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Surviving Slavery

Sexuality and Female Agency in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Morocco

Chouki El Hamel

The tragic hero of North African slavery is female. In Morocco in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, female slaves, mainly black women originally from West Africa, survived and sometimes thrived by forging emotional bonds with their masters. The striving for survival and the tragic drama of the female slaves' lives entailed emotional and sexual bonds via concubinage. For free Moroccan men concubinage was legalized and was secured by means of the connection to sexual desire. Concubines, that is, enslaved women, used, initially at least, this desire to secure a better position in a servile status within a society where gender was hierarchical: patrilineal and patriarchal. If it was legally and socially established for a male to be entitled to female slave sexuality, it was, as well, legally and socially conventional for the progeny of female slaves to inherit the father's legal status. I use the analysis of the concubinage system as a process to investigate the interplay of agency, emotions, sexuality, identity, race, and gender in Morocco.

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Barbara Roche Rico

In this article I examine the representation of bullying in Felita (1979) and Going Home (1986), two novels by Nicholasa Mohr, an important but critically overlooked author of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Using material from current research in the social sciences as well as a close reading of the texts, I explore the emergence of the female subject from behind her self-definition as a victim of girl-bullying. The girl’s involvement with art enables her to move from the role of object to that of subject. That involvement not only counteracts the negative effects of bullying but also brings the girl to a deeper understanding of her culture and herself. That the author would then reengage bullying episodes from these novels in a memoir written later provides a powerful example of the author’s writing back to the tween whose experiences inspired her work.

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Epistemology and Ethics

Perspectives from Africa

Henrietta L. Moore

There has been much discussion in anthropology of the problem of belief and of the difficulties inherent in understanding and interpreting alternative life-worlds. One consequence of anthropological understanding and interpretation being intimately tied to the epistemological and ethical project of contextualization is that other people's knowledge is often rendered as parochial, defined by its local contexts and scope. This article discusses the recent conversion to radical Protestant beliefs in a community in northern Kenya that has resulted in new forms of knowledge and agency. The moral continuities and discontinuities between researcher and researched cannot in this situation be glossed by making the informants rational in context or by asserting the existence of culturally distinct worldviews. The article explores how this sets up a series of epistemological and ethical dilemmas that shape both the research project and the research process.

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Barbara Franchi

The role of women in making art and the agency of the overly-represented female body in artistic practices have been crucial debates in twentieth-century Western feminism and beyond. In particular, it was in the wake of the second wave of feminism, with the emergence of poststructuralism and deconstruction, and the postmodern turn that critical assessments of the arts started claiming back female spaces and voices in the midst of a still largely patriarchal artistic scene.

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Going Rogue

Bianca at Large

Elizabeth Mazzola

This article explores how Shakespeare transforms his early picture of female virtue embodied by Bianca Minola – safely stowed in her chambers in The Taming of the Shrew – into the freedom we find in Othello's Bianca, who is an emblem of the larger world; her movements aligned with integrity, the ability to reason, and mastery of her body. I investigate how Bianca's 'nomadic' status guarantees her safety and speech, and also locate her agency and mobility alongside the movements of female characters like Moll Cutpurse, Isabella Whitney's dejected maidservant, and Spenser's Britomart – all guardians of a world to which they only peripherally belong.

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Judith Inggs

This article explores the development of girl characters in works for children and young adults during Perestroika. First, it examines established heroines from the Soviet era, such as Elli in Volkov's Volshebnik izumrudnogo goroda [The wizard of the emerald city], and then goes on to examine the depiction of female protagonists and characters in works written during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The conclusion is that although there was a clear demand for new heroines and a new role model for girls, writers did not succeed in providing strong, independent female characters with a sense of agency. Instead, the Soviet preference for male protagonists continued, with females often being portrayed stereotypically as weak and ineffectual.

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Defying Death

Women's Experience of the Holodomor, 1932–1933

Oksana Kis

Although the tragedy of the Holodomor (the Great Famine) of 1932 and 1933 figures prominently in public discourse and historical scholarship in Ukraine today, its gender dimension has not yet been examined. This article is based on an analysis of personal narratives of female survivors of the Holodomor, collected and published in Ukraine since the 1990s until now. It focuses on the peculiarities of women's experience of the Holodomor and explores women's strategies of resistance and survival in the harsh circumstances of genocide. It exposes a spectrum of women's agency at the grassroots and illuminates controversies around women's ways of coping with starvation. The article also discusses the methodological challenges and ethical issues faced by a Ukrainian female scholar studying women's experiences of famine.

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The Construction of the Palestinian Girl

Voices from South Lebanon

Kathleen Fincham

This paper examines how specific femininities have been constructed in Palestinian refugee camps in south Lebanon through the intersecting discourses of gender and nation. Through these discourses, Palestinian girls and women have been positioned largely as biological reproducers, gatekeepers, metaphors, ideological reproducers and cultural transmitters of the nation. This has worked to shape Palestinian girls' upbringing in the home and in the community and presented them with limited gender scripts from which to construct their identities and imagine their futures. However, Palestinian females have also exercised agency to gain the most advantageous position available to them at any given time in Palestinian society. Although structural, legal and cultural barriers have severely limited their participation in political activism, education and paid work, Palestinian females in Lebanon have constructed their identities through Islamic feminism, and to a lesser extent, secularism. Moreover, these identities are continually being transformed through the processes of resistance, negotiation and accommodation.

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Non-normative Bodies, Queer Identities

Marginalizing Queer Girls in YA Dystopian Literature

Miranda A. Green-Barteet and Jill Coste

In this article we consider the absence of queer female protagonists in dystopian Young Adult (YA) fiction and examine how texts with queer protagonists rely on heteronormative frameworks. Often seen as progressive, dystopian YA fiction features rebellious teen girls resisting the restrictive norms of their societies, but it frequently sidelines queerness in favor of heteronormative romance for its predominantly white, able-bodied protagonists. We analyze The Scorpion Rules (2015) and Love in the Time of Global Warming (2013), both of which feature queer girl protagonists, and conclude that these texts ultimately marginalize that queerness. While they offer readers queer female protagonists, they also equate queerness with non-normative bodies and reaffirm heteronormativity. The rebellion of both protagonists effectively distances them from the queer agency they have developed throughout the narratives.

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Introduction

Sexual encounters, migration and desire in post-socialist context(s)

Judy Whitehead and Hülya Demirdirek

This introduction explores the contested issue of 'prostitution' and the transnational flow of sex labor. Drawing on the experiences of female migrants described in this issue, we rethink the impact of socialist transition and examine larger themes such as the role of discursive practices in the establishment of national boundaries and in various forms of international intervention. We problematize the 'traffic in women' as well as the conceptualization of and dichotomies surrounding sex labor. Key points in the current debates on transnational sex work are highlighted and an approach is suggested which conceives of agency and structure not in oppositional terms, but as a continuum. Considering the structural conditions imposed by neoliberal policies, we argue that ethnographic accounts can help explain how transnational openings in the market for sex work are internalized as opportunities for young women in post-socialist contexts and how economic liberalization becomes accepted as 'natural' and 'inevitable'.