The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization

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During the 1920s and 1930s, in cities from Beijing to Bombay, Tokyo to Berlin, Johannesburg to New York, the Modern Girl made her sometimes flashy, always fashionable appearance in city streets and cafes, in films, advertisements, and illustrated magazines. Modern Girls wore sexy clothes and high heels; they applied lipstick and other cosmetics. Dressed in provocative attire and in hot pursuit of romantic love, Modern Girls appeared on the surface to disregard the prescribed roles of dutiful daughter, wife, and mother. Contemporaries debated whether the Modern Girl was looking for sexual, economic, or political emancipation, or whether she was little more than an image, a hollow product of the emerging global commodity culture. The contributors to this collection track the Modern Girl as she emerged as a global phenomenon in the interwar period.

Scholars of history, women’s studies, literature, and cultural studies follow the Modern Girl around the world, analyzing her manifestations in Germany, Australia, China, Japan, France, India, the United States, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Along the way, they demonstrate how the economic structures and cultural flows that shaped a particular form of modern femininity crossed national and imperial boundaries. In so doing, they highlight the gendered dynamics of interwar processes of racial formation, showing how images and ideas of the Modern Girl were used to shore up or critique nationalist and imperial agendas. A mix of collaborative and individually authored chapters, the volume concludes with commentaries by Kathy Peiss, Miriam Silverberg, and Timothy Burke.

Contributors: Davarian L. Baldwin, Tani E. Barlow, Timothy Burke, Liz Conor, Madeleine Yue Dong, Anne E. Gorsuch, Ruri Ito, Kathy Peiss, Uta G. Poiger, Priti Ramamurthy, Mary Louise Roberts, Barbara Sato, Miriam Silverberg, Lynn M. Thomas, Alys Eve Weinbaum

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About the author

Alys Eve Weinbaum is an Assistant Professor of English, University of Washington.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Dec 3, 2008
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9780822389194
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Modern / 20th Century
Social Science / Popular Culture
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Wayward Reproductions breaks apart and transfigures prevailing understandings of the interconnection among ideologies of racism, nationalism, and imperialism. Alys Eve Weinbaum demonstrates how these ideologies were founded in large part on what she calls “the race/reproduction bind”––the notion that race is something that is biologically reproduced. In revealing the centrality of ideas about women’s reproductive capacity to modernity’s intellectual foundations, Weinbaum highlights the role that these ideas have played in naturalizing oppression. She argues that attention to how the race/reproduction bind is perpetuated across national and disciplinary boundaries is a necessary part of efforts to combat racism.

Gracefully traversing a wide range of discourses––including literature, evolutionary theory, early anthropology, Marxism, feminism, and psychoanalysis––Weinbaum traces a genealogy of the race/reproduction bind within key intellectual formations of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She examines two major theorists of genealogical thinking—Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault—and unearths the unacknowledged ways their formulations link race and reproduction. She explores notions of kinship and the replication of racial difference that run through Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work; Marxist thinking based on Friedrich Engel’s The Origin of the Family; Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection; and Sigmund Freud’s early studies on hysteria. She also describes W. E. B. Du Bois’s efforts to transcend ideas about the reproduction of race that underwrite citizenship and belonging within the United States. In a coda, Weinbaum brings the foregoing analysis to bear on recent genomic and biotechnological innovations.

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