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Violence, Sacrifice, and Manhood in Black Greek-Letter Fraternities
As a fraternity member, past chapter president, and former national committee representative, Ricky L. Jones is uniquely qualified to write about the sometimes deadly world of black fraternity hazing. Examining five major black Greek-letter fraternities, Jones maintains that hazing rituals within these fraternities are more deeply ingrained, physically violent, and imbued with meaning to their participants than the initiation rites of other ethnic groups. Because they do not see themselves as having the same political, social, and economic opportunities as other members of society, black fraternities and their members have come to see the ability to withstand physical abuse as the key ingredient in building and defining manhood. According to Jones, hazing in black fraternities is a modern manifestation of sacrificial ritual violence that has existed since ancient times, and the participants view such rituals as an important tool in the construction of individual and collective black male identity.
Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France
Nelly Roussel (1878–1922)—the first feminist spokeswoman for birth control in Europe—challenged both the men of early twentieth-century France, who sought to preserve the status quo, and the women who aimed to change it. She delivered her messages through public lectures, journalism, and theater, dazzling audiences with her beauty, intelligence, and disarming wit. She did so within the context of a national depopulation crisis caused by the confluence of low birth rates, the rise of international tensions, and the tragedy of the First World War. While her support spread across social classes, strong political resistance to her message revealed deeply conservative precepts about gender which were grounded in French identity itself. In this thoughtful and provocative study, Elinor Accampo follows Roussel's life from her youth, marriage, speaking career, motherhood, and political activism to her decline and death from tuberculosis in the years following World War I. She tells the story of a woman whose life and work spanned a historical moment when womanhood was being redefined by the acceptance of a woman's sexuality as distinct from her biological, reproductive role—a development that is still causing controversy today.
An American History of Intersex
What does it mean to be human? To be human is, in part, to be physically sexed and culturally gendered. Yet not all bodies are clearly male or female. Bodies in Doubt traces the changing definitions, perceptions, and medical management of intersex (atypical sex development) in America from the colonial period to the present day. From the beginning, intersex bodies have been marked as "other," as monstrous, sinister, threatening, inferior, and unfortunate. Some nineteenth-century doctors viewed their intersex patients with disrespect and suspicion. Later, doctors showed more empathy for their patients' plights and tried to make correct decisions regarding their care. Yet definitions of "correct" in matters of intersex were entangled with shifting ideas and tensions about what was natural and normal, indeed about what constituted personhood or humanity. Reis has examined hundreds of cases of “hermaphroditism” and intersex found in medical and popular literature and argues that medical practice cannot be understood outside of the broader cultural context in which it is embedded. As the history of responses to intersex bodies has shown, doctors are influenced by social concerns about marriage and heterosexuality. Bodies in Doubt considers how Americans have interpreted and handled ambiguous bodies, how the criteria and the authority for judging bodies changed, how both the binary gender ideal and the anxiety over uncertainty persisted, and how the process for defining the very norms of sex and gender evolved. Bodies in Doubt breaks new ground in examining the historical roots of modern attitudes about intersex in the United States and will interest scholars and researchers in disability studies, social history, gender studies, and the history of medicine.
Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory
In medieval allegory, Body and Soul were often pitted against one another in debate. In Body Against Soul: Gender and Sowlehele in Middle English Allegory, Masha Raskolnikov argues that such debates function as a mode of thinking about psychology, gender, and power in the Middle Ages. Neither theological nor medical in nature, works of sowlehele (“soul-heal”) described the self to itself in everyday language—moderns might call this kind of writing “self-help.” Bringing together contemporary feminist and queer theory along with medieval psychological thought, Body Against Soul examines Piers Plowman, the “Katherine Group,” and the history of psychological allegory and debate. In so doing, it rewrites the history of the Body to include its recently neglected fellow, the Soul. The topic of this book is one that runs through all of Western history and remains of primary interest to modern theorists—how “my” body relates to “me.” In the allegorical tradition traced by this study, a male person could imagine himself as a being populated by female personifications, because Latin and Romance languages tended to gender abstract nouns as female. However, since Middle English had ceased to inflect abstract nouns as male or female, writers were free to gender abstractions like “Will” or “Reason” any way they liked. This permitted some psychological allegories to avoid the representational tension caused by placing a female soul inside a male body, instead creating surprisingly queer same-sex inner worlds. The didactic intent driving sowlehele is, it turns out, complicated by the erotics of the struggle to establish a hierarchy of the self’s inner powers.
Gender, Health, and the Selling of Fitness
Are you ripped? Do you need to work on your abs? Do you know your ideal body weight? Your body fat index? Increasingly, Americans are being sold on a fitness ideal not just thin but toned, not just muscular but cut that is harder and harder to reach. In Body Panic, Shari L. Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs ask why. How did these particular body types come to be "fit"? And how is it that having an unfit, or "bad," body gets conflated with being an unfit, or "bad," citizen?
Dworkin and Wachs head to the newsstand for this study, examining ten years worth of men's and women's health and fitness magazines to determine the ways in which bodies are "made" in today's culture. They dissect the images, the workouts, and the ideology being sold, as well as the contemporary links among health, morality, citizenship, and identity that can be read on these pages. While women and body image are often studied together, Body Panic considers both women's and men's bodies side-by-side and over time in order to offer a more in-depth understanding of this pervasive cultural trend.
Body Politics and the Fictional Double
Edited by Debra Walker King
Examines the disjunction between women's appearance and reality.
In recent years, questions concerning "the body" and its place in postmodern discourses have taken center stage in academic disciplines. Body Politics joins these discussions by focusing on the challenges women face when their externally defined identities and representations as bodies -- their body fictions -- speak louder than what they know to be their true selves.
Racialized, gendered, or homophobic body fictions disfigure individuals by placing them beneath a veil of invisibility and by political, emotional, or spiritual suffocation. As objects of interpretation, "female bodies" in search of health care, legal assistance, professional respect, identity confirmation, and financial security must first confront their fictionalized doubles in a collision that, in many cases, ends in disappointment, distress, and even suicide.
The contributors reflect on women's day-to-day lives and the cultural productions (literature, MTV, film, etc.) that give body fictions their power and influence. By exploring how these fictions are manipulated politically, expressively, and communally, they offer reinterpretations that challenge the fictional double while theorizing the discursive and performative forms it takes.
Contributors include Trudier Harris, Maude Hines, S. Yumiko Hulvey, Debra Walker King, Sue V. Rosser, Stephanie A. Smith, Maureen Turim, Caroline Vercoe, Gloria Wade-Gayles, and Rosemary Weatherston.
Debra Walker King, Associate Professor of English at the University of Florida, Gainesville, is author of Deep Talk: Reading African American Literary Names. She has published articles and reviews in Names: the Journal of the American Name Society; Philosophy and Rhetoric; and African American Review.
Introduction: Body Fictions, Debra Walker King
Who Says an Older Woman Can't/Shouldn't Dance?, Gloria Wade-Gayles
When Body Politics of Partial Identifications Collide with Multiple Identities of Real Academics: Limited Understandings of Research and Truncated Collegial Interactions, Sue V. Rosser
Body Language: Corporeal Semiotics, Literary Resistance, Maude Hines
Writing in Red Ink, Debra Walker King
Myths and Monsters: The Female Body as the Site for Political Agendas, S. Yumiko Hulvey
Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco, Caroline Vercoe
Performing Bodies, Performing Culture: An interview with Coco Fusco and Nao Bustamante, Rosemary Weatherston
Women Singing, Women Gesturing: The Gendered and Racially-Coded Body of Music Video, Maureen Turim
Bombshell, Stephanie A. Smith
Afterword: The Unbroken Circle of Assumptions, Trudier Harris
Gender and Sexuality in Modern Czech Culture
The Violent Man in African American Folklore and Fiction
The figure of the violent man in the African American imagination has a long history. He can be found in 19th-century bad man ballads like "Stagolee" and "John Hardy," as well as in the black convict recitations that influenced "gangsta" rap. "Born in a Mighty Bad Land" connects this figure with similar characters in African American fiction. Many writers -- McKay and Hurston in the Harlem Renaissance; Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison in the '40s and '50s; Himes in the '50s and '60s -- saw the "bad nigger" as an archetypal figure in the black imagination and psyche. "Blaxploitation" novels in the '70s made him a virtually mythical character. More recently, Mosley, Wideman, and Morrison have presented him as ghetto philosopher and cultural adventurer. Behind the folklore and fiction, many theories have been proposed to explain the source of the bad man's intra-racial violence. Jerry H. Bryant explores all of these elements in a wide-ranging and illuminating look at one of the most misunderstood figures in African American culture.
Childbirth, Motherhood, and Social Networks in the Old South
In Born Southern, V. Lynn Kennedy addresses the pivotal roles of birth and motherhood in slaveholding families and communities in the Old South. She assesses the power structures of race, gender, and class—both in the household and in the public sphere—and how they functioned to construct a distinct antebellum southern society. Kennedy’s unique approach links the experiences of black and white women, examining how childbirth and motherhood created strong ties to family, community, and region for both. She also moves beyond a simple exploration of birth as a physiological event, examining the social and cultural circumstances surrounding it: family and community support networks, the beliefs and practices of local midwives, and the roles of men as fathers and professionals. The southern household—and the relationships among its members—is the focus of the first part of the book. Integrating the experiences of all women, black and white, rich and poor, free and enslaved, these narratives suggest the complexities of shared experiences that united women in a common purpose but also divided them according to status. The second part moves the discussion from the private household into the public sphere, exploring how southerners used birth and motherhood to negotiate public, professional, and political identities. Kennedy’s systematic and thoughtful study distinguishes southern approaches to childbirth and motherhood from northern ones, showing how slavery and rural living contributed to a particularly southern experience.