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  • Categories in the postmodernist view

    Posted on October 19th, 2014 hungyin No comments

    Joan Scott is apparently not the first one nor the only one who discusses gender as a category of analysis, but she does provide a deep understanding and bring the complexity of gender as a category into the field of history. This week, Scott’s articles not only give me some insights of gender as a category, but also to practically show how to embody postmodernism and the linguistic turn in reviewing and constructing an approach to study history. Although Foucault also puts all subjects into relationship, he is sometimes obscure. Scott states her relationship-oriented approach in a clear and actionable way.

    It is impressive that Scott indicates gender as a category to identify and analyze power relationship. This statement refuses the essentialists view and legitimate gender by avoiding to isolate gender from other categories to analyze power relationships, such as class and race. I am not sure if her discussion about gender was connected with a boarder context of the discussion about gender equality. Scott’s paper published in 1986, while in 1985, the concept of “gender mainstreaming” was announced on the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya. The idea of gender mainstreaming is that “Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_mainstreaming). Gender mainstreaming is a normative argument regarding to policies, but it does present some ideas of postmodernism and the inclusive view. According to this concept, there is no “women policy” or “family policy” specific for biological women. It needs to consider gender issues in all polices, and also needs to include men into gender issues, because all polices will involve power relationship and inter-connect with either economic, political, cultural and social status of both men and women.

    However, obviously, not all historical researches have to put gender issues in stories, as there are still many categories to reconstruct historical events. Still, I think it is important to keep the concept of power relationship in mind to help researchers identify those “invisible” sections. Sometimes, actors (women, workers, patients, prisoners, people of colors…etc.) are invisible because they were not considered significant before. Furthermore, when they get their legitimacy to be subject to study, it is hard to find records about them. Thus, even researchers try to be inclusive, it is hard to find enough evidences. I think if it is the case, there are still possible ways to put those invisible people into accounts. One potential way is to explain the gap and clearly indicate the unfilled corner of the story due to lack of those “invisible” people and relationships. For example, in the case of civil rights, if there is no data to show opinions of women, illustrating this gap clearly and the possible reasons which women could not speak for themselves may be more comprehensive than just leaving them out of the picture.


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