Sayegh notes Joan Scott, "Gender"


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**"The term 'gender' is part of the attempt by contemporary feminists to stake claim to a certain definitional ground, to insist on the inadequacy of existing bodies of theory for explaining persistent inequalities between women and men" (41).

-This merely reasserts her argument.
"It seems to me significant that the use of the word 'gender' has emerged at a moment of great epistemological turmoil that takes the form…of debates about theory between those who assert the transparency of facts and those who insist that all reality is construed as constructed, between those who defend and those who question the idea that 'man' is the rational master of his own destiny" (41).

-For the purposes of History 302, I find this comment informative because it gets to the way that we have somewhat arbitrarily divided the sections of this course—from a scientistic "the truth is out there in some objective reality" approach to an approach that asserts that all knowledge is built around "discourse." I would hope that this comment resonates with you from lecture 1 until this reading.

Scott makes an important point on page 42 about historical methods. She states that, "I do not think that we should quit the archives or abandon the study of the past, but we do have to change some of the ways we've gone about working, some of the questions we have asked. We need to scrutinize our methods of analysis, clarify our operative assumptions, and explain how we think change occurs. Instead of a search for single origins, we have to conceive of processes so interconnected they cannot be disentangled…It is the processes we must continually keep in mind. We must ask more often how things happened in order to find out why they happened."

-I've quoted a huge chunk from this very important page because we're getting right to the soul of our class. We're seeing how ways of looking at the past can radically transform they way we do history—from what sources we read to how we read them. And this transformation does not signal the demise of history as a profession. To the contrary, this transformation will allow us to ask questions of the material that would previously remain unasked. We can stop the search for causality and begin the search for "how."

-She also says we need to pursue meaning in this how/why model. To understand gender, according to JS. "we need to deal with the individual subject as well as social organization and to articulate the nature of their interrelationships, for both are crucial to understanding how gender works, how change occurs" (42).

-More significantly, she declares that "we need to replace the notion that social power is unified, coherent, and centralized with something like Michel Foucault's concept of power as dispersed constellations of unequal relationships, discursively constituted in social 'fields of force'" (42).

-Having read Foucault, you should recognize that this is not some top-down analysis of power.

-What is intriguing about her attempt to rework gender is that AGENCY remains a part of it…people matter and make decisions!! "there is room for a concept of human agency as the attempt…to construct an identity, a life, a set of relationships, a society within certain limits and with language…"

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