Friday, October 31, 2008

Female hunger (quote from Susan Bordo)

A while ago I wrote a blog post about the (self-)disiplining of the female body and the issue of taking up room, filling space. I was reminded of some of the same self-disciplining when I read one of Susan Bordo's great reflections on female hunger the other day:
"On television, the Betty Crocker commercials symbolically speak to men of the legitimacy of their wildest, most abandoned desires: 'I've got a passion for you; I'm wild, crazy, out of control' the hungry man croons to the sensuously presented chocolate cake, offered lovingly by the (always present) female. Female hunger, on the other hand, is depicted as needful of containment and control, and female eating is seen as a furtive, shameful, illicit act, as in the Andes Candies and 'Mon Cheri' commercials, where a 'tiny bite' of chocolate, privately savored, is supposed to be ample reward for a day of serving others (Bordo 1986). Food is not the real issue here, of course; rather, the control of female appetite for food is merely the most concrete expression of the general rule governing the construction of femininity that female hunger - for public power, for independence, for sexual gratification - be contained, and the public space that women be allowed to take up be circumscribed, limited." (18)

- Bordo, Susan. 1989. The body and the reproduction of femininity: A feminist appropriation of Foucault. In Gender/body/knowledge: Feminist reconstructions of being and knowing (eds) Alison Jaggar and Susan Bordo, 13-33. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The male gaze - the male voice (quote from "Sensorial Anthropology", David Howes)

"Those familiar with feminist critiques of the 'male gaze' and the phallocracy that gaze institutes ... may, like myself, have cherished the idea that in more ear-, less eye-minded societies, like that of the Suya [of central Brazil], women's senses would not be as suppressed. But the Suya case dashes that expectation. In place of the 'male gaze' there is the 'male voice': 'plaza speech' - the most valued form of oratory - is only spoken by fully adult men ... In short, there is a politics to the Suya sensory order and a markedly sexual politics at that." (177-178)

- Howes, David. 1991. Sensorial anthropology. In The varieties of sensory experience: A sourcebook in the anthropology of the senses (ed.) David Howes, 167-191. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Toward an anthropology of Christianity

I've just read and enjoyed John Barker's recent book review essay in the latest issue of American Anthropologist (vol 110, no 3), "Toward an anthropology of Christianity". He reviews three books: Fenella Cannell's edited volume The Anthropology of Christianity, Matthew Engelke and Matt Tomlinson's edited volume The Limits of Meaning: Case Studies in the Anthropology of Christianity, and Webb Keane's monograph Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter.

As John Barker says:

"The three volumes under consideration here, along with a symposium edited by Joel Robbins (2003) [in Religion vol 33], have a more ambitious aim: the development of an anthropology of Christianity. This is a significant move, not so much because it legitimates the historical and ethnographic study of Christianity within the discipline - that battle has largely been won - but because it suggests that anthropology can provide a unique perspective." (377)
In other words, the authors combine ethnographic study of Christian communities, practices and meanings with larger questions.

In Cannell's edited volume, the larger questions circle around themes such as conversion, words and things. I especially liked the chapters by Simon Coleman and Fenella Cannell on the use of words (recitation, speaking, reading, writing), combined with the use of material things in the process (notes, books, gifts). Their focus is on Christian communities in Sweden and the Philippines respectively. David Mosse's chapter combines words and bodies among Catholics in South India, Eva Keller looks at words and the process of exploration among Seventh-Day Adventists in Madagascar.

I've already written a post on Engelke and Tomlinson's edited volume. The themes that come out strongly in their volume are meaning and ritual.

And at some point I should write a separate post on Webb Keane. His work examines the relationship between subjects, objects, and language. In particular he looks at how Protestant Christians in Indonesia draw moral boundaries around themselves (as modern subjects) through constructing proper relationships to language and to objects around them. It gets complicated. But intriguing...