- “Insights from the Glass Cage”Blind Women and Gendered Identities
My dissertation research focuses on blind women’s gender identity and the cultural representations of sight and blindness in the Israeli public sphere. Arguing for the ways blindness as a social, cultural, and physical phenomenon offers the opportunity to challenge social binaries and rethink social otherness, the research integrates the scholarships of feminist disability studies, anthropology of the senses, and visual culture into a scholarly conversation. My multisensory methodological and analytic approach focuses on the production of “sensory knowledge” in the field and the tactile, sonic, and olfactory experiences of blind people. The work is based on three years of ethnographic study, including interviews with forty women, most of whom are congenitally blind, and observations in several sites offering services to blind and visually impaired people and/or presenting aspects of blindness to the general public. The research provides a detailed account of the ways women who do not rely on sight as a central mode of perception shape their gender identities. It identifies the contradictions inherent in blind women’s appearance management that operate simultaneously as a rigorous disciplinary mechanism of the body and as a platform for the experience of sensory pleasure and multisensory gender performance. In addition, the work discusses the similarities and differences between “gaze” and “staring,” arguing for the active and creative ways blind women are aware of and respond to the gaze operated on them as blind and as women. [End Page 252] [End Page 253]
GILI HAMMER is a postdoctoral scholar working in the field of disability culture at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly, Ethnography, and Gender and Society. Contact: email@example.com.