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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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The gender of coffee

Women and reconciliation initiatives in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina

Elissa Helms

This article explores the gendering of reconciliation initiatives from the perspective of Bosniac women active in women's NGOs in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. I illustrate how established patriarchal gender relations and socialistera models of women's community involvement framed the ways in which some women's NGO participants constructed essential ethno-national and gender differences, in contrast to dominant donor discourses. This leads to exploration of how gender patterns embedded in the institution of komšiluk (good-neighborliness), particularly women's coffee visits, provided both obstacle and opportunity for renewed life together among ethnic others separated by wartime ethnic cleansing. Distinguishing between the two concepts, I show how, from the perspective of women's roles and experiences, “life together” may be all that displaced women want or expect out of “reconciliation” initiatives, and that even this may be beyond the capacity of many displaced people to forego talk about injustices and guilt stemming from the war.

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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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Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder

Several recent surveys report a gap between how men and women feel about autonomous vehicles. While such binaries may have limited usefulness, female respondents rank autonomous technology as less trustworthy and are less likely than men to report feeling safe in an autonomous car. This comment frames such results within the articles for this special section on autonomous vehicles, showing how reported gender divisions are resultant from discursive formations that frame user experience and individual performed experiences. These discursive-material dynamics generate persuasive configurations of power that thoughtful research and action in autonomous vehicle development could help mitigate. After summarizing survey diff erences, this comment off ers a brief commentary on how they might be addressed, focusing on material rhetoric and vehicle design.

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Gendered Images and Soviet Subjects

How the Komsomol Archive Enriched My Understanding of Gender in Soviet War Culture

Adrienne M. Harris

In this article, I detail how archival finds helped me develop questions on World War II martyr heroes and their role in Soviet culture and Russian collective memory. I consider how one might approach silences, read discrepancies in archival holdings, and extrapolate meaning from various kinds of documents. Considering that the Russian State Archive of Sociopolitical History Komsomol archive allows one to study the evolution of gender via the continuous reshaping of feminine and masculine ideals for Soviet youth, I discuss how the archive might open up new research areas and prompt additional questions for gender historians, and lead one to reconsider power and authority in the Soviet past.

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A gendered ethnography of elites

Women, inequality, and social reproduction

Luna Glucksberg

This article offers a critical ethnography of the reproduction of elites and inequalities through the lenses of class and gender. The successful transfer of wealth from one generation to the next is increasingly a central concern for the very wealthy. This article shows how the labor of women from elite and non-elite backgrounds enables and facilitates the accumulation of wealth by elite men. From covering “the home front” to investing heavily in their children’s future, and engaging non-elite women’s labor to help them, the elite women featured here reproduced not just their families, but their families as elites. Meanwhile, the aff ective and emotional labor of non-elite women is essential for maintaining the position of wealth elites while also locking those same women into the increasing inequality they help to reproduce.

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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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Anika Keinz

Soon after the collapse of communism, women's rights and gender equality became hotly debated issues in Poland, particularly as they were linked to different interpretations of what the transition to democracy ought to mean. In the context of conservative arguments linking Poland's “return to normalcy” with a return to traditional gender roles and relating feminism to the “foreign” socialist order, women's NGOs and networks in Warsaw started to creatively re-frame their arguments within the terms of Polish tradition. At the same time EUropeanization of gender discourses provided another contested register in which women's rights activists had to negotiate their claims. This article explores how concepts of gender and feminism in Poland have become objects, as much as effects, of powerful political debates, describing a discursive field where national self-understandings and values are negotiated in the context of transition and EU accession. It provides an ethnographic account of the central role played by notions of gender and feminism in imaging democratic citizenship and in producing new subject positions in postsocialist Poland.

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Özlem Özmen

Julia Pascal’s The Yiddish Queen Lear, a dramatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, merges racial identity politics with gender politics as the play both traces the history of the Yiddish theatre and offers a feminist criticism of Shakespeare’s text. The use of Lear as a source text for a play about Jews illustrates that contemporary Jewish engagements with Shakespeare are more varied than reinterpretations of The Merchant of Venice. Identity politics are employed in Pascal’s manifestation of the problematic relationship between Lear and his daughters in the form of a conflict between the play’s protagonist Esther, who struggles to preserve the tradition of the Yiddish theatre, and her daughters who prefer the American cabaret. Gender politics are also portrayed with Pascal’s use of a strong woman protagonist, which contributes to the feminist criticism of Lear as well as subverting the stereotypical representation of the domestic Jewish female figure in other dramatic texts.

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Women and Gender in Short Stories by Rabindranath Tagore

An Anthropological Introspection on Kinship and Family

Nandini Sen

This article examines female protagonists in Rabindranath Tagore’s stories and novellas – specifically Charu (A Broken Nest, 1901), Mrinal (The Wife’s Letter, 1914), Kamala (Musalmani, 1941), Anila (House Number 1, 1917), Chandara (Punishment, 1893) and Boshtomi (Devotee, 1916) – from a social anthropological viewpoint, focusing on gender and time-based kinship relations. Here, kinship is defined as an extension of familial relationships to the community (common ethnic-social life, locality and religion) in such a way as to achieve progressively higher levels of social integration and extensive social networks through marriage alliances and lines of descent. Studying how the characters placed the universality of family and kinship structures into question, I argue that parameters of kinship organisation need to be redefined, with plurality and difference as the basis of inquiry rather than universality.