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Constructing the Socialist Worker

Gender, Identity and Work under State Socialism in Braşov, Romania

Jill Massino

Utilising socialist legislation, propaganda and oral history interviews, this article analyses how women’s identities and roles – as well as gender relations – were reformulated as a result of women’s participation in paid labour in socialist Romania. Although some women regarded work as burdensome and unsatisfying, others found it intellectually fulfilling, personally rewarding and, in certain respects, empowering. For example, work improved women’s economic position and offered them an array of social services, which, although inadequate in a number of ways, were welcomed by many women. Moreover, work increased women’s physical and social mobility, which in turn provided them with greater freedom in directing their own lives and in choosing a partner. Finally, the experience of being harassed by male co-workers and of combining work outside the home with domestic responsibilities motivated some women to rethink their status both within the workplace and the family, and to renegotiate their relationships with male colleagues and partners. Although women never achieved full equality in socialist Romania, by creating the conditions for women’s full-time engagement in the workforce, state socialism decisively shaped the course of women’s lives, their self-identities and their conceptions of gender roles, often in positive ways.

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Linda E. Mitchell

Through the analysis of three important texts—Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica, the poem known as both The Song of Dermot and the Earl and The Deeds of the Normans in Ireland, and the 1367 Statutes of Kilkenny—this article seeks to demonstrate that characterizations of the Irish by the English during the first centuries of conquest and settlement established the Irish as differently gendered from the English. This is shown through the use of terms that define the Irish as sexually, socially, and culturally deviant, as unmanly and emasculated, and as legally and culturally inferior even to English women.

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“Undoing” Gender

Nexus of Complicity and Acts of Subversion in The Piano Teacher and Black Swan

Neha Arora and Stephan Resch

Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2001) and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010) are films about women directed by men. Both films unorthodoxly chart women artists’ struggle with the discipline imposed on them by the arts and by their live-in mothers. By portraying mothers as their daughters’ oppressors, both films disturb the naïve “women = victims and men = perpetrators” binary. Simultaneously, they deploy audiovisual violence to exhibit the violence of society’s gender and sexuality policy norms and use gender-coded romance narratives to subvert the same gender codes from within this gender discourse. Using Judith Butler’s and Michael Foucault’s theories, we argue that Haneke and Aronofsky “do” feminism unconventionally by exposing the nexus of women’s complicity with omnipresent societal power structures that safeguard gender norms. These films showcase women concurrently as victim-products and complicit partisans of socially constructed gender ideology to emphasize that this ideology can be destabilized only when women “do” their gender and sexuality differently through acts of subversion.

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Poor Quality Health

A Symptom of Gender Inequality for Girls Living with Poverty

Zainul Sajan Virgi

Abject female intergenerational poverty is a systemic issue which denies girls the opportunity to access a higher quality of life because of poor health that results in under-development. The article focuses on the root cause-gender inequality-that is responsible for their inability to access adequate nutrition, particularly during their critical period of physical and intellectual growth and development. Their resulting sub-standard health has a bad impact on their school attendance. This article follows the lives of a group of ten girls between the ages of ten and fourteen years living in a peri-urban community outside Maputo. It outlines the importance of engaging girls, through participatory methodologies, and giving them the opportunity to express themselves, their challenges, strengths and ideas for possible resolution of the problem.

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Ebola and Accusation

Gender Dimensions of Stigma in Sierra Leone’s Ebola Response

Olive Melissa Minor

As Response and Resilience Team Anthropologist for Oxfam GB, my role was to support an inclusive, community-led Ebola response through a better understanding of gender dynamics in the context of the outbreak. This case study identified stigma and blame of affected people as key factors in the ongoing epidemic. Despite social mobilisation efforts to address these attitudes, they remained ingrained in the Ebola response at multiple levels: in Government of Sierra Leone quarantine policies, in community by-laws and in everyday social interactions. Negative attitudes put pressure on the roles of men and women in ways that produced barriers to acting on Ebola prevention and treatment advice or creating an inclusive Ebola response. Our findings prompted several improvements in Ebola response activities that Oxfam Sierra Leone carried forward in their work, demonstrating the key role applied anthropology can play in creating a reflexive process to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid.

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Gender and Culture in the Turkish Province

The Observations of a Russian Woman Traveler (1868)

Evguenia Davidova

This article examines Maria F. Karlova's relatively unknown travelogue about her visit to Ottoman Macedonia and Albania in 1868. She was a sister of the prominent Slavist scholar and diplomat Alexander F. Gil'ferding and traveled with him. She appears to be the only known Russian female traveler to publish a travelogue about the Ottoman Balkans until the late 1870s. Karlova constructs her gender identity through elite lenses against three principal backdrops: the Turkish province, Europe, and Russia. She offers an example of how gender and class can be inserted into discourses about Russian identity and Russia's place in Europe's symbolic map of modernity. She also introduces gender issues into debates about Russia's political interests and Slavophile views about the Balkans. This article argues that Karlova asserts her sense of belonging to European elite culture in order to raise the issue of women's emancipation. The travelogue provides insights into the process of gender construction in Russia. The intertwined themes of gender, class, and national identity are compared to contemporaneous Victorian women's travelogues.

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En-Gendering Insecurities

The Case of the Migration Policy Regime in Thailand

Philippe Doneys

The paper examines the migration policy regime in Thailand using a human security lens. It suggests that insecurities experienced by migrants are partly caused or exacerbated by a migration policy regime, consisting of migration laws and regulations and non-migration related policies and programs, that pushes migrants into irregular forms of mobility and insecure employment options. These effects are worse for women migrants who have fewer resources to access legal channels while they are relegated to insecure employment in the reproductive or informal sectors. Using a gender and human security analysis, therefore, reveals how the migration policy regime, often informed by a restrictive national security approach, can clash with the human security needs of migrants by creating a large pool of unprotected irregular migrants with women occupying the most vulnerable forms of employment. In conclusion, it is suggested that this ‘en-gendering’ of human insecurities could be overcome if gender equality was designed into policies and guided their implementation.

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The Krŭchma, the Kafene, and the Orient Express

Tobacco, Alcohol, and the Gender of Sacred and Secular Restraint in Bulgaria, 1856-1939

Mary Neuburger

This article explores shifts in patterns of consumption of alcohol and tobacco in Bulgaria, with a focus on public establishments in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. In exploring both the gender dimension of such shifts and its religious implications, the article argues that public consumption of tobacco in particular both reflected and was constitutive of dramatic historical change. At the same time, the increased consumption of such culturally fraught substances provoked an increase in both religious and secular campaigns of “restraint,” in which gender played a key role.

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“I Hope Nobody Feels Harassed”

Teacher Complicity in Gender Inequality in a Middle School

Susan McCullough

In this article, based on an ethnographic study conducted at a New York City public middle school during the 2013 to 2014 school year, I examine gender relations between early adolescent girls and boys, and between them and their teachers. The data—interviews and focus groups with girls, as well as observations—reveals girls’ perceptions of the boys’ dominance in the school and the ways in which boys used symbolic violence and sexual harassment to maintain their social, emotional, and physical power over the girls. Also, I discuss teacher denial of, and complicity in, these structures of power between students. Teachers normalized the hegemonic masculine practices as typical adolescent behavior and the school was deemed to be a gender equitable site by students and teachers. Furthermore, I consider questions regarding the role of teachers in this institutional violence against girls, as well as in relation to my role as researcher.

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Tsvetana Boncheva

The article deals with the institution of ‘village nuns’, a form of religious celibacy among Bulgarian Catholics in the Plovdiv region during the first half of the twentieth century. The primary concern of this article is the structuring and functioning of the institution of village nuns, viewed from the perspective of the fractal dichotomy strategy–tactics, belonging to the paradigm of fractal dichotomies including religious culture–traditional culture, clergy/male celibacy-–nuns/female celibacy, masculinity–femininity. The sources used in the research are of different types: census registers, parochial books, civil registers of births and deaths, household registers, property tax registers, various publications of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria, and ethnographic field material collected by the author. The methodology employed combines various qualitative methods: the gatekeeper and snowball methods, structured and semi-structured interviews, the biographical method and the comparative method. The analysis shows that the nuns’ institution can be treated as a turning point at which female tactics turn into strategies and bring about certain power shifts affecting gender relations.