Clare Bradford's and Mavis Reimer's edited volume Girls, Texts, Cultures was conceived, like the 2010 Winnipeg symposium of the same name, to encourage dialogue between scholars engaging with girls and girlhoods from different academic frameworks, or as they put it, scholars who study "texts for and about girls, and those who investigate contemporary girlhoods." The book brings together a wide range of disciplinary expertise and theoretical perspectives to discuss historical, contemporary, and fictional lives. Not surprisingly, since "girl" is a culturally constructed concept, parameters identifying "girls" and "girlhoods" differ among the [End Page 115] authors, but benefiting from a shared vocabulary, and a common repertoire of theories and knowledge, the collection aims to inspire better research questions and more nuanced analysis as a result of awareness of the subjects and methodologies recruited by scholars working with girls in less familiar ways. The result is a rich, readable, consciously feminist, self-reflexive, and provocative collection that hinges on the significance of girls, girls' lives, and girls' cultures.
The book is structured into three parts that resist conventional academic categories, encouraging readers to explore the interplay between texts for and by girls, research methodologies, and ethnographic research: "Contemporary Girlhoods and Subjectivities," "The Politics of Girlhood," and "Settling and Unsettling Girlhoods." Productive transgressions across disciplines can be seen, for example, in the first part, in which Elizabeth Bullen's literature discussion uses ethnographic researchers like Michelle Fine, Anita Harris, and Angela McRobbie to ground her argument about some contemporary novels' depictions of girls' sexual respectability, morality, and consumer culture. Also speaking across disciplines, in Part Two, Claudia Mitchell challenges scholars to embrace the idea of an "insider perspective" and find ways for girls to participate in data analysis, including girl-produced creative interpretations of their lives. In Part Three, Stephanie Fisher, Jennifer Jenson, and Suzanne de Castell write about their radical study of girls' video gameplay that worked to subvert stereotypes concerning girls, desire, and gaming, so that girls could, over time, and across contexts, connect to alternate virtual identities that might change their own real-world narratives of self. In the same section, I was drawn to Jaqueline Reid-Walsh's discussion of agency and narrative control potential in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century flap books and paper doll books partly because she theorized them in terms of contemporary interactive video games.
Chapters focused on literary texts range widely, including Pamela Knights's discussion of ballet novels, Kerry Mallan's chapter on the art of survival, girls' diaries, and truth-telling in fiction, Kristine Moruzi's exploration of ways the Great War encouraged transnational identities in girls' fiction, and Michelle J. Smith's discussion of the mythology of Australian colonial femininity between 1885 and 1927. Besides print media, Shauna Pomeratz and Rebecca Raby discuss what they call "post-nerds in post-feminist popular culture." Encouraging readers to ask questions in unconventional ways, these chapters are positioned between others concerning ethnography and social justice research.
The girls and girlhoods profiled in the articles are primarily white, able-bodied, and either from England or from settler colonies, but there are exceptions. Knights's chapter concerning ballet novels from the 1930s to the present concludes with what she calls a "note of renewal," with [End Page 116] "culturally and physically diverse girls making their own way, with their own energies." Mitchell's social justice research addresses girls' interpretations of their lives in sub-Saharan Africa, while Kabita Chakraborty discusses ways Muslim girls in Kolkata urban slums use Bollywood films to help them negotiate middle-class public spaces, dating, and ideas about romantic love. Sandrina de Finney and Johanne Saraceno's "Warrior Girl and the Searching Tribe" shares research with Indigenous girls in Canada, girls' "survivance and resurgence" under neocolonialism, and ways Indigenous girls challenge readings of history, space, and pervasive stereotypes of Indigenous peoples.
Perhaps most provocative, as well as the most helpful to scholars new to thinking about girlhood as a site of study, is the first chapter: Dawn H. Currie's "From Girlhood, Girls, to Girls' Studies: The Power of...