Gender in Postcolonial Latin America

Florence E. Babb

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Gender in Postcolonial Latin America

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  • Regional and Area Studies
  • History of the Americas


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Gender, along with such variables as social class, race, and nationality, is viewed as a primary vector of difference across societies worldwide. Feminist analysts have shown that gender is socially constructed, varying over time and place, and must be understood in its broader context. Just as gender studies is a fairly young field, dating to the late 1960s–1970s, research and writing on gender in Latin America has emerged largely during the past four decades. The earliest work focused squarely on women as an underrepresented group in historical and social analysis, but later work turned increasingly to gender as a social relationship, often one of inequality, understood in terms of power held respectively by men and women in different social spheres. While much of the literature has continued to focus more attention on women than on men, with the rationale that men’s lives have long received substantial attention, masculine experience and identity recently have been given new consideration from the vantage point of feminist and gender-conscious scholarship. The history of the Latin American region suggests that gender relations, and feminine and masculine identities, may vary from those found in the global North, although scholars also point to a number of similarities. Analysts have questioned whether gender “complementarity” prior to European colonization meant that men and women performed culturally valued yet distinctive roles, or whether gender inequality is more deeply rooted in indigenous societies. Some argue that colonialism introduced male supremacy where it had been absent, while others maintain that Westernization offered women far greater opportunities than they knew in precolonial times. The postcolonial period has also been subject to interpretation regarding the last two centuries of urbanization, capitalist development, and globalization. Much of the work identified here reflects on the last few decades of social, political, and economic transformation, notwithstanding enduring inequality, including changes in communication, education, production, and exchange, as well as new social movements. Given space limitations, discussion does not extend to the Caribbean or to sexuality, which are taken up in other Oxford Bibliographies Online articles. With the rapid growth in scholarship, books are privileged over articles and readers are encouraged to consult journals for other valuable sources. The emphasis is on the social sciences and humanities rather than arts and literature, and there is, regrettably, less representation of non-English material published in Latin America, given the scope of this article.

Article.  10545 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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