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Anthropology 181 Handout: Feminist Critique of Anthropology

In the 1970s interest in womens studies in Anthropology resurged, marked by the publication of Women, Culture and Society and Towards the Anthropology of Women. These two collections served to critique the androcentric bias in Anthropology, explore womens status in a wide variety of societies and to theorize womens positions in new ways.

Classical Anthropology (second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries) Research into primitive societiesfascination of White North American and British Anthropologists with non-western societies (topics: sexual practices, rituals, religious practices, myths, kinship, etc.) CENTRAL THEME: CIVILIZED/PRIMITIVE CATEGORIZATION -based on the absence/presence of three essential capacities found in European society (capacity to reason, govern and morally judge) -idealization of primitive societies closeness to nature -centered on white upper class male as the subject and the racialized primitive other as the object

Women, Culture and Society -sexual asymmetrywithin social structures, culture and the socialization process -womens socially and culturally defined role as mother provides the basis for subordination Sally Rosaldo: motherhood and domestic orientation of women set up the opposition between the domestic and political spheres Ortner: Women are universally seen as closer to nature while men are associated with culture (seen as the ability to conquer nature). In every culture, one finds evidence that womens roles are explicitly devalued (less prestigious), implicitly devalued through the ideology of pollution, women are excluded from the domain of power.

Critique of Man the Hunter (by Richard Lee and Irven Devore)

-Sally Lintons Woman the Gatherer challenged the assumption that hunting played the most crucial role in our evolutionary past (through tool-making and development of communication systems). She argues that womens gathering and childcare activities also demanded complex communication, cooperation and tool-making (slings for babies, choppers, grinders, etc.) Extension of Lintons argument: rethink gender roles in evolution! -rather than supposing that hunting was a major activity during the period of Australopithecus (2-4 million years ago) or Homo Erectus (500,000-1 million years ago) -proposed that a more flexible model with foraging as the major economic strategy and mother-child units as important social groups -Big game hunting did not emerge as an important strategy until later with Homo Sapiens(around 100,000-200,000 years ago), and something not monopolized by men!

In the 1980s, focus shifted from womens status to gender relation between men and women. (From WOMAN to WOMEN, From WOMAN to GENDER) Prestige structuresnot reduced to class relations but gender relations are also symbolic of hierarchies of power