Just another Blogs@VT Sites site
RSS icon Email icon
  • To “Consumer Culture” or Not to “Consumer Culture”? That Is (Now Part of) the Research Question!

    Posted on February 15th, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    I found a few great places to look for primary sources this week.  Here are two of my favorites, but I made a list at below these of some other options that will be great to peruse in the future.

     1. Duke’s Beauty and Hygiene Collection (1911-1956)

     Duke has some incredibly evocative advertisements that speak to a myriad of things about beauty culture.  Their collection is largely digitized, but it would also be an easy research trip.

    Here in the link:

    2. Hagley Museum and Library Consumer Culture Collection, specifically the Avaon Company Collection:

    This collection will be especially great if I choose to go the consumer culture route with this project.  Hagley has a great consumer culture collection, including focuses on advertisements, retail marketing and home economics, public relations, and trade catalogs.  Especially of interest is the Avon Company Collection, (1886-1996) which includes advertisements, employee magazines, press releases, and news releases.  See here for more information on the consumer culture collection:

    And here for the Avon Company Collection:|7077145|1|11442584&SelectionType=0&SearchType=1&BibCode=MH92010|7077145|1|11442584



    As Lowe did so successfully in Looking Good, I hope to employ college yearbooks as part of my primary research.  The first step will be deciding on which types (or a variety of types) of colleges I would like to focus on, then seeing which colleges may have yearbooks archived.

    Other collections to consider:

    -Apparently Harvard’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women has some great resources relating to female innovators in beauty products according to Riordan’s Inventing Beauty, but their online archives do not give much detail (such as the Hazel Bishop collection)

    -Max Factor Archives of Procter & Gamble

    -Consider looking at patents!

    -National Museum of American History, various archives

    Cosmopolitan Magazine (1886-present) and Glamour Magazine (1939-present) could also be great sets of primary resources to look at!   I have not been able to find any type of archives for this yet.

    -Additional cited sources to look into: Radcliffe College, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Chicago Historical Society, New York Historical Society, American Medical Association Archives, Cornell University, Rutgers University, University of Iowa, Vassar College.  Some of these do not have great online finding aids and others I have not looked into that closely yet.



    Review of Finding Aid:|7077145|1|11480372&SelectionType=0&SearchType=1&BibCode=MH92010|7077145|1|11480372

    The finding aid for the Avon Company Collection within the Consumer Culture Collection at the Hagley Museum and Library is very informative.  It includes a very useful description of Avon’s history throughout the years, especially as it relates to the items in the collection.   The scope and content section is also very useful because it describes not only how many of the items were used throughout Avon’s history, but also the express purpose for which they were created.  I do wish this finding aid listed more on how these items were used during their time periods, but I guess that has a lot to do with how you interpret them!  This finding aid also details which celebrities are included in their photograph and endorsement videos and the photograph locations in which their facilities are located.  Also listed are the terms of use, which are good to know off the bat!

    The finding aid lists the call number, but it does not explain the breakdown of how they are organized into boxes or folders of any sort.  It lists very specific descriptions and counts of the photographs, filmstrips, clippings, negatives, videocassettes, etc. it contains, but does not say how they have been sorted.  This would be very helpful information to have for such an extensive collection, especially if I got to visit it on a research trip.

    There is a note that the material in the collection is subject to a 25 year time seal—does anyone know what this means?


    Materials to add to by bibliography:

     Last week, Dr. Jones suggested of thinking of my project in one of two ways:

    1. Focus on consumer culture -> focus on consumer side of beauty culture (advertisements, advice manuals, etc.)
    2. Focus on college women themselves and how they responded (oral histories, alumni associations, etc.)

    So, since I have been finding some great options for primary archives for the consumer approach, I thought I would look more into secondary sources for this approach as well.  Looking at these sources will also be helpful in better understanding how to look at advertisements.  I looked at Lizbeth Cohen’s famed A Consumer’s Republic for my Secondary Source Reception.  Here are two more secondary sources relating to the consumer culture approach:

    First, I looked at Mike Featherstone’s “Body, Image and Affect in Consumer Culture” from Body & Society (although I questioned affect vs. effect here, but then it made sense).  The article examines body images in the consumer culture transformative process and then questions the idea that transformative techniques will automatically result in a more positive body image (193).  Featherstone looks at the idea that body image is all a mental concept, leading me to question how where these conceptualizations originate for college women (during the post-World War II era).  Advertisements?  The prescribed uses of the products themselves?  Advice from other girls in the dorms?

    Next, I looked at a text more directly related to the advertising industry.  Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising by Juliann Sivulka argues that American advertising not only mirrors but creates society.  Sivulka traces American advertising from 1942 to “past” the 1990s, with a very pertinent chapter on The Postwar Boom from 1945-1960.  During this time period, advertisers took many new approaches to reaching their audiences, such as motivation research, which examined what triggered people to make choices on the subconscious and unconscious levels (266).  Motivational research reduced human motivations to sex and security.  How can both of these relate to college women in postwar culture?  Beauty culture is directly related to sex and sexuality and security can be linked with feeling secure in one’s social standing by looking the part.  I wish this text focused more directly on beauty products, but it relates enough to things how advertisers motivated their audiences to change appearances enough so that it will be useful.  It will especially shed new light on how to examine advertisements (and the psychology behind how they were created) during this time period.


  • Exploring WorldCat and Defining “Beauty Culture”

    Posted on February 9th, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    For this week’s blog, we are writing an “XYZ” statement about our topic.  As usual, this provided difficult but very helpful in giving my topic a little bit more of a focus.  Here goes: <bold>I am working on the topic of beauty culture practices in college women after World War II because I want to find out how their motivations to reach a prescribed set of “standards” compelled them to act accordingly so that I can help others understand how consumer culture affected the choices they made while pursing a higher education.</bold>  I am using rather vague terms at this time, but plan to narrow them down as research allows.  For example, rather than say “choices they made,” I will be able to describe choices they made.  This exercise also helped me address other things that I will bring in to help hone in on a specific part of this topic, such as consumer culture.  Also, as usual, I must stress that I still expect my topic to change somewhat as research progresses.  Being able to return to this XYZ formula to refocus things along the way will definitely be helpful!

    Additionally, I spent this week exploring the “WorldCat” database.  I started with a singular search term, “beauty culture,” and found several texts that I had not yet uncovered.  It is annoying, however, that not all of the texts have descriptions, which means you need to look somewhere else to see if the source is usable.  This week’s readings were very helpful for learning how to use Boolean and truncated search options, which helped yield interesting results.  I then played around with sets of combinations, such as “beauty culture” and “college women”.  This brought up more specific results (including Looking Good from last week, which affirmed the validity of this combination).  I found an especially interesting text, Queens of the Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Student Bodies, and College Life by Karen T. Tice, which the handy-dandy WorldCat listing said Virginia Tech has available.  Rather than sending this book right to Major Williams, I decided to wait and retrieve it myself so I can peruse the surrounding books.  WorldCat has several very useful features, such as the ability to click on subjects and search that way.  It is very helpful that WorldCat lists the libraries that have the text in question.  I wish that Virginia Tech had more of the books I am looking for, but thank goodness for Inter Library Loans!  Also, the “add to list” and “add tags” are very helpful for working with just the site before making it to Zotero or Scrivener.  Next, I went to the “America: History and Life” database.  The keyword combinations that had been most successful on WorldCat were less successful here, but I still found some interesting sources.  This database contained books, articles, and dissertations, some of which I had not yet come across.  Although I played around with the same sets of keywords here, a surprising majority of the options that came up dealt with race, something I have not come across too much of yet.  Both of these databases discovered some good new sources, but I think I still prefer looking directly on the library shelf when possible.  It is also tough to look past the possible problems that relying on web sources (or even databases) can provide, as Renee M. Sentiles argues in “Toiling in the Archives of Cyberspace”.




    It was when I read Kathy Peiss’s Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture over Christmas break that I settled on looking at beauty culture as part of my topic.  Now is a good time to revisit this text.  Peiss draws on a downright wonderful array of sources, such as beauty guides, advice manuals, letters, diaries, advertisements, and market research.  She argues that for women experiencing social changes, “the act of beautifying often became a lightening rod for larger conflicts over female autonomy and social roles” (7).  It would be helpful to set up a clear definition of <b> “beauty culture” </b> at this time.  Peiss defines beauty culture as a type of commerce, but also “as a system of meaning that helped women navigate the changing conditions of modern social experience” (6).  I agree with this definition and have been using it as a jumping off point, but will also add that women take part in this system for specific reasons, acting as agents of choice each time they make changes (or lack thereof) in their physical appearance.  “Beauty culture” mainly refers to cosmetics, hair products, and perfumes, but I may expand this concept to also encompass body image and link to the way choices are made in fashion.  The idea of “consumer culture” will come into play at some point, as well.




    I then explored a new book on beauty culture for this week: Inventing Beauty: A History of Innovations that Have Made Us Beautiful by Teresa Riordan.  She looks at the intersection between “science, fashion, and business where beauty is engineered and finds that, for generations, social trends and technological innovations have fueled a non-stop assembly line of potions and contraptions that women have enthusiastically put to use in the quest for feminine flawlessness” (jacket).  She looks at cosmetics as inventions and innovations, parts of technical progress geared specifically toward beauty culture.  She looks at women from the mid-nineteenth to themed-twentieth century, organizing her book in a very creative way that explores  beauty culture by each aspect (eyes, lips, breasts, hair, skin, waist, hands, hips, derriere).  I am, then, most interested in her focus on beauty products as technology, the scope of products she looks at, and her organization.  Her approach has inspired me to take a look back at some of Ruth Schwartz Cowan’ work and consider her ideas that new innovations create more work than women currently have at the status quo.


    Example from Riodran’s text, of a 1940s mascara applicator:


  • Zotero, New Sources, and a Little Public History Advice

    Posted on February 3rd, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    After watching a handful of Youtube videos (which I highly recommend to those of you learning to use Zotero, etc.), I decided to use Zotero.  So far, it seems to be very useful and it will be nice to have everything in one place and so searchable.  I might use Zotero and Scrivener both because there are some organizational things I like better about Scrivener.  Also- does it make anyone else a little nervous to count on one program to store so much information?

    I enjoyed this week’s readings on interactive note taking and found the advice helpful while going through secondary sources this week.  I especially enjoyed the Turabian text and I think it will be very useful both in this class and Dr. Quigley’s class.  As for secondary readings this week, I delved into looking more at fashion, beauty culture, and body image—topics I am gearing up to further shift toward, but still look at in terms of college women during the post-World War II era.

    First, I read (and tried to take interactive notes on) Nan Enstad’s “Fashioning Political Identities: Cultural Studies and their Historical Construction of Political Subjects.”  Endstad looks at how workingwomen were able to use fashion to give the impression that they were “ladies” (749).  While I am looking at college women (who, depending on the types of schools I choose to focus on, will likely be at least middle class), her article brings up several important ideas to consider. By appropriating and exaggerating specific fashions that these women believed showed “ladyhood,” they implicitly challenged dominant notions of ladyhood and filled the category with their own fashion practices (760).  I plan to see how useful Enstad’s frameworks might be in looking at what college women’s particular uses of fashion said about the image (and goals) they tried to put forth.  I then hope to extend these ideas to beauty culture practices.

    Second, I looked at Margaret A. Lowe’s Looking Good: College Women and Body Image, 1875-1930.  I think this will be one of my more important secondary texts because my preliminary research goals are similar to what Lowe accomplishes here, although my main concern is beauty culture while hers is body image.  I am especially interested in her sourcebase (correspondences, diairies, yearbooks, scrapbooks, class surveys, college fiction, newspapers, and photographs) and how I can look at similar sources from the post-World War II era, adjusting her questions accordingly.  Lowe asserts “that it became apparent that individual students consciously chose specific physical practices…in order to achieve certain goals…they were ever aware of their new social identities as college girls and education women.  They deliberately used their bodies to project messages about their sense of self and what they wanted—whether vocation, husband, social acclaim, safety, health, or sensual pleasure” (156-157).  It will be interesting to see what types of similar practices still existed in the post-World War II era and what motivations accompanied these actions.  Also, what can be interpreted about beauty culture practices by looking at the same types of sources and calling women’s motivations into question?

    Lastly, I would like to share some advice from Dr. Cline that I think is important as we begin to conduct research.  (I was supposed to meet with him before our last blog post, but we met this past week instead.)  He stressed the importance of keeping your audience in mind as you think about how research can be used for an audience broader than the academy (which is what most public historians are trying to reach).  Keep this in mind along the way; it is not something you can do early enough.  The sources you choose to use and how you choose to use them are also very important, as well as the net you use for collecting.  Public history can also be a great way to enhance traditional scholarship, such as using digital publications, publishing something in non-monograph form, including oral histories, or putting together an exhibition.

  • Topics and Meetings and Blog Posts, Oh My!

    Posted on January 26th, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    I intend to explore the topic of women in higher education during the post-World War II era in the United States.  If archives allow, I hope to narrow this topic to looking specifically at young women who married while still in college, focusing on their motivations for doing so, as well as how matrimony changed the lives of both husband and wife.  This topic combines my interest in gender, sexuality, marriage, domesticity, and family.  I look forward to gaining a better understanding of how American women during this time balanced motivations rooted in both sexuality and domesticity and if these motivations impacted the reasons these women made the decision to get married while completing (or partially completing) their educations.  It will then be interesting to explore how these decisions, in turn, affected the outcome of their educations.  I am trying to find new and exciting ways to combine all of my interests and the advice from faculty members.

    As with many things in life, I expect this topic to change, even possibly significantly, over the course of the research and writing process.  Historians must be ready and willing to adapt to such changes and it will be interesting to see how everyone’s work transforms into a final product over the next three semesters.

    In preparation of working more on this topic, I met with several faculty members.  It was a pleasure to meet with these professors and they were helpful in different ways.   I enjoyed our conversations and the insights they had to offer.

    Dr. Mollin studies women and gender, thus we had a very interesting conversation on this topic and several variations of it.  We discussed the importance of sources and how different archives can direct a gendered focus on the research.  Most notably, we also talked about my separate interest in beauty culture and body image.  Dr. Mollin suggested that I try to combine these interests in a way that is relevant to this time period.  She recommended several texts, both new and familiar, that will be good places to start in establishing whether this idea is feasible and, if so, could contain useful frameworks and methodologies.

    Dr. Wallenstein studies higher education institutions, so he is very knowledgeable on this topic.  We discussed the importance of sources, now that I have established a topic, and how the availability of these will direct where the research can go, as well as the complications likely to arise.  One of the texts I used in my historiography suggests an archive that the author found useful in a similar exploration, so Dr. Wallenstein suggested that this would be a useful place to start and very helpful in establishing a working hypothesis.  He also recommended that I think back to what sparked my interest in this topic in the first place, as pinpointing this can be very useful in further focusing my research.  Dr. Wallenstein raised a number of extremely salient points that will be important in thinking over this topic, especially related to the motivations these women had not only for getting married, but also in deciding to attend college in the first place.

    Dr. Cline and I planned to meet last Thursday, but we had to reschedule to meet on Monday.   I hope to ask him how Public History can play a role in the way we conduct research, such as collecting oral histories, using digital history, and making the most of archives.

    I also have plans to meet with Dr. Halpin soon, as he studies American history during this time period, as well as social history.  I am looking forward to discussing this topic, along with a variation of it, with him.  Meeting with these faculty members was incredibly helpful and I look forward to working with these and other professors over the course of this project.

    Where this topic can go from here is largely dependent on being able to find the right sources.  While I have some idea of what I would like to use, a lot is still in the air.  We are all coming to realize that the fate of our topics lies in what sources we are able to find.  Sources and sources and sources, oh my!

  • The Webs We Weave

    Posted on November 27th, 2013 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    This week, we read J.R. McNeill and William H. McNeill’s The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History.   The McNeills use this really interesting idea of a web to link different parts of human history, showing how human interaction can take the form of unconscious and unrecognized features of social life (6).  A web is, therefore, a set of connections that link people to one another.  The central argument of this book builds upon the idea of webs and is that “throughout their history humans used symbols to create webs that communicated agreed-upon meanings and so, as time went by, sustained cooperation and conflict among larger and larger groups of people.  Inventions and concerted efforts that enlarged individual and, more especially, collective wealth and power tended to spread through these webs, always and everywhere” (323).

    As I read, I continually asked How is this a web?  Why does it constitute as a web?  Where else do we see these ideas?  Can we understand a group of people that experience change as a web in the same way that we understand a web throughout changes in world history?

    Can we understand our own class as a web?  Can our own little web show how we have experienced change throughout the course of the semester?  Do we not have our own connections that link us to one another?

    Think about it.  The network of our class links us through human interaction.  I argue that we can better understand what has occurred throughout the course of the semester by looking at this web.  When I refer to this change, I mean how we have all progressed as historians, opened our minds to new ideas, and (hopefully) come away with a better sense of how to approach the study of history (and, in many cases, how to approach the world).  We have seen major progress as a class, as well as micro-progress on a daily basis.  I’m sure we can all agree that our own little web leads Lucas to experience change and the way he links ideas each and every class.

    Here are a few of the most salient parts of the text that make me wonder if we are our own micro-web, if we can think of the world as our historical methods class.

    – First off we must acknowledge we have seen improvement through technological innovations (59).  We use our google docs, weekly blogs, and email chains to strengthen our ties and further our progress as a web.  This is a crucial part of our progress.  (Thanks for making us deal with all the technology, Dr. Nelson.)  Also, this way “information circulated faster and more cheaply, fomenting new intellectual outlooks” (211).   Acknowledging this throughout history has been a crucial part of understanding progress, and we cannot overlook it here.  Does understanding technological progress within a framework of using these innovations to “bounce off of each other” help contribute to the idea that we are a web?

    -“At present, human society is one huge web of cooperation and competition, sustained by massive flows of information and energy” (5, 321).  Cooperation has been a crucial part of our course; countless examples where we have helped each other come to mind.  Yet, we must admit, so do a few instances of competition.

    -“The human career on earth is unique, since no other species, not even termites or ants, has ever developed such a flexible and capacious web of communication to concert common effort on anything approaching the human scale” (324).  Communication has been a vital part of our web.  Since a web (or in this case, us) is a set of connections that link people to one another, we cannot accomplish this without communication.   Our own web of communication has been important in our improvement within the wider range of the Historical Methods course.

    We follow the four ideas put forth in the text’s introduction.  The McNeills understand the following as characteristics of a web:

    1. We combine cooperation and competition.
    2. Over time, we have achieved more efficient communication and cooperation, meaning our scale has tended to grow.
    3. Our influence on history (ok, in this case, our Historical Methods course) has grown. By this, I mean our influence on one another and our actions will ultimately dictate, in many ways, whether or not the course has been a success.
    4. The power of human communication, cooperation, and competition shaped the earth’s history as well as human history.  This one is the biggest stretch.  Have we actually accomplished anything outside of our class?  Does the effect of our web make a difference outside of our classroom?  Doe it matter if it makes a difference?

    So, what do you think?  Do you agree with my reasoning? Is our class a web?  If so, what are the implications of this?


  • What say ye, public historians?

    Posted on November 15th, 2013 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    I really enjoyed this week’s readings. As I read about the “uninterrupted” progression of history, “Blurred Lines” kept playing in my head.  Of course, the feminist in me kept trying to make it stop.  I found Smail’s Deep History and the Brain fascinating, although I must admit I giggled at the explanation on why men have nipples.  Other than admitting to that, I do have a favorite moment in all of the readings and it was this sentence from Akinwumi Ogundrian’s “The End of Prehistory?  An Africanist Comment”:

    “History is not determined by the nature of sources, but rather by the nature of the questions asked about the human condition, especially human intentionality and actions, and the consequent ramifications” (793).

    I could not agree more, but this got me thinking what a lack of dependency on sources means for public historians.  Taking sources out of the equation does pose significant implications for museum professionals in particular.  Many exhibits revolve around artifacts on display for the public.  A lot of content-based critical thinking goes into every exhibit, but it does so in conjunction with what will be on display.  Content boards and artifact labels are often used in exhibits to show display information on the human condition that may or may not have come from the use of sources.  Even if this content was arrived at using sources other than the knowledge of the curator, the public is unaware of this; they are just looking at information on history.  Yet, an exhibit is generally not much of a crowd-pleaser with just content boards.  Exhibits come alive with artifacts, text excerpts, and pictures.  Museum professionals use artifacts to help the public draw connections (and enjoy the presentation of these items) as if these items were sources.  The public takes these tangible items into consideration when forming their own historical interpretations on the exhibit topic.   But, what is a museum professional to do without being able to use artifacts to draw in the public and act as sources to the public?


    Another complication—the “need” or “desire” for artifacts in exhibits also narrows the scope of what items can be put on display.  More recent time periods offer plenty of displayable pieces, pictures, and choices for quotations, while items from deep history are not available, although recreations are sometimes popular in natural history museums.  (The idea of recreated sources is another story entirely, but could be an interesting topic for another time.)

    If museum professionals rely less on artifacts used as sources, how will this change their approach to putting an exhibit together?   Would it open up new channels of critical thinking?  How would an exhibit without artifacts, text excerpts, or pictures look and what type of audience would it attract?  Would this approach prompt historians to think outside the box or pose too much of a limitation?

    I look forward to discussing this idea with the other public historians in the class!

  • Did Eley get too personal?

    Posted on October 19th, 2013 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    In A Crooked Line, Geoff Eley raves about how progressive Carolyn Steedman was as her book disobeying the rules of historical writing.  Including her in his historiography, Eley passionately discusses how liberating he found her use of personal voice and how effectively she moved back and forth between her personal history and the extensive repertoire of historical knowledge needed to shape it (Eley 174).

    It looks like Eley took a page out of Steedman’s book (crush much?) in his own writing, as he incorporates “the political, the historical, and the personal” (Spiegel 406).  Manu Goswami goes as far to call it a personal memoir, coupled with historiographical analysis and political critique that charts from social to cultural history (Goswami 417).  So, yes, Eley makes his text extremely personal, placing his own progression as a historian within his examination of how the study and discussion of history has progressed over time.  As I read, I kept asking myself:  How necessary is the personal aspect?

    Eley gave his readers a lot of reasons as to why history matters.  He used the first person and, in spots, he used it very frequently.  He interjected as many personal effects as possible.  And, to be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan.  Yes, I get that this was the point of his text.  Yet, at times I found it distracting and I yearned for the historiographical without the personal.  I wanted to read about history, enjoying my own love of history based on my own opinion, not his.

    By the end of the text, it did start to grow on me.  I even gained a greater appreciation for this tactic after reading the Forum.  Still, I’m not completely sold and I find myself wondering if his text could have done without it.

    Should Eley have left this page in Steedman’s book?  What do you think of Eley’s personal approach?  Is anyone else not quite sold on it, or did you find it distracting at times?  Are you considering using this strategy in your own writing at all?  And, if so, will you rely on it as heavily as Eley did?  Do you think wrapping content up in historical memory is adaptable in other disciplines?

    Now, as you ponder this, go get yourself a real Crooked Line:

     logo-crooked_line img-beer_bottles



  • What would today’s world be like without Joan Scott?

    Posted on October 13th, 2013 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    “We need a refusal of the fixed and permanent quality of the binary opposition, a genuine historicization and deconstruction of the terms of sexual difference.  We must become more self-conscious about distinguishing between our analytic vocabulary and the material we want to analyze.  We must find ways (however imperfect) to continually subject our categories to criticism, our analyses to self-criticism” (Scott 1065).

    Look how far scholarship has progressed since Scott set out her objectives in 1986.  The way scholars look at gender is lightyears past binary constructions and new vocabulary is continually arising for analyzing gender.  When you google “gender roles,” one of the first images that comes up is a picture labeled “gender roles reexamined” showing a boy playing with dolls and a girl playing with trucks.  Scholarship looking at men and women and everything in between has even surpassed what Scott hoped the world could accomplish when she wrote her groundbreaking article.

    When studying gender today, it is hard to imagine a world without Joan Scott.  As Joanne Meyerowitz explains, “In one brief essay, she managed to summarize the advent of gender history, provide critiques of earlier theories of women’s subordination, introduce historians to deconstructionist methods, and lay out an agenda for future historical studies.” (Meyerowitz 1346).

    Yet, what if Joan Scott never existed?  Can we imagine a world without her contributions?  Imagine if we went into some type of 80’s movie-esque time machine and lived in an alternative universe.  What would the world be like?

    Sure, other scholars had already done work with women’s history and some rumblings of work on gender.  By 1986, feminsits had already defined “gender” and were using it as analytical category.  In this alt-world society, let’s propose the very real possibility that the work prior to Scott would have fizzled out.  After Scott’s article, gender soon took on a life of its own.  It was Scott that replaced “women’s history” with “gender history” and included men and masculinity.

    Within the field of US history, some of the new work on gender history supposedly had little direct connection with Scott’s essay—but how much really would have been done without Scott momentously opening the doors?  (Meyerowitz 1348).   Although Meyerowitz cites that some of this work had nothing to do with Scott, let’s be real—her work have come into play somehow.  So, with these contentions, we are left in a world without “Gender: A Useful Category for Analysis.”

    What would this world look like without Scott’s groundbreaking work?  Could we only understand men and women in terms of rigid ideas of dichotomous biological sexes?   Would we still only think of gender in relation to the kinship system? Would women be inserted into discussions on the labor market or the polity at all?  How would we understand masculinity?  Would we even be examining masculinity?  How many terms would not even be a part of historians’ vocabulary? Would we even have any type of gender historiography to look at?  How would gender work in human and social relationships?  Would gender give other things meaning?  Would we be looking at class and race in the same way that we do today?  With what type of lens could scholars look at the LGBTQ community and how would historians even begin to approach this?  Could scholars continue to find new angles to frequently subjects such as the Civil War or social movements?

    Luckily, we never need to figure out these answers, but I look forward to discussing the implications of these questions in class.




  • Foucault and Power

    Posted on October 4th, 2013 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    “When you think Foucualt, think BIOPOWER!”

    I had a class on Humanitarian Action in undergrad, where we studied Foucault’s ideas of power and biopower.  Our teacher, in his beautiful British accent, told us to immediately think of these ideas when thinking about Foucault.  The class was very interesting (mostly because of the content, partially because of the accent) and these ideas did become inextricably linked.  Here is what I recall from the class: Foucault defined power “a complex strategic situation in a given societal setting.”  Biopower, in particular, had to do with control over someone’s body and their potential to fight/earn wealth.  A well functioning society depends on the interaction of authority, legitimacy, governance, and action.  The government is responsible for these interactions to function well.  In this course, we discussed biopower in the context of local governments and other power-hungry sources that try to take it away power from helpless peoples of the third world.  We then studied and strategized on the best ways to get them their power back, such as on the ground intervention from NGOs.

    It was a little trickier to make sense of Foucault’s views on power and biopower reading Discipline and Punish, rather than getting the boiled-down version.  While trying to make sense of Foucault, I was especially looking for these ideas of biopower.  I believe that Foucault’s public execution scene exemplifies this: “It is a ceremonial by which a momentarily injured sovereignty is reconstituted.  The public execution, however hasty and everyday, belongs to a whole series of great rituals in which power is eclipsed and restored…over and above the crime that has placed the sovereign in contempt, it deploys before all eyes an invincible force.  Its aim is not so much to re-establish a balance as to bring into play, as its extreme point, the dissymmetry between the subject who had dared to violate the law and the all-powerful sovereign who displays its strength” (48-49).  Overall, Foucault explains that power is fluid and a part of every interaction.  Power exists and resistance is a reaction to it.  After grappling with this idea for awhile, I found that the execution example definitely illustrates the concepts of power and extends them to go along with the larger themes of the text…which I am looking forward to linking as we discuss in class.





  • Man, Animal, and Primal Desire

    Posted on September 28th, 2013 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    I enjoyed this week’s readings on historical anthropology.  I am a strong believer in taking an interdisciplinary approach to history, so it is already interesting to see how the integration of a new discipline can shape the way we look at history (and vice versa).  As Tosh explains, an anthropological approach serves as a strong reminder that “history is not just about trends and structures that can be observed from the outside, but also demands an informed respect for the culture of people in the past and a readiness to see the world through their eyes” (267).

    I noticed an interesting theme of primal desires in this week’s readings, especially Clifford Geertz’s “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.”  In the cockfight, the “creative power of aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse in a bloody drama of hatred cruelty, violence, and death” (7).  Side by side with masculinity and animality, primal desires also play a role in the importance men place on their cocks within the cock rings.  Here, man is using his fighting cock as not only a major extension of sexual impulse, but also his desire for power.  Looking through an anthropological lens shows us how animalistic these desires are and how man can harness power with his cocks and simultaneously assert his sexuality to reach end goal to be a powerful performer.  Their motivations to win are more than a just a quest for a monetary reward, but rather a deeper expression of a primal desire for power within and outside of the cock ring.

    This idea of primal desire can be better understood through an anthropological lens.  Historians can benefit from looking at primal desires as a driving force for the decisions made throughout history—and should do more of this.  Although I am just getting my feet wet with this topic, I am looking forward to better understanding how the role of primal desires impacts man’s decisions in historical anthropology.