at exploring and addressing the complexity of multiple and intersecting dimensions of power and oppression. While scholars across a range of disciplines have engaged intersectionality and incorporated intersectional analysis into their work, its explicit application and study in international relations (IR) has been somewhat limited. While intersectionality, named as such, may be less common in IR, postcolonial, Third World, transnational, Islamic, and queer feminist scholars and activists have long sought to complicate traditional understandings of power. Identifying and tracing the genealogical strands of their intersectional thinking and interventions help demonstrate the relevance and potential of intersectionality for the study of IR.

Article

Ba, Mariama  

Souad T. Ali

Mariama Ba was a renowned feminist, author, and advocate for women’s rights in her home country of Senegal, Africa, and globally. After attending and thriving at the French École Normale postsecondary school for girls, Ba became a teacher and education inspector for many years. Ba went on to write two novels: So Long a Letter, originally published in 1979, and Scarlet Song, published in 1981. Both novels are critical of polygamy in African life and examine the various ways in which women deal with similar situations, celebrate sisterhood, and demonstrate that there is no right or wrong way to be a feminist. Mariama Ba’s texts demonstrate clear criticism of the polygamous society she grew up in and the abuse of religion by some men to further their agenda. Ba’s essay, “The Political Functions of Written African Literatures,” describes her belief that a writer should be political and serve as a critic of surrounding society and misogynist practices. Mariama Ba’s personal life clearly influenced her written works, a topic that has been thoroughly examined in much of the scholarly literature that has been written about her. Ba did not try to define feminism. Rather, she understood that it is different for every woman and is a reflection of background, culture, history, and religion. Ba believed it was her mission as a writer to be a voice for the most vulnerable members of society. Ba was a leader in emerging global feminism and created written works that discussed topics that cross cultural barriers and demonstrate the unity of humanity.

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Feminist Frameworks for Educational Leadership in the United States  

Catherine Marshall and Torrie Edwards

Feminist insights offer ways to rethink and restructure schooling to fit with realities faced by educators, students, and families. This article relies on its model of values affecting schooling policies and practices then presents the range of feminisms, It shows how feminisms would be seen as looking awry and would be assessed as inadequate and inappropriate for leaders. It then charts their implications for school leaders, who will be able to identify the values, structures, and power arrangements to be questioned and altered.

Article

Feminist Curriculum Studies  

Mary Newbery

Since the 1960s, feminist curriculum scholarship and social and political activism have been entangled in mutually influential ways. Feminist engagements with difference demonstrate the complex ways the field of curriculum studies is immersed in the cultural, social, and political commitments of the wider communities in which it inhabits. As second-wave feminist scholars grappled with their understandings of and resistances to the “Man” of liberal humanism occurring in the United States amid the social and political upheavals occurring in the United States beginning in the late 1950s, feminist curriculum scholars engaged in related academic endeavors. For example, prevalent themes in these “early” feminist curriculum scholars’ work included taking up feminist themes of “the personal as political” and women’s solidarity as a political strategy enacted to resist patriarchy. By the 1980s, however, feminist scholars began to decenter the universal, humanist subject amid widespread critiques of the lack of inclusivity in second-wave feminisms. These efforts helped complexify our understandings of the “we” of feminism(s) and feminist curriculum studies. These decenterings led to what some have called an identity crisis in both mainstream and academic renderings of feminism(s), characterized by two distinct and oftentimes factionalized feminist approaches for understanding difference. The first was the adoption of identity politics as the foundation for theories and activisms directed toward emancipatory ideals and outcomes. From this perspective, solidarity within identity groups became a feminist strategy on which to build knowledge projects and activisms. The second, sometimes categorized under the umbrella of poststructural feminism(s), understood freedom as deriving from a rejection of identity as static, and instead dismissed the notion of foundational subjectivity as a precursor for both feminist scholarship and political activism. In feminist curriculum studies, these developments led to troublings of teachers’ autobiographical subjectivity and challenges to historical accounts that include the interrogation of humanist notions of representation, reflection, and linearity, for example. Not all relationships with feminism(s) fit into this category, however. The political and cultural environment of the 1980s included the rise of a highly mobilized New Right, characterized in the United States by the Reagan and Bush Sr. presidencies, a deteriorating job market in Western economies, deregulation, an acceleration of asymmetrical flows of global capital, transnational trade agreements, and the exploitation of non-Western job markets for cheap labor. This led to new and different intertwinings of feminism and neoliberal capitalism. As a result, both mainstream and academic feminism(s) were increasingly engaged with the paradoxes and contradictions of postfeminism, a concept utilized to characterize both an acknowledgment and rejection of feminism(s) during this era. By the second decade of the new millennium, a fourth wave seemed imminent, brought on by global responses to the September 11, 2001, bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and hashtag movements such as #me too and #Bringbackourgirls movements. As bodies, capital, and the material world mingle and flow in newly explored and complex ways, emergent trends in feminist curriculum studies include an increased interest in the non-human, posthuman, and more-than-human worlds and the ways they intra-act with feminist new materialist theories and post-anthropocentric worlds.

Article

Transfeminism(s)  

Daniel Coleman

Transfeminism(s) as both forms of social activism and intellectual inquiry generate ever-evolving frameworks and theoretical provocations that continue to ask critical questions about who the subjects of feminism are and what struggles are supported by purported feminist logics. Transfeminism has evolved to include genders that exist outside of the cisheterosexist binary and white supremacist logics of personhood to whom certain people can recur to garner their “subjectivity.” Transfeminism aims to account for other excluded classes of people and genders including transmen, trans nonbinary and genderqueer folks, and intersex people bringing back some of what the legal framework of intersectionality aimed to account for with the discrimination against Black women in workplace situations. It has also expanded its definitional logic and framework capacities such that it does not engage in merely additive logics of feminism that might mirror diversity and inclusion initiatives in institutions. Instead, its capaciousness, particularly in its activist iterations globally, has been mobilized to account for extrajudicial organizing around queer and trans bodies and medical needs, abolition, transicide, nonnormative sex practices for queer and trans folks such as liberated sex practices like asexuality, kink, and BDSM, queer and trans sex work, disability needs, immigrant and migrant demands, bodily autonomy, and other forms of material and bodily precarity produced by multiple forms of marginalization for queer and trans people whose needs do not exist at the center of mainstream heteronormative, homonormative, or transnormative politics. When fully accounted for in its materialist foundations in activism globally and in its historical genealogy in the aforementioned legacies in organic intellectuals and career academics, transfeminism has the pedagogical potential to participate in liberatory practices for those who most need them in institutional spaces through which we move, in community organizations, and the most intimate spaces of kinship formations toward other modes of living.

Article

Women as Objects and Commodities  

Alina Sajed

The engagement between the discipline of international relations (IR) and feminist theory has led to an explosion of concerns about the inherent gendered dimension of a supposedly gender-blind field, and has given rise to a rich and complex array of analyses that attempt to capture the varied aspects of women’s invisibility, marginalization, and objectification within the discipline. The first feminist engagements within IR have pointed not only to the manner in which women are rendered invisible within the field, but also to IR’s inherent masculinity, which masks itself as a neutral and universally valid mode of investigation of world politics. Thus, the initial feminist incursions into IR’s discourse took the form of a conscious attempt both to bridge the gap between IR and feminist theory and to bring gender into IR, or, in other words, to make the field aware that “women are relevant to policy.” In the 1990s, feminist literature undertook incisive analyses of women’s objectification and commodification within the global economy. By the end of the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, the focus turned to an accounting for the agency of diverse women as they are located within complex sociopolitical contexts. The core concern of this inquiry lay with the diversification of feminist methodologies, especially as it related to the experience of women in non-Western societies.

Article

Advances in Feminist Geography  

Nicole Laliberte, Kate Driscoll Derickson, and Lorraine Dowler

Geography and international studies are both deeply rooted in masculinist, imperialist, and patriarchal ways of viewing the world. However, over the past 20 years, the increase in the number of women within these fields has planted the seeds for the introduction of feminist intervention. Feminist geography is primarily concerned with the real experiences of individuals and groups in their own localities. It can be viewed as the study of "situated knowledges derived from the lives and experiences of women in different social and geographic locations." Feminist geographers consistently seek out techniques which are in line with their feminist philosophies. Although much of the work will be categorized as qualitative, such as ethnographic fieldwork, feminist geographers recognize the need for feminist approaches in quantitative analysis, and techniques alone do not render the project feminist. Rather, feminists in geography argue that all types of data collection must recognize the power relationship between the researcher and the researched. Feminist geography also operates at the local scale and crosses to the global. This is illustrated by geographers who not only study the daily lives of women in a refugee camp but also construct theoretical arguments focused on global forces such as climate change or war in relation to the international migration of women.

Article

Gender Equitable Education and Technological Innovation  

Jennifer Jenson and Suzanne de Castell

The literature on gender equity, education, and technological innovation identifies three primary areas of concern: STEM (collective disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), computer science, and, interestingly enough, reading comprehension. These gendered divides are often framed in public discourse as problems of equality; however, most research and scholarly discussions focus on equity, on fairness. Considerable work by feminists in the social studies of science and technology, demonstrating how innovation and technology are already gendered, has lent strong support to an educational emphasis on how “fairness” might best be achieved. It remains the case that “gender” in most research studies refers to a binarized conception of sex: either male or female, girls or boys, men or women. However, critical intersectional understandings of gender that take into account age, socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and dis/abilities hold out promise for more nuanced understandings of inequities in education. For example, taking the widest perspective, it is socioeconomic class, not gender, that continues to create the greatest disparities in educational outcomes, whereas within any given socioeconomic context, gender is paramount. For girls and women, equity-focused educational interventions aim to develop better pathways to higher education and jobs in STEM subjects and fields. Female underrepresentation in STEM and computer science is often framed as a gender-specific skills deficit impeding access to and success in globally competitive, technologically innovative, and the most highly remunerated occupations, rather than as a barrier created by differences in expectations, norms, experience, and prior educational provision. Gender equity initiatives for school-aged boys are concentrated in the areas of reading and comprehension skills, with little connection made in the literature to either presumptions about or implications of this underachievement as a deficit that jeopardizes future educational or vocational skills. It may be that evolving conceptions and practices of gender that take better account of both gender diversity and intersectionality will enable educational interventions beyond these stereotypical and binarized educational analyses and initiatives, lending hope that we may yet see women and girls assuming not just an equitable but indeed a transformative role in technological innovation.

Article

Digital Gender Collections at the Rosario Castellanos Library, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México  

Susie S. Porter

The Digital Gender Collections at the Rosario Castellanos Library in the Center for Research and Study of Gender at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México provides search engines to access digital collections of books, articles, videos, contemporary feminist magazines, and biographies of Mexican feminists. The collection holds hard-to-access materials and provides scholars outside of Mexico with a means to engage in Mexico- and Latin America-based scholarship and historical documents. The biographies of Mexican feminists, while not peer reviewed, provide a starting point to orient users to Mexican women’s history. The library also holds digitalized copies of feminist magazines established in the 1970s, which will be of interest to researchers and may be useful for teaching the history of second-wave feminism. All documents are in Spanish. Many of the resources, though not all, are accessible online.

Article

Gender and Punishment  

Lynne Haney and Lili Dao

In many respects, gender has been missing from the enormous literature on the form and focus of state systems of punishment. This is true in both the historical accounts on shifts in penal practices and the scholarship on the contemporary emergence of mass incarceration. Gender is absent as a category of analysis and as an explanatory variable in these scholarly debates. At the same time, while there is a large literature on women in the criminal justice and penal systems, it rarely addresses broader questions of how and why the penal system has grown in size, deepened in scope, and broadened in reach over the last few decades. There have been three major approaches to the study of gender and punishment. The first inserted women into accounts of the criminal justice and penal systems, which had historically concentrated on male offenders. Some of this early work used a historical lens to analyze shifts in women’s confinement practices, particularly the evolution of the reformatory in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Influenced by debates in feminist legal theory about sameness and difference, one major line of inquiry sought to determine whether women were treated more leniently than men, particularly with regard to sentencing. A second approach, gaining momentum in the 2000s, shifted the focus from gender differences in outcomes to the gendered dynamics of penal control. More qualitative in nature, this scholarship conceptualized gender as a process that was both transformed and harnessed in penal institutions. Drawing on a broader movement in gender studies, this work focused less on women per se than on how gender was socially constituted. The third and final approach takes seriously the call of critical legal scholars of race and gender to examine the intersections of disadvantage. While academic analyses of intersectionality came to the fore in the 1990s, this perspective made few inroads into penology and criminology until relatively recently. Recent work on the intersection of racialization, masculinity and punishment, and the sexual politics of the prison point to promising new directions that transcend common understandings of criminalization and punishment.

Article

Latina Feminist Literature  

Alicia Arrizón

Any examination of Latina feminist literature must acknowledge that this area of study, like the identity of women of Latin American heritage, is a complex phenomenon. This complexity attests to the fact that the Latino population in the United States embraces multiple ethnicities, such as Mexican American and Cuban American. Aside from ethnic representations, the notion of Latina (Latino) recognizes various ideologically determinant identities, such as Chicanas (Chicanos) and Nuyoricans. In order to embrace the notion of Latina feminism in literature, it is paramount to recognize the reality of women who live in a complex bifurcated reality. Latinas are Americans, and yet, at the same time, they are not “Americans.” Latinas comprise multiracial and multiethnic communities whose multiple and diverse voices are situated within different hierarchies of social power and discourse. While Latina literature is deeply rooted within cultural values and traditions, it critiques the repressive, patriarchal foundations of that tradition. Consequently, Latina feminist writers embody a rebellious sensibility to the task of dismantling the structures that have defined, silenced, and marginalized them. Thus Latina feminist writing cannot be understood as an exclusive or absolute phenomenon but rather must be seen as a heterogeneous cultural practice drawing from the diverse genealogies of women’s specific ethnic backgrounds, as well as from their histories and their voices, while attempting to challenge gender norms, heteronormativity, and power relations. Although the renaissance of Latina feminist literary production became evident in the period after the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements, especially after the 1980s (and 1990s consecutively), discursive configurations of Latina writings have been identified dating back to the 19th century in the United States.

Article

Emecheta, Buchi  

Chika Unigwe

Buchi Emecheta (1944–2017) was a Nigerian writer, born in Lagos to a seamstress mother and a railway worker father. Emecheta’s early ambition was to get an education, like her brother Adolphus. Orphaned early in life, a scholarship to a coveted high school gave her the opportunity she wanted. Married at sixteen to Sylvester Onwordi, she joined him in London in 1962. Their marriage soon ended because of Onwordi’s physical and mental abuse. By the age of twenty two, she was a single mother with five children. Her first novel, In the Ditch, published in 1972, chronicled the struggles of Adah, who represented Emecheta’s own alter ego, in raising children in the slums of London. Overall, Emecheta published over twenty books, which frequently centered on a black woman’s experience. Many of her novels revisit the same themes and draw inspiration from her life. There is perhaps no other African writer in whose works their own biography is centered as much as it is in hers. Her work illuminates her life while her life informs her work. Her life and fiction feed one another to the extent that her novels are often referred to as “fictionalized” accounts of her life. Although Emecheta was a symbol of the modern African woman, she rejected being called a feminist. If she were to be called a feminist, it had to be “feminist with a small letter ‘f’.” A term she would have accepted for herself as well as for her strong female characters would have been Obioma Nnaemeka’s “nego-feminism,” a feminism of Africa, of negotiation, and a no ego feminism.

Article

Gender Violence, Colonialism, and Coloniality  

Natália Maria Félix de Souza and Lara Martim Rodrigues Selis

Feminist perspectives on gender, colonialism, and coloniality have provided important contributions to the discipline of international relations, particularly by producing dislocations on the established political imaginary. By critically engaging issues of embodiment, violence, and resistance, these perspectives have been able to subvert epistemological positions that objectify subaltern experiences, particularly those of colonized and racialized women. Furthermore, feminism’s ability to account for non-Western experiences of colonialism and coloniality has demanded a fundamental commitment to re-signifying gender violence in ways that markedly challenge its mainstream connotations. In that sense, distinct Latin American and Afrocentric critical approaches have opened different avenues to politicize gender without ignoring the experiences and knowledges of colonized, racialized, and sexualized populations. Their differing perspectives on embodiment emerge from the voices, practices, and struggles of women who refuse liberal diagnoses and solutions to their multiple, long-standing oppressions and experiences of violence. In this regard, it is important to highlight the centrality of popular, communitarian, and indigenous feminists whose actions and reflections have been sustaining revolutionary debates on bodies, states, territories, capitalism, and so forth. A reconstructive feminist narrative must seriously engage with existing practices of resistance to understand the ways in which they have already been reconstructing political imaginaries and grammars. In following this path, a critical feminist approach to international relations can abandon its modern academicist ambitions for universal solutions to recover the plural narratives, memories, knowledges, and interpretations of people as opportunities for experiencing another discipline and, hopefully, another world.

Article

Global Masculinities, Femininities, and Sexualities  

Celeste Montoya, Sarah McCullar, and Marjon Kamrani

Feminist international relations (IR) scholars have worked to expand understandings of the global processes through studies of gender. There are multiple forms of feminist scholars and scholarship, with each epistemology having its own understanding of gender and its role in influencing international relations. These include feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint, poststructuralist feminist approaches, and postcolonial feminism. Some of the early feminist IR scholarship placed most of their emphasis on critiquing patriarchy, sometimes resulting to a narrow and essentialist construction of masculinity. These early works note the absence of women and the denigration of the feminine, as well as the predominance of masculine subject matter and masculine partiality in IR. This began to change with the recognition of different types of masculinities, offering a broader conceptualization of gender and masculinities beyond attachment to sex. Beyond recognizing the relational differences between masculinity and femininity, feminist scholars have also pointed out the differential value accorded to each, thus emphasizing the problematic hierarchical nature of such binaries. Another goal of feminist scholars has been to uncover the feminine roles rendered invisible, to challenge the masculine nature of IR as a discipline as well as deal with descriptive and substantive representational issues within the field and practice of IR. Meanwhile, the study of sexualities focuses on power dynamics and the hierarchies associated with sexual identity in its many forms. The predominant themes in this study include sexuality in relation to the study of war and nation; sexuality as a commodity; and studies of hetero- and homonormativity.

Article

Central American-American Feminisms  

Yajaira M. Padilla

Central American-American feminisms have come into existence within the recent span of the late 20th to early 21st century as communities of Central Americans have become more established within the United States and multiple generations of US Central American women have come of age. Central American-American feminisms are conceived of in a collective fashion and share some general characteristics. However, they are also characterized by their heterogeneity, reflecting the diversity of US Central American women and their emergent feminist politics. Among the key influences that have helped shaped Central American-American feminisms are women of color or Third World women feminisms. The theory making and feminist praxis that form the basis of Central American-American feminisms register many of the central tenets of the latter, including an emphasis on intersectionality and the notion of shared struggles against broader systems of dominations among women and peoples of color. Within the scope of these broader women of color feminist influences, Chicana feminisms have been particularly important, partly due to the cohabitation of US Central American and Mexican American/Chicano communities in areas such at the US Southwest. In as much as US Central American women identify with Chicana feminist paradigms and experiences of oppression, they also disidentify with them, responding with their own sense of US Central American feminist politics and paradigms that draw on their Central American roots and diasporic experiences. In keeping with their transnational or transisthmian nature and sensibilities, Central American-American feminisms also bear the imprint of the histories of oppression and resistance and of migration of Central American women. Indeed, such histories, and the ongoing struggles tied to them, are understood within US Central American feminist politics as ones that remain inherently linked to those of women in the Central American diaspora. This helps to explain why diasporic experiences and issues related to the legacies and traumas of war, transnational migration and family separation, intergenerational relationships between mothers and daughters, and notions of identity and belonging are prominent within Central American-American feminisms. Such issues and experiences are integral aspects of the everyday lives of US Central American women, immigrants and subsequent generations alike, and, as such, are foundational to US Central American feminist politics. The literature and cultural production, as well as scholarship, of US Central American women, both feminist and not, has been instrumental to the cultivation and emergence of Central American-American feminisms. Looking to such texts provides a useful means of helping to define what Central American-American feminisms are and to make discernible their general characteristics and limitations, the US and Central American-based influences that have shaped them, and the issues that drive them. Many of these works also push back against the multiple mechanisms and structures that have silenced multiple generations of Central American women in and outside of the isthmus. In this sense, such works do more than just offer fertile ground for exploring many key dimensions of Central American-American feminisms. They also constitute an example of US Central American feminist praxis.

Article

Women in Morocco  

Fatima Sadiqi

Women in Morocco have a rich, complicated history. In the past, they expressed themselves through creating designs in rug-weaving and related arts such as cloth making, tattoos, jewelry, collecting and safeguarding oral literature, building one of the first universities in the world, and serving their communities as political leaders and saints. In the postcolonial era, women have continued to produce oral and written texts. Such texts have been used to resist colonization; others have called for girls’ and women’s education and participation in politics. Since Morocco gained independence, women have continued to be present in the public sphere and have built one of the strongest women’s-rights movement in the Arab world by constantly adapting to historical, political, and social changes and endeavoring to network beyond ideological and political “redlines” that have characterized postcolonial Morocco. Using approaches that may be termed secular, Islamic, or a combination of both, Moroccan women organized themselves in the public sphere and advocated for social, economic, legal, and political reforms. In this way, they succeeded in marking important eras in modern Morocco and became crucial players in the public landscape. In the aftermath of the 2010–2011 uprisings that shook North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries, Moroccan women have produced new forms of movements and activism and given new meanings to their actions. More importantly, they are reinventing their identities, using new strategies and methodologies, and continuing the creativity and resilience that has marked their long history of agency. With the 2011 formalization of Amazigh (Berber) language as an official language in Morocco, women’s ancestral knowledge has come full circle not only as part of Moroccan women’s voices but as a central feature of Morocco’s homegrown identity.

Article

Gender, International Law, and Disasters  

Marie Aronsson-Storrier

Charting gender within international law on disasters is a twofold exercise: The first, more limited, inquiry concerns the development of regulations on disasters and disaster risk and the position of gender within these instruments. The second, more foundational, question is that of the position of gender and the space allowed for feminist and queer perspectives within international law itself, which, in turn, relates strongly to the root causes of disasters and the creation of disaster risk. References to a “gender-based” approach to disaster risk management are abundant in international law and policy instruments and can be seen in, for example, both the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 (Sendai Framework) and the International Law Commission’s (ILC) 2016 Draft Articles on the Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters (ILC Draft Articles)—two leading international law and policy instruments on disasters. However, neither of these instruments accounts for a particularly inclusive view of gender, nor do they engage with the underlying reasons for gender inequality. This is illustrative of broader issues concerning gender in international law and policy, and many of the challenges and shortcomings of international law and policy on disasters are inherent and (re)produced in the very fabric of the international legal system. Therefore, in addition to exploring the extent to which gender has been incorporated into the legal frameworks on disasters to date, it is essential to also critically explore core structures and practices of international law.

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Eugenics, Reproduction, and Asian American Literature  

Asha Nadkarni

Asian American literature has capaciously explored the issues of gender, sexuality, and reproduction that have been so foundational to Asian American racial formation. It has likewise engaged, directly or indirectly, with “eugenics,” a pseudoscience by which nation states sought to improve their populations through managing reproduction. Eugenics, a term coined by Charles Darwin’s cousin Sir Francis Galton in 1883, spans the late 19th to the early 21st centuries, where it continues in the form of population control and the “new” eugenics of genetic and reproductive technologies. In some national sites eugenics was aligned with feminist movements for birth control, whereas in others, such as the United States, they were largely opposed. Nonetheless, eugenic feminists argued that women’s right reproduction was the necessary mechanism by which women should gain rights within the state; as a formation, moreover, eugenic feminism specifically targeted Asian American women as standing in the way of US feminist advance. As such, one of the key ways eugenics was practiced in the United States in relationship to Asian populations was through immigration policy. The history of Asian exclusion in the United States therefore speaks to a larger eugenic project predicated on the notion that Asian immigrants embodied a public health threat in terms of diseases and deviant sexualities of various sorts. The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act opened up Asian immigration to the United States and also gave rise to a new set of stereotypes, gendered and otherwise, about Asian Americans as model minorities. Asian American literature has critically mined these issues, with some Asian American literature acceding to eugenics by stressing an assimilationist politics and with other works challenging it by critiquing eugenics’ reproductive logic of purity.

Article

Performativity  

Julie Rak

The concept of performativity is foundational to the study of gender, but arguably no concept within gender studies has been more misunderstood and misapplied. A journey through the development of performativity as a critical tool from its beginnings in linguistics and philosophy, to its foundational work in poststructuralism and then its general acceptance within the study of gender shows how and why the concept of performativity is at once obvious and difficult to grasp, connected as it is to ordinary life and speech and to abstract theories of identification, all at once. J. L. Austin proposed performatives as utterances that were not constative, in that they were not verifiable, famously arguing that performatives are illocutionary, because they “do” an action as they are said or written. Austin’s focus included the environment or scene of the utterance, where speakers and situation had to match the intent of the performative in order for it to work. From then on, performatives became the subject of linguistics and speech act theory, and then were important to many critical theorists, notably Shoshana Felman, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, all of whom developed postmodern and poststructural approaches to language and representation which saw that performatives offered an alternative route to thinking about how meaning is produced. Poststructuralists interested in the work of language and politics found performatives helpful for thinking about the impact and force of statements. Judith Butler, who in particular is associated with poststructural thinking about performatives, developed a theory of performativity which linked it to ways of doing gender. In her rethinking of performativity and gender, discourse and repetition construct a sense of what gender identity is. Performativity in Butler’s view explains how gender identity constructs subjects and then is connected (often falsely or painfully) to ideas about sex assignment, bodies and sexuality, although the constant repetition of gender norms can result in new and unexpected ways of being gendered. Performativity in Butler’s work is not performance, although it has been widely interpreted that way, because performativity does not assume that a subject pre-exists its discursive construction. The repetition and reiteration of gender norms provides a fiction of interiority and identity for subjects, although Butler leaves open the possibility of the remainder, or excess, that has political potential to make other kinds of gender identities. Performativity was hotly debated within feminist theory, queer theory, and trans theory because Butler’s version of the concept critiqued the work of agency while still insisting on the importance of politics. Eventually, the concept became central to non-essentialist approaches to identity formation.

Article

Cisneros, Sandra  

Olga L. Herrera

Sandra Cisneros is one of the best-known and most influential Chicana authors in American literature. Beginning with her first chapbook publication in 1980, the poetry collection Bad Boys, Cisneros has written and published fiction, poetry, and essays with a distinct Chicana feminist consciousness. Drawing on her experience as an only daughter in a large Mexican American family, Cisneros challenges patriarchal hierarchies in Latino/a culture in her work, as well as those grounded in race, class, and gender in US culture more generally. As part of a larger Chicana feminist intellectual critique of gender roles within Latino/a culture, Cisneros’s fiction and poetry examine the social roles for women in marriage and motherhood and identify the archetypal figures of the Virgin of Guadalupe, La Malinche, and La Llorona as sources of oppression within discourse and practice. Innovative in form and language, her work explores the influence of these figures on the lives of women and imagines new, more liberating possibilities in the recuperation of their agency, self-determination, and independence. Cisneros joins this revisionary work with one of her primary thematic concerns, the Chicana writer’s need to break with cultural expectations in order to establish herself and develop her talents. Her innovations in genre and language, such as the hybrid poetic prose used in The House on Mango Street, demonstrate formally the results of a Chicana feminist resistance to class-inflected literary conventions. From the publication of The House on Mango Street (1984) through the poetry collections My Wicked Wicked Ways (1987) and Loose Woman (1994) and the short story collection Woman Hollering Creek (1991), to the publication of Caramelo or Puro Cuento (2002) and her book of essays, A Home of My Own (2014), Cisneros explores with depth and compassion the struggles of Latina women to break down patriarchal conventions and create for themselves a space for self-expression and creativity.