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

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Fertility and Pleasure Cover

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Fertility and Pleasure

Ritual and Sexual Values in Tokugawa Japan

William R. Lindsey

As their ubiquitous presence in Tokugawa artwork and literature suggests, images of bourgeois wives and courtesans took on iconic status as representations of two opposing sets of female values. Their differences, both real and idealized, indicate the full range of female roles and sexual values affirmed by Tokugawa society, with Buddhist celibacy on the one end and the relatively free sexual associations of the urban and rural lower classes on the other. The roles of courtesan and bourgeois housewife were each tied to a set of value-based behaviors, the primary institution to which a woman belonged, and rituals that sought to model a woman’s comportment in her interactions with men and figures of authority. For housewives, it was fertility values, promulgated by lifestyle guides and moral texts, which embraced the ideals of female obedience, loyalty to the husband’s household, and sexual activity aimed at producing an heir. Pleasure values, by contrast, flourished in the prostitution quarters and embraced playful relations and nonreproductive sexual activity designed to increase the bordello’s bottom line. What William Lindsey reveals in this well-researched study is that, although the values that idealized the role of wife and courtesan were highly disparate, the rituals, symbols, and popular practices both engaged in exhibited a degree of similitude and parallelism. Fertility and Pleasure examines the rituals available to young women in the household and pleasure quarters that could be employed to affirm, transcend, or resist these sets of sexual values. In doing so it affords new views of Tokugawa society and Japanese religion. Highly original in its theoretical approach and its juxtaposition of texts, Fertility and Pleasure constitutes an important addition to the fields of Japanese religion and history and the study of gender and sexuality in other societies and cultures.

The Flaming Womb Cover

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The Flaming Womb

Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia

Barbara Andaya

"The Princess of the Flaming Womb," the Javanese legend that introduces this pioneering study, symbolizes the many ambiguities attached to femaleness in Southeast Asian societies. Yet despite these ambiguities, the relatively egalitarian nature of male–female relations in Southeast Asia is central to arguments claiming a coherent identity for the region. This challenging work by senior scholar Barbara Watson Andaya considers such contradictions while offering a thought-provoking view of Southeast Asian history that focuses on women’s roles and perceptions. Andaya explores the broad themes of the early modern era (1500–1800)—the introduction of new religions, major economic shifts, changing patterns of state control, the impact of elite lifestyles and behaviors—drawing on an extraordinary range of sources and citing numerous examples from Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Philippine, and Malay societies. In the process, she provides a timely and innovative model for putting women back into world history. Andaya approaches the problematic issue of "Southeast Asia" by considering ways in which topography helped describe a geo-cultural zone and contributed to regional distinctiveness in gender construction. She examines the degree to which world religions have been instrumental in (re)constructing conceptions of gender— an issue especially pertinent to Southeast Asian societies because of the leading role so often played by women in indigenous ritual. She also considers the effects of the expansion of long-distance trade, the incorporation of the region into a global trading network, the beginnings of cash-cropping and wage labor, and the increase in slavery on the position of women. Erudite, nuanced, and accessible, The Flaming Womb makes a major contribution to a Southeast Asia history that is both regional and global in content and perspective.

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Fleshing Out America

Race, Gender, and the Politics of the Body in American Literature, 1833-1879

Carolyn Sorisio

Can we work through the imaginative space of literature to combat the divisive nature of the politics of the body? That is the central question asked of the writings Carolyn Sorisio investigates in Fleshing Out America. The first half of the nineteenth century ushered in an era of powerful scientific and quasi-scientific disciplines that assumed innate differences between the "types" of humankind. Some proponents of slavery and Indian Removal, as well as opponents of women's rights, supplanted the Declaration of Independence's higher law of inborn equality with a new set of "laws" proclaiming the physical inferiority of women, "Negroes," and "Aboriginals."

Fleshing Out America explores the representation of the body in the work of seven authors, all of whom were involved with their era's reform movements: Lydia Maria Child, Frances E. W. Harper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, Harriet Jacobs, and Martin R. Delany. For such American writers, who connected the individual body symbolically with the body politic, the new science was fraught with possibility and peril. Covering topics from representation, spectatorship, and essentialism to difference, power, and authority, Carolyn Sorisio places these writers' works in historical context and in relation to contemporary theories of corporeality. She shows how these authors struggled, in diverse and divergent ways, to flesh out America--to define, even defend, the nation's body in a tumultuous period.

Drawing on Euro- and African American authors of both genders who are notable for their aesthetic and political differences, Fleshing Out America demonstrates the surprisingly diverse literary conversation taking place as American authors attempted to reshape the politics of the body, which shaped the politics of the time.

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The Flower and the Scorpion

Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture

Pete Sigal

Prior to the Spanish conquest, the Nahua indigenous peoples of central Mexico did not have a notion of “sex” or “sexuality” equivalent to the sexual categories developed by colonial society or those promoted by modern Western peoples. In this innovative ethnohistory, Pete Sigal seeks to shed new light on Nahua concepts of the sexual without relying on the modern Western concept of sexuality. Along with clerical documents and other Spanish sources, he interprets the many texts produced by the Nahua. While colonial clerics worked to impose Catholic beliefs—particularly those equating sexuality and sin—on the indigenous people they encountered, the process of cultural assimilation was slower and less consistent than scholars have assumed. Sigal argues that modern researchers of sexuality have exaggerated the power of the Catholic sacrament of confession to change the ways that individuals understood themselves and their behaviors. At least until the mid-seventeenth century, when increased contact with the Spanish began to significantly change Nahua culture and society, indigenous peoples, particularly commoners, related their sexual lives and imaginations not just to concepts of sin and redemption but also to pleasure, seduction, and rituals of fertility and warfare.

For Business and Pleasure Cover

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For Business and Pleasure

Red-Light Districts and the Regulation of Vice in the United States, 1890–1933

Mara L. Keire

Mara L. Keire’s history of red-light districts in the United States offers readers a fascinating survey of the business of pleasure from the 1890s through the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Anti-vice reformers in the late nineteenth century accepted that complete eradication of disreputable pleasure was impossible. Seeking a way to regulate rather than eliminate prostitution, alcohol, drugs, and gambling, urban reformers confined sites of disreputable pleasure to red-light districts in cities throughout the United States. They dismissed the extremes of prohibitory law and instead sought to limit the impact of vice on city life through realistic restrictive measures. Keire’s thoughtful work examines the popular culture that developed within red-light districts, as well as efforts to contain vice in such cities as New Orleans; Hartford, Connecticut; New York City; Macon, Georgia; San Francisco; and El Paso, Texas. Keire describes the people and practices in red-light districts, reformers' efforts to limit their impact on city life, and the successful closure of the districts during World War I. Her study extends into Prohibition and discusses the various effects that scattering vice and banning alcohol had on commercial nightlife.

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Framing Fat

Competing Constructions in Contemporary Culture

Samantha Kwan

According to public health officials, obesity poses significant health risks and has become a modern-day epidemic. A closer look at this so-called epidemic, however, suggests that there are multiple perspectives on the fat body, not all of which view obesity as a health hazard.

Alongside public health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are advertisers of the fashion-beauty complex, food industry advocates at the Center for Consumer Freedom, and activists at the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

Framing Fat
takes a bird’s-eye view of how these multiple actors construct the fat body by identifying the messages these groups put forth, particularly where issues of beauty, health, choice and responsibility, and social justice are concerned. Samantha Kwan and Jennifer Graves examine how laypersons respond to these conflicting messages and illustrate the gendered, raced, and classed implications within them. In doing so, they shed light on how dominant ideas about body fat have led to the moral indictment of body nonconformists, essentially “framing” them for their fat bodies.

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From Ballroom to DanceSport

Aesthetics, Athletics, and Body Culture

Drawing on recent media portrayals and her own experience, author and dancer Caroline Joan S. Picart explores ballroom dancing and its more “sporty” equivalent, DanceSport, suggesting that they are reflective of larger social, political, and cultural tensions. The past several years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of ballroom dance as well as an increasing international anxiety over how and whether to transform ballroom into an Olympic sport. Writing as a participant-critic, Picart suggests that both are crucial sites where bodies are packaged as racialized, sexualized, nationalized, and classed objects. In addition, Picart argues, as the choreography, costuming, and genre of ballroom and DanceSport continue to evolve, these theatrical productions are aestheticized and constructed to encourage commercial appeal, using the narrative frame of the competitive melodrama to heighten audience interest.

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Galileo's Pendulum

Science, Sexuality, and the Body-Instrument Link

Drawing on the theories of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and others who have written on the history of sexuality and the body, Galileo’s Pendulum explores how the emergence of the scientific method in the seventeenth century led to a de-emphasis on the body and sexuality. The first half of the book focuses on the historical modeling of the relation between pleasure and knowledge by examining a history of scientific rationality and its relation to the formation of the modern scientist’s subjectivity. Relying on Foucault’s history of sexuality, the author hypothesizes that Galileo’s pendulum, as an extension of mathematics and the body, must have been sexualized by schemes of historical representation to the same extent that such schemes were rationalized by Galileo. The second half of the book explores the problems of scientific methodology and attempts to return the body in an explicit way to scientific practice. Ultimately, Galileo’s Pendulum offers a discursive method and praxis for resexualizing the history of Galilean science.

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Gender and American Jews

Patterns in Work, Education, and Family in Contemporary Life

Harriet Hartman

In Gender and American Jews, Harriet Hartman and Moshe Hartman interpret the results of the two most recent National Jewish Population Surveys. Building on their critical work in Gender Equality and American Jews (1996), and drawing on relevant sociological work on gender, religion, and secular achievement, this new book brings their analysis of gendered patterns in contemporary Jewish life right to the present moment.

The first part of the book examines the distinctiveness of American Jews in terms of family behavior, labor-force patterns, and educational and occupational attainment. The second investigates the interrelationships between "Jewishness" and religious, economic, and family behavior, including intermarriage. Deploying an engaging assortment of charts and graphs and a rigorous grasp of statistics, the Hartmans provide a multifaceted portrait of a multidimensional population.

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Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases

Elizabeth Potter

Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases

Elizabeth Potter

Re-examines the assumptions and experimental evidence behind Boyle's Law.

Boyle's Law, which describes the relation between the pressure and volume of a gas, was worked out by Robert Boyle in the mid-1600s. His experiments are still considered examples of good scientific work and continue to be studied along with their historical and intellectual contexts by philosophers, historians, and sociologists. Now there is controversy over whether Boyle's work was based only on experimental evidence or whether it was influenced by the politics and religious controversies of the time, including especially class and gender politics.

Elizabeth Potter argues that even good science is sometimes influenced by such issues, and she shows that the work leading to the Gas Law, while certainly based on physical evidence, was also shaped by class and gendered considerations. At issue were two descriptions of nature, each supporting radically different visions of class and gender arrangements. Boyle's Law rested on mechanistic principles, but Potter shows us an alternative law based on hylozooic principles (the belief that all matter is animated), whose adherents challenged social stability and the status quo in 17th-century England.

Elizabeth Potter, Alice Andrews Quigley Professor of Women's Studies at Mills College, is co-editor of Feminist Epistemologies and author of numerous articles on feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy of science.

Race, Gender, and Science
Anne Fausto-Sterling, general editor

June 2001
232 pages, 5 figs., 6 x 9, index
cloth 0-253-33916-2 $34.95 L /

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