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Guest Editorial

Queering Girlhood

Barbara Jane Brickman

In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?

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Gabriel Josipovici

It takes time to look at an image. He spreads the paper flat on his desk and leans over it to try and get a better view of the small black and white photograph in the top right hand corner which has caught his attention.

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I’m No Princess

Super Hero Girls Together

Lucy I. Baker

DC Super Hero Girls (DCSHG) is a trans-media franchise that includes not just screen media texts but a wide array of themed merchandise aimed at a multi-generational market. I argue here that key components of the franchise present a queered version of girlhood that critiques femininity as a gender role while presenting femaleness as encompassing a variety of signifiers, acts, and presentations that can be read as queer (particularly by the so-called big girls in the audience). This is evident in the representation of queer relationships that exist in the sexualized zone of the canonical material, allowing the DCSHG characters to inhabit a liminal proto-queer space between homosocial/gender non-conforming and lesbian that is considered more appropriate for young girls. I examine the way in which the DC Super Hero Girls franchise rejects and reforms familiar elements of comics, super heroism, and princess culture to create that space for girls.

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‘I’m Not that Kind of Doctor’

On Being In-Between in a Global Health Intervention

Erica Nelson

Within multi-disciplinary global health interventions, anthropologists find themselves navigating complex relationships of power. In this article, I offer a critical reflection on this negotiated terrain, drawing on my experience as an embedded ethnographer in a four-year adolescent sexual and reproductive health research intervention in Latin America. I critique the notion that the transformative potential of ethnographic work in global health remains unfulfilled. I then go on to argue that an anthropological practice grounded in iterative, inter-subjective and self-reflexive work has the potential to create ‘disturbances’ in the status quo of day-to-day global health practice, which can in turn destabilise some of the problematic hubristic assumptions of health reforms.

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Jeremy Schonfield

Progressive liturgists seek to introduce gender parity into the first paragraph of the Amidah by adding the names of the Matriarchs immediately after those of the Patriarchs. I argue that this misrepresents their marriages and the role played by the concubines. A more balanced understanding is made possible by distancing the names of the Matriarchs from those of their husbands, and inserting them in the form of a brief piyyut, composed of biblical citations, just before the concluding blessing formula. The proposed insertion reflects the agency displayed by the Matriarchs and alludes obliquely to the concubines. Account is taken of the appropriateness of the piyyut for use in traditional settings.

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An Inconvenient Expertise

French Colonial Sailors and Technological Knowledge in the Union Française

Minayo Nasiali

In the 1950s, French shipping companies began to replace their old fleet of steamships with new diesel ships. They also began to lay off sailors from French Africa, claiming that the changing technology rendered their labor obsolete. The industry asserted that African sailors did not have the aptitude to do other, more skilled jobs aboard diesel vessels. But unemployed colonial sailors argued differently, claiming that they were both able and skilled. This article explores how unemployed sailors from French Africa cast themselves as experts, capable of producing technological knowledge about shipping. In so doing, they shaped racialized and gendered notions about labor and skill within the French empire. The arguments they made were inconvenient, I argue, because colonial sailors called into question hegemonic ideas about who could be modern and who had the right to participate in discourse about expertise.

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International Cooperation, Transnational Circulation

Escape, Evasion, and Resistance in France, 1940–1945

Valerie Deacon

The rescue of downed Anglo-American aircrews in France during the Second World War highlights the transnational nature of this kind of resistance. From their training to their evasion, flight crews themselves experienced the Second World War without traditional national borders. Moreover, their successful rescue in Occupied France depended on the ability of civilian helpers to think transnationally and to operate with little regard for the nation-state. This article focuses on evasion training, rescue, and postwar attempts to honor civilians for their assistance to highlight these themes of transnational resistance.

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Introduction

Anthropological Knowledge and Practice in Global Health

Rodney Reynolds and Isabelle L. Lange

Since the turn of the millennium, conceptual and practice-oriented shifts in global health have increasingly given emphasis to health indicator production over research and interventions that emerge out of local social practices, environments and concerns. In this special issue of Anthropology in Action, we ask whether such globalised contexts allow for, recognise and sufficiently value the research contributions of our discipline. We question how global health research, ostensibly inter- or multi-disciplinary, generates knowledge. We query ‘not-knowing’ practices that inform and shape global health evidence as influenced by funders’ and collaborators’ expectations. The articles published here provide analyses of historical and ethnographic field experiences that show how sidelining anthropological contributions results in poorer research outcomes for the public. Citing experiences in Latin America, Angola, Senegal, Nigeria and the domain of global health evaluation, the authors consider anthropology’s roles in global health.

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Valerie Deacon

Arguing that the resistance in France during the Second World War was always transnational in important ways, this piece identifies some of the recent scholarship that has expanded both the temporal and geographic parameters of the French Resistance. It introduces some of the key themes of this collection of articles and underscores the important contributions made by the participating authors. As these articles reveal, we can find sites of transnational resistance by looking at the relationship between the Allies and the resistance, the role that non-French denizens played in the resistance, the politics of cultural resistance, and the circulation of downed Anglo-American aircrews in Europe.

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Introduction

Gabriel

George Craig

In this brief introduction to the Symposium to celebrate the 75th birthday of Gabriel Josipovici, held at the University of Sussex on 10 September 2016, the author recalls his first meeting with Gabriel during the 1960s, when literary criticism was dominated by a particular English perspective. As a cultural outsider, Gabriel introduced new approaches, particularly from France, that became part of transformative changes to the discipline as taught at the university.