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Elite ethnography in an insecure place

The methodological implications of “studying up” in Pakistan

Rosita Armytage

Based on ethnographic research conducted with the wealthiest and most powerful business owners and politicians in urban Pakistan from 2013 to 2015, this article examines the particular set of epistemological and interpersonal issues that arise when studying elite actors. In politically unstable contexts like Pakistan, the relationship between the researcher and the elite reveals shifting power dynamics of class, gender, and national background, which are further complicated by the prevalence of rumor and the exceptional ability of elite informants to obscure that which they would prefer remain hidden. Specifically, this article argues that the researcher’s positionality, and the inversion of traditional power dynamics between the researcher and the researched, can ameliorate, as well as exacerbate, the challenges of undertaking participant observation with society’s most powerful.

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Non- and dedocumenting citizens in Romania

Nonrecording as a civil boundary

Ioana Vrăbiescu

This article explores state practices in Romania that lead to the non-, de-, and redocumenting of tens of thousands of inhabitants. Unlike state practices of (non)recording aliens (asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented migrants), the scale of dedocumenting native citizens in Romania exposes a deliberate and systematic modality of governance through exclusion from state records. These practices of citizenship dispossession lead mostly to the gender discrimination of marginalized women and the racial exclusion of Romani ethnics. People who were born and live on the state’s territory become de facto stateless. By scrutinizing state regulations and institutional practices, this article unravels the logic of dedocumenting citizens, a process that allows state actors to select those who belong to the nation on the basis of criteria that are incompatible with basic civil and human rights. This selective modality of recording endows state actors with crucial and direct control over the political and economic lives of undocumented citizens.

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Ann Miller and Kaveri Gopalakrishnan

In this interview, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan discusses childhood reading, formative influences and how her training in animation has impacted on her visual language as a comics artist. She describes the pleasures of collaborative work, but also gives a sense of the solitude necessarily involved in comics creation, and shares her insights into the artistic and technical challenges involved in conveying emotion and sensory experience. The theme of gender runs through the interview, both in relation to the models that she encountered as a child in Indian and American comics, and to her own satirical take on the rules of female decorum imposed upon Indian schoolgirls. Kaveri reflects on her choice of Instagram posts as a way of publishing a certain type of personal comic, and on the very different demands of producing illustrations for educational books. The current projects that she sets out at the end of the interview demonstrate the breadth and ambition of her work.

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Digitizing the Western Gaze

The End FGM Guardian Global Media Campaign

Jessica Cammaert

The increasing digitization of print media has resulted in the expansion of female genital mutilation (FGM) eradication efforts from print articles, editorials and novels, to online newspapers. The Guardian recently launched an online “End FGM Guardian Global Media Campaign,” incorporating video, film, and multimedia. This report reviews the digitization of FGM eradication efforts by comparing End FGM to past anti-female circumcision screen texts. Focusing on a film featured in the campaign, Shara Amin and Nabaz Ahmed’s 2007 documentary, A Handful of Ash, this report applies a post-colonial feminist critique of gender, sexuality and colonialism to examine how the digitization of pain and suffering is mobilized and consumed. Comparing the film to anti-circumcision screen texts, Ousmane Sembène’s Moolaadé and Sherry Hormann’s Desert Flower, this report historicizes the global media campaign and highlights its’ repackaging of past imperialist discourses on the body in new digitized ways.

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“Boys Fight, Girls Fight“

Adolescent Girls Speak about Girls' Aggression

Melissa K. Levy

A perceived rise in girls' physical aggression is alarming the public as it collides with dominant views of femininity. Existing research focuses on either boys' violence or girls' non-physical aggression, leaving the realm of girls' physical aggression relatively unexplored. Using data from ethnographic observations and interviews, this study examines young adolescent girls' experience of their and their peers' fighting. Findings indicate that girls participate in fights to stand up for themselves and others, to show they are not afraid, and for fun. This study calls for continued in-depth research into girls' perspectives on aggression and violence in order to provide insight into how gendered, raced, and classed structures affect girls. It seeks, too, to address the problems that arise from girls fighting.

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Erin K. Anderson and Autumn Behringer

The Girl Scout organization has played an important role in the lives of many girls in the United States and around the world. Despite its prominence and popularity, relatively little is known about how this organization has circulated notions of gender and how it has defined the girlhood experience for its members. Taking a longitudinal approach, we performed a content analysis of Girl Scout badges and badge requirements from 1913 to 1999. Our findings indicate that over the past century the Girl Scout organization has reduced its insistence on traditional femininity, maintained its support of members participating in traditionally masculine domains, and increased its backing of a more androgynous socialization of female youth. These changes reflect the rise of a more fluid and dynamic understanding of girlhood within the Girl Scout organization.

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A Literacy Landscape Unresolved

Beyond the Boy Crisis and into Superhero Fiction

Michael Kehler and Jacob Cassidy

Drawing on qualitative data of secondary school students, we examine how gender is implicated in a specific provincial literacy directive to employ comics and superhero fiction to engage boys. Grounded in a multiliteracies and masculinities framework, we interrogate the intersection of gender and literacy practices in a secondary school English classroom. The research in this article offers a counternarrative to a prevailing discourse grounded in essentialist notions of all boys as struggling readers and instead illustrates the rich potential between students’ lifeworld connections and comics as engaging and critical literacy texts beyond the “boy book” approach adopted in many literacy classrooms. We further argue that a sharper focus on critical literacy pedagogy, which incorporates comics and superhero fiction, reveals an invisibility of gender differences among adolescent reading practices rather than the visibility that has prompted and maintained gendered reform strategies to “help the boys” increase achievement levels in literacy classrooms.

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Dafna Lemish and Shiri Reznik

This study explores gender differences in the roles of humor in the lives of Israeli children. Thirty-four Jewish middle-class Israeli children, sixteen girls and eighteen boys, aged between eight to ten years, were interviewed in focus groups in which they discussed a variety of humorous video segments, jokes, and everyday humor. The analysis suggests that humor in interaction is a highly gendered process in this age group and is employed differently by boys and girls to perform their gendered identities. Girls engaged much less in sexist and aggressive humor and clearly used it to maintain their separateness from boys and younger children. We conclude that humor provides us with another avenue through which to unveil the complicated processes of gender construction in pre-adolescent childhood, while demonstrating at the same time the ambivalence and complexity involved in these processes.

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Courage and Obstinacy

Remembering a Frontrunner

Johanna Rolshoven

In German academic Volkskunde of the 1970s, scholar Ina-Maria Greverus was a pioneer in several realms. As a woman and feminist, she challenged the discipline’s gender order, including its hidden gendered epistemology; as an early reader of international cultural anthropology, she transgressed nationalistically confined horizons, and her methodological openness created space for new formats that challenged false assumption of scientific objectivity and neutrality.

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Personal Heritages

Politics and Gender in Autobiography and Correspondence

Kristina Popova

Monika Bernold and Johanna Gehmacher, eds., Autobiographie und Frauenfrage. Tagebücher, Briefwechsel, Politische Schriften von Mathilde Hanzel-Hübner (1884–1970) (Autobiography and the woman question. Diaries, correspondence and political writing by Mathilde Hanzel-Hübner (1884–1970), L’Homme Archiv 1, Quellen zur Feministische Geschichtswissenschaft, Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2003, 270 pp., €45.00 (pb), ISBN 3-205-77393-4.

Christa Hämmerle and Edith Saurer, eds., Briefkulturen und ihr Geschlecht. Zur Geschichte der privaten Korrespondenz vom 16. Jahrhundert bis heute (Letter cultures and their gender: on the history of private correspondence from the sixteenth century until today), L’Homme Schriften 7, Reihe zur Feministischen Geschichtswissenschaft, Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2003, 316 pp., €35.00 (pb), ISBN 3-205-99398-5.