One of my favorite songs begins, “J’ai un problème d’intégration.” It was stuck in my head as I read through Scott’s “Symptomatic Politics.” The artist, Anis Kachohi, is (funnily enough) of partially Moroccan descent–rather appropriate, given the readings, and rather an appropriate opening line. Maybe this pleasant association made me more amenable to the readings, but I enjoyed the time I spent with Scott. I wish I had the opportunity to read these articles before reading Steedman, actually. I think I may have been better mentally prepared for Landscape for a Good Woman if I’d been exposed to Scott beforehand. But, at least it gave me something useful to look back with.
So, then, if it wasn’t Anis or my fevered brain, why did I enjoy Scott so much? She was clear, and she followed a form with which I am familiar. In “Gender: a Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” she made reference to the work of historians and explained how she believes feminist critique could and should be applied. I read this as a historiography essay, showing how others have and do practice gendered history, why it is important, and how it is applied. I liked that, so much more than I can say. I’m one of those weird ones who enjoys reading literature reviews or “state of the field” essays. I felt prepared to read more after starting with this.
Likewise, I found myself enjoying “Symptomatic Politics” for the very same reasons. Scott wrote in an engaging manner to lay out a very linear and readable article. She began with background, provided context, and then finally provided her critique. This piece was the perfect example of what she explores in “A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” where gender is inextricably bound up with class, ethnicity, politics, regionalism, language, etc. It was a very nice example of the method I’d just read, and I was silly pleased.
I found myself thinking ever so much as I went through these articles, and wound up with a long list of questions. Instead of analyzing or critiquing the writings, I think I’ll instead pose my questions and continue thinking on them.
How are we accommodating non-Western societal philosophies into women’s or gender studies? What histories are being composed or already exist there? How can that inform our future Western histories? Aren’t we always working through the lens of our present to create a meaning on a past? If so, how have the stories feminist historians have told changed over the years? Likewise, we’re working from a socio-cultural fixed point; how does that impact our histories?
If we, like Anis, have a problem with integration, then how can it be overcome? By continuing to integrate and bind women’s and gender histories into and with class, culture, race, politics, etc.? Or through another channel? By acknowledging that all actions are carried out in a necessarily gendered world, is anything substantively gained without additional action?
5 Responses to Writing History in a Necessarily Gendered World, and Singing French Songs
Wow those are some loaded questions! Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer any of them in any kind of logical fashion. I think these are going to be awesome to parse out together in discussion. This seems like such a comment bust, but I really can’t wait to hear more of your elaboration, because my brain is just running in circles trying to answer them logically!
I can’t answer these questions either. But from post-modernistic view, I think these questions can put into the relationship with their relevant sites. For example, if we are fixed, where or how can be dynamic? I did not reflect my standing point of oriental history until I study history here, as I can start to identify the scope of my horizon through its relationship with Western history. Just to provide a basic thought. Looking forward for class discussion!
Hung-yin brings up an important and often overlooked point about perspective — one that those of us who study our own culture should take to heart. I find the image of “a cultural horizon” especially powerful.
In case I forget — let’s make sure to talk about the ways in which “Gender a Useful Category” is indeed a historiographical essay, but also so much more.
Once again I am learning so much from your post, although you say you ask more questions this week than give analysis. Even though I see Scott’s essay on gender analysis now as a historiographic essay, I didn’t really realize it as I read it. I thought more in terms of argument structure, but indeed it is historiography. As for your questions, the most interesting to me is the way we look at things so often from a Western perspective. My question then would be do we meld more perspectives into our own, or acknowledge our own and become more cognizant of others? I know, however, that this question in and of itself is short-sighted. Ahh…. I think I’m sliding down the steep learning curve.