Article

Feminist Anthropology

Lisa Anderson-Levy

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0007
Feminist Anthropology

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Feminist anthropology is simultaneously a critique of male as well as Euro-centered and biased anthropology; a historical moment that marks the development of theoretical frames through which different ways of knowing are produced; and a vast body of literature through which dynamic conversations are situated that engage questions around gender, race, sexuality, ability, and class among much more. Discussions of the sort that follow are necessarily partial and thus perspectival; consequently, the genealogy presented, with few exceptions, focuses primarily on the work of U.S. or U.S.-based feminist theorists/anthropologists, with an emphasis on cultural anthropologists. Feminist anthropology emerged in response to the recognition that across the subdisciplines, anthropology operated within andocentric paradigms. Early questions ranged from identifying women in the anthropological record to explaining universal female subordination. Although many of the questions that fuel research interests have changed, underlying concerns with understanding the operation of power in various contexts continue to animate feminist anthropological research. Different understandings of the relationships between gender and sex, or between race and culture, for instance, alter more questions that can even be imagined. Thinking about the ways each of us is positioned in relation to various privileges and penalties centers the importance of intersectionality both as theoretical frame and as methodology. Concern with the difference that difference makes; how it is constructed, performed, and reproduced; and the role of heteronormativity in the framing of questions as well as in our analyses are a few examples of questions that continue to invigorate discussions among feminist anthropologists. Feminist anthropology has had and continues to have productive theoretical exchanges with a variety of feminist theories, such as Third World and postcolonial feminisms. Critiques by feminists of color and lesbians have also been crucial to grounding theories that are used by feminist anthropologists. Although the specifics of the questions have changed as feminist anthropology has evolved, at the core several key elements remain: What is the role of power in the construction of a variety of gendered/raced/sexed/classed identities? What do these mean for how people (re)produce meanings in their daily lives? How can we, as anthropologists, and specifically as feminist anthropologists, begin to understand these constructions and our role in their production? Feminist anthropology is often seen as the domain of cultural anthropologists, yet important work has also been done by feminist archeologists and biological anthropologists.

Article.  4322 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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