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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality > Gender Studies

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Contested Waters

A Social History of Swimming Pools in America

Jeff Wiltse

From nineteenth-century public baths to today's private backyard havens, swimming pools have been a provocative symbol of American life. In this social and cultural history of swimming pools in the United States, Jeff Wiltse relates how, over the years, pools have served as asylums for the urban poor, leisure resorts for the masses, and private clubs for middle-class suburbanites. As sites of race riots, shrinking swimsuits, and conspicuous leisure, swimming pools reflect the tensions and transformations that have given rise to modern America.

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Contesting Realities

The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen

Susanne Dahlgren

As a resident of Aden for more than three years spanning the late years of Marxist South Yemen, Dahlgren presents the reader with an intimate portrait of Yemeni men and women in the home, in the factory, in the office, and in the street, demonstrating that Islamic societies must be understood through a multiplicity of social spheres and morality orders. Within each space, she examines the range of legal, political, religious, and social regulations that frame gender relations and social dynamics. Highlighting the diversity of women’s and men’s positions as a continuum rather than as distinct areas, Dahlgren presents a vivid picture of this dynamic society, providing an in-depth background to today’s political upheavals in Yemen.

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Critical Trauma Studies

Understanding Violence, Conflict and Memory in Everyday Life

Monica J. Casper

Trauma is a universal human experience. While each person responds differently to trauma, its presence in our lives nonetheless marks a continual thread through human history and prehistory. In Critical Trauma Studies, a diverse group of writers, activists, and scholars of sociology, anthropology, literature, and cultural studies reflects on the study of trauma and how multidisciplinary approaches lend richness and a sense of deeper understanding to this burgeoning field of inquiry. The original essays within this collection cover topics such as female suicide bombers from the Chechen Republic, singing prisoners in Iranian prison camps, sexual assault and survivor advocacy, and families facing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As it proceeds, Critical Trauma Studies never loses sight of the way those who study trauma as an academic field, and those who experience, narrate, and remediate trauma as a personal and embodied event, inform one another. Theoretically adventurous and deeply particular, this book aims to advance trauma studies as a discipline that transcends intellectual boundaries, to be mapped but also to be unmoored from conceptual and practical imperatives. Remaining embedded in lived experiences and material realities, Critical Trauma Studies frames the field as both richly unbounded and yet clearly defined, historical, and evidence-based.

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Dancing from the Heart

Movement, Gender, and Sociality in the Cook Islands

Kalissa Alexeyeff

Dancing from the Heart is the first study of gender, globalization, and expressive culture in the Cook Islands. It demonstrates how dance in particular plays a key role in articulating the overlapping local, regional, and transnational agendas of Cook Islanders. Kalissa Alexeyeff reconfigures conventional views of globalization’s impact on indigenous communities, moving beyond diagnoses of cultural erosion and contamination to a grounded exploration of creative agency and vital cultural production. Central to the study is a rich and textured ethnographic account of contemporary Cook Islands dance practice. Based on fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and archival research, it offers an engrossing analysis of how Cook Islands social life is generated through expressive practices. Dance is explored in a variety of settings, including beauty pageants, tourist venues, nightclubs and community celebrations at home and within Cook Islands communities abroad. Contemporary Cook Islands dance practices are also shaped by competing ideas about the past. Debates about precolonial traditions, missionization, and colonialism pervade discussions about dance and expressive culture. Alexeyeff shows how the politics of tradition reflect the competing moral, political, personal, and economic practices of postcolonial Cook Islanders. Throughout the work the stories and voices of individuals are brought to the fore. Their views are juxtaposed with scholarship on tradition, modernity, and social dynamics. Engaging and accessible, Dancing from the Heart illuminates specific and intimate aspects of Cook Islands social life while, at the same time, addressing fundamental questions within anthropology and indigenous, performance, and postcolonial studies.

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Dancing Tango

Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World

Argentinean tango is a global phenomenon. Since its origin among immigrants from the slums of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, it has crossed and re-crossed many borders.Yet, never before has tango been danced by so many people and in so many different places as today. Argentinean tango is more than a specific music and style of dancing. It is also a cultural imaginary which embodies intense passion, hyper-heterosexuality, and dangerous exoticism. In the wake of its latest revival, tango has become both a cultural symbol of Argentinean national identity and a transnational cultural space in which a modest, yet growing number of dancers from different parts of the globe meet on the dance floor.
 
Through interviews and ethnographical research in Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, Kathy Davis shows why a dance from another era and another place appeals to men and women from different parts of the world and what happens to them as they become caught up in the tango salon culture. She shows how they negotiate the ambivalences, contradictions, and hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and global relations of power between North and South in which Argentinean tango is – and has always been – embroiled.
 
Davis also explores her uneasiness about her own passion for a dance which – when seen through the lens of contemporary critical feminist and postcolonial theories – seems, at best, odd, and, at worst, disreputable and even a bit shameful. She uses the disjuncture between the incorrect pleasures and complicated politics of dancing tango as a resource for exploring the workings of passion as experience, as performance, and as cultural discourse. She concludes that dancing tango should be viewed less as a love/hate embrace with colonial overtones than a passionate encounter across many different borders between dancers who share a desire for difference and a taste of the ‘elsewhere.’Dancing Tango is a vivid, intriguing account of an important global cultural phenomenon.

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Dancing with Ghosts

A Critical Biography of Arturo Islas

Frederick Aldama

This first critical biography of Arturo Islas (1938­1991) brings to life the complex and overlapping worlds inhabited by the gay Chicano poet, novelist, scholar, and professor. Gracefully written and deeply researched, Dancing with Ghosts considers both the larger questions of Islas's life—his sexuality, racial identification, and political personality—and the events of his everyday existence, from his childhood in the borderlands of El Paso to his adulthood in San Francisco and at Stanford University. Frederick Aldama portrays the many facets of Islas's engaging and often contradictory personality. He also explores Islas's coming into the craft of poetry and fiction—his extraordinary struggle to publish his novels, The Rain God, La Mollie and the King of Tears, and Migrant Souls—as well as his pivotal role in paving the way for a new generation of Chicano/a scholars and writers.

Through a skillful interweaving of life history, criticism, and literary theory, Aldama paints an unusually rich and wide-ranging portrait of both the man and the eventful times in which he lived. He describes Islas's struggle with polio as a child, his near-death experience and ileostomy as a thirty-year-old beginning to explore his queer sexuality in San Francisco in the 1970s, and his fatal struggle with AIDS in the late 1980s. Drawing from hundreds of unpublished letters, lecture notes, drafts of essays, novels, and poetry archived at Stanford University, Aldama also deals frankly with the controversies that swirled around Islas's impassioned love life, his drug addictions, and his scholarly and professional career as one of the first Chicano/a professors in the United States. He discusses the importance of Islas's pioneering role in bridging Anglo, Latin American, Chicano/a, and European storytelling styles and voices. Dancing with Ghosts succeeds brilliantly both as an account of a fascinating life that embraced many different worlds and as a chronicle of the grand historical shifts that transformed the late-twentieth-century American cultural landscape.

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Dangerous Gifts

Gender and Exchange in Ancient Greece

By Deborah Lyons

Inspired by anthropological writing on reciprocity and kinship, this book applies the idea of gendered wealth to ancient Greek myth for the first time, and also highlights the importance of the sister-brother bond in the Classical world.

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Daughters of the Mountain

Women Coal Miners in Central Appalachia

Suzanne E. Tallichet

Much has been written over the years about life in the coal mines of Appalachia. Not surprisingly, attention has focused mainly on the experiences of male miners. In Daughters of the Mountain, Suzanne Tallichet introduces us to a cohort of women miners at a large underground coal mine in southern West Virginia, where women entered the workforce in the late 1970s after mining jobs began opening up for women throughout the Appalachian coalfields.Tallichet's work goes beyond anecdotal evidence to provide complex and penetrating analyses of qualitative data. Based on in-depth interviews with female miners, Tallichet explores several key topics, including social relations among men and women, professional advancement, and union participation. She also explores the ways in which women adapt to mining culture, developing strategies for both resistance and accommodation to an overwhelmingly male-dominated world.

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Death beyond Disavowal

The Impossible Politics of Difference

Grace Kyungwon Hong

Death beyond Disavowal utilizes “difference” as theorized by women of color feminists to analyze works of cultural production by people of color as expressing a powerful antidote to the erasures of contemporary neoliberalism.

According to Grace Kyungwon Hong, neoliberalism is first and foremost a structure of disavowal enacted as a reaction to the successes of the movements for decolonization, desegregation, and liberation of the post–World War II era. It emphasizes the selective and uneven affirmation and incorporation of subjects and ideas that were formerly categorically marginalized, particularly through invitation into reproductive respectability. It does so in order to suggest that racial, gendered, and sexualized violence and inequity are conditions of the past, rather than the foundations of contemporary neoliberalism’s exacerbation of premature death. Neoliberal ideologies hold out the promise of protection from premature death in exchange for complicity with this pretense.

In Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, Cherríe Moraga’s The Last Generation and Waiting in the Wings, Oscar Zeta Acosta’s The Revolt of the Cockroach People, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God, Gayl Jones’s Corregidora, Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston, Inge Blackman’s B. D. Women, Rodney Evans’s Brother to Brother, and the work of the late Barbara Christian, Death beyond Disavowal finds the memories of death and precarity that neoliberal ideologies attempt to erase.

Hong posits cultural production as a compelling rejoinder to neoliberalism’s violences. She situates women of color feminism, often dismissed as narrow or limited in its effect, as a potent diagnosis of and alternative to such violences. And she argues for the importance of women of color feminism to any critical engagement with contemporary neoliberalism.


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Declining Significance of Gender?, The

Today, a third of American children are born outside of marriage, up from one child in twenty in the 1950s, and rates are even higher among low-income Americans. Many herald this trend as one of the most troubling of our time. But the decline in marriage does not necessarily signal the demise of the two parent family—over 80 percent of unmarried couples are still romantically involved when their child is born and nearly half are living together. Most claim they plan to marry eventually. Yet half have broken up by their child's third birthday. What keeps some couples together and what tears others apart? After a breakup, how do fathers so often disappear from their children's lives? An intimate portrait of the challenges of partnering and parenting in these families, Unmarried Couples with Children presents a variety of unique findings. Most of the pregnancies were not explicitly planned, but some couples feel having a child is the natural course of a serious relationship. Many of the parents are living with their child plus the mother’s child from a previous relationship. When the father also has children from a previous relationship, his visits to see them at their mother’s house often cause his current partner to be jealous. Breakups are more often driven by sexual infidelity or conflict than economic problems. After couples break up, many fathers complain they are shut out, especially when the mother has a new partner. For their part, mothers claim to limit dads’ access to their children because of their involvement with crime, drugs, or other dangers. For couples living together with their child several years after the birth, marriage remains an aspiration, but something couples are resolutely unwilling to enter without the financial stability they see as a sine qua non of marriage. They also hold marriage to a high relational standard, and not enough emotional attention from their partners is women’s number one complaint. Unmarried Couples with Children is a landmark study of the family lives of nearly fifty American children born outside of a marital union at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Based on personal narratives gathered from both mothers and fathers over the first four years of their children’s lives, and told partly in the couples' own words, the story begins before the child is conceived, takes the reader through the tumultuous months of pregnancy to the moment of birth, and on through the child's fourth birthday. It captures in rich detail the complex relationship dynamics and powerful social forces that derail the plans of so many unmarried parents. The volume injects some much-needed reality into the national discussion about family values, and reveals that the issues are more complex than our political discourse suggests.

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