Reframing the social, rethinking the body, confronting biologism

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This chapter focuses on approaches to materiality and biology within anthropological scholarship on sex and gender. Since at least the early 20th century, anthropologists have fought against discourses that portray women as biologically inferior and their subordination as “natural” (Mascia-Lees and Black 2016: 8). One of the most common analytical moves in feminist anthropology has been the “de-naturalization” of the social systems that have oppressed women and an insistence that the origin of gender-based inequality lies in social practices and structures, which feminist scholars have seen as mutable, rather than biology, which they have often seen as largely fixed. As a result, feminist scholars have generally viewed resistance to simplistic biologism as one of their most important political and intellectual contributions (Reiter 1975; Rosaldo 1980). While such an approach brings much needed critiques of masculinist scientism to the fore (c.f. Martin 1987), it has limited how feminist anthropologists encounter the materiality of the body, as well as how they engage biology as a site for political and social actions other than resistance and deconstruction. Bio-social approaches emphasize instead a continued collaboration between the biological and social sciences and attempt integration that would avoid the dead ends of both social constructivism and biological essentialism (Ingold and Palsson 2013).The aim of this chapter is to introduce these debates and approaches, emphasizing in particular, the sub-field of eco-evo-devo in biology that emerged in dialogue with feminist studies, and its potential contributions to anthropology, and vice-versa.
TitelCambridge Handbook on the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality
ForlagCambridge University Press
StatusAccepteret/In press - 15 apr. 2020

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