Chapter 20: Gender
Maila Stivens Anthropology has much to offer the study of the economic, feminist anthropology especially so. Gender is a key social relation shaping the material flows of production, consumption and exchange, and is in turn shaped by those flows. But making economic anthropology more sensitive to gender issues has proved something of a challenge. With the growing consciousness in the 1970s of the importance of gender in understanding societies, feminist anthropologists soon realised more was required than simply ‘adding women to existing paradigms and stirring’. Instead, we needed to recast the models used to think about the place of gender, not simply women, within economic anthropology. It soon became clear, however, that anthropology as a whole had a problem with talking about ‘women’ and ‘gender’. As Moore (1988) notes, it was not so much that women were absent from analyses: many of the classic texts of anthropology in fact provided much material about women’s activities, including their activities in economic spheres. It was more the ways in which they were written about and the importance granted in analyses to gender as a social construct. The available frameworks within anthropology to think about gender in relation to economic activities have been part of the problem, especially the notions of the ‘economic’ and the ‘domestic’. A serious rethinking from a gendered perspective of the concepts employed in talking about the range of ‘economies’ typically studied by anthropologists was required. This rethinking was further complicated by the unfolding crisis in anthropology in the...
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