Women on the Verge of Home

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This book explores the idea of “home.” Using feminist scholarship and ethnographically grounded readings of historical, literary, and cultural texts, contributors interrogate the comfortable and stable contours of home and ask what it means to women in different social, class, sexual, ethnic, and racial contexts in different times and places. Giving voice to diverse women’s understandings of home, the book includes stories of elite white U.S. and Canadian women, rural poor and peasant white women in the United States and France, a British Caribbean freed slave woman, and others.
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About the author

Bilinda Straight is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Western Michigan University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
203
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ISBN
9780791483770
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Feminism & Feminist Theory
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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Feminist anthropology emerged in the 1970s as a much-needed corrective to the discipline’s androcentric biases. Far from being a marginalized subfield, it has been at the forefront of developments that have revolutionized not only anthropology, but also a host of other disciplines. This landmark collection of essays provides a contemporary overview of feminist anthropology’s historical and theoretical origins, the transformations it has undergone, and the vital contributions it continues to make to cutting-edge scholarship.  Mapping Feminist Anthropology in the Twenty-First Century brings together a variety of contributors, giving a voice to both younger researchers and pioneering scholars who offer insider perspectives on the field’s foundational moments. Some chapters reveal how the rise of feminist anthropology shaped—and was shaped by—the emergence of fields like women’s studies, black and Latina studies, and LGBTQ studies. Others consider how feminist anthropologists are helping to frame the direction of developing disciplines like masculinity studies, affect theory, and science and technology studies.  Spanning the globe—from India to Canada, from Vietnam to Peru—Mapping Feminist Anthropology in the Twenty-First Century reveals the important role that feminist anthropologists have played in worldwide campaigns against human rights abuses, domestic violence, and environmental degradation. It also celebrates the work they have done closer to home, helping to explode the developed world’s preconceptions about sex, gender, and sexuality.  
Inalienable Possessions tests anthropology's traditional assumptions about kinship, economics, power, and gender in an exciting challenge to accepted theories of reciprocity and marriage exchange. Focusing on Oceania societies from Polynesia to Papua New Guinea and including Australian Aborigine groups, Annette Weiner investigates the category of possessions that must not be given or, if they are circulated, must return finally to the giver. Reciprocity, she says, is only the superficial aspect of exchange, which overlays much more politically powerful strategies of "keeping-while-giving."

The idea of keeping-while-giving places women at the heart of the political process, however much that process may vary in different societies, for women possess a wealth of their own that gives them power. Power is intimately involved in cultural reproduction, and Weiner describes the location of power in each society, showing how the degree of control over the production and distribution of cloth wealth coincides with women's rank and the development of hierarchy in the community. Other inalienable possessions, whether material objects, landed property, ancestral myths, or sacred knowledge, bestow social identity and rank as well. Calling attention to their presence in Western history, Weiner points out that her formulations are not limited to Oceania. The paradox of keeping-while-giving is a concept certain to influence future developments in ethnography and the theoretical study of gender and exchange.
The Samburu of northern Kenya struggle to maintain their pastoral way of life as drought and the side effects of globalization threaten both their livestock and their livelihood. Mirroring this divide between survival and ruin are the lines between the self and the other, the living and the dead, "this side" and inia bata, "that side." Cultural anthropologist Bilinda Straight, who has lived with the Samburu for extended periods since the 1990s, bears witness to Samburu life and death in Miracles and Extraordinary Experience in Northern Kenya.

Written mostly in the field, Miracles and Extraordinary Experience in Northern Kenya is the first book-length ethnography completely devoted to Samburu divinity and belief. Here, child prophets recount their travels to heaven and back. Others report transformations between persons and inanimate objects. Spirit turns into action and back again. The miraculous is interwoven with the mundane as the Samburu continue their day-to-day twenty-first-century existence. Straight describes these fantastic movements inside the cultural logic that makes them possible; thus she calls into question how we experience, how we feel, and how anthropologists and their readers can best engage with the improbable.

In her detailed and precise accounts, Straight writes beyond traditional ethnography, exploring the limits of science and her own limits as a human being, to convey the significance of her time with the Samburu as they recount their fantastic yet authentic experiences in the physical and metaphysical spaces of their culture.

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