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Gender Studies: Anthropology

Kinship And/or Gender?, Rituals Of Becoming: The Making Of Sexual Difference, Feminist Interventions: The Legacy Of The Seventies

Gender studies in anthropology has a relatively short history, dating to the latter half of the twentieth century, but its prehistory can be discerned in the discipline's early concern with kinship and social reproduction. At the turn of the twentieth century, anthropologists focused their attentions mainly on small-scale societies in which kinship appeared to provide the organizing structure for production. What kinship studies revealed is that production and reproduction (both social and material) are mutually implicated processes, and that the relationship between these processes is sustained by principles of difference.

The evidence suggests that among the most powerful symbolic vehicles for both structuring and legitimating such differentiation around the world has been the representation of persons in gendered terms. Accordingly it has been the long and arduous project of gender studies to examine and explicate the ways in which gender difference is produced and subsequently naturalized, rendered in terms of iconic ideals, and incorporated in the bodily unconscious of human subjects. This not only has entailed considerations of the mechanisms for materializing sexual and gendered difference in ritual and other cultural practices, it has also required analyses of the political and economic structures of production within which they operate, the historical transformations to which they have been subject, and the relationships between gender and other discourses of difference at all levels, from household to state. More recently it has entailed recognition of the violences and excesses generated in and by systems of gendered difference, the possibilities for resistance that they facilitate, and the myriad forms in which desire, disavowal, attraction and revulsion, procreative energies and amity can appear across time and space.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Gastrula to Glow discharge