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Critical Terms for the Study of Gender

“Gender systems pervade and regulate human lives—in law courts and operating rooms, ballparks and poker clubs, hair-dressing salons and kitchens, classrooms and playgroups. . . . Exactly how gender works varies from culture to culture, and from historical period to historical period, but gender is very rarely not at work. Nor does gender operate in isolation. It is linked to other social structures and sources of identity.”
So write women’s studies pioneer Catharine R. Stimpson and anthropologist Gilbert Herdt in their introduction to Critical Terms for the Study of Gender, laying out the wide-ranging nature of this interdisciplinary and rapidly changing field. The sixth in the series of “Critical Terms” books, this volume provides an indispensable introduction to the study of gender through an exploration of key terms that are a part of everyday discourse in this vital subject.
Following Stimpson and Herdt’s careful account of the evolution of gender studies and its relation to women’s and sexuality studies, the twenty-one essays here cast an appropriately broad net, spanning the study of gender and sexuality across the humanities and social sciences. Written by a distinguished group of scholars, each essay presents students with a history of a given term—from bodies to utopia—and explains the conceptual baggage it carries and the kinds of critical work it can be made to do. The contributors offer incisive discussions of topics ranging from desire, identityjustice, and kinship to loverace, and religion that suggest new directions for the understanding of gender studies. The result is an essential reference addressed to students studying gender in very different disciplinary contexts.

Read an excerpt: "Public/Private by Michael Warner".

536 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Critical Terms

Gender and Sexuality

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Sociology: General Sociology

Women's Studies


“This modest title belies an extraordinary collection.  Featuring not only leading but founding scholars in the interdisciplinary field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, Critical Terms for the Study of Gender provides sophisticated genealogies of concepts that have transformed scholarship in the humanities and social sciences over the past four decades.  Illuminating conceptual limitations of traditional approaches to these topics, this volume demonstrates the importance of feminist and queer scholarship to an adequate understanding of the complexities of contemporary life.”

Mary Hawkesworth, Rutgers University

Table of Contents

Introduction * Catharine R. Stimpson and Gilbert Herdt
1 Bodies * Carroll Smith- Rosenberg
2 Culture * Kate Crehan
3 Desire * Lauren Berlant
4 Ethnicity * Anna Sampaio
5 Globalization * Carla Freeman
6 Human Rights * Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg
7 Identity * Raewyn Connell
8 Justice * Jane Mansbridge
9 Kinship * Janet Carsten
10 Language * Deborah Cameron
11 Love * Lauren Berlant
12 Myth * Wendy Doniger
13 Nature * Anne Fausto- Sterling
14 Posthuman * Ruth A. Miller
15 Power * Wendy Brown and Joan W. Scott
16 Public / Private * Michael Warner
17 Race * Hortense Spillers
18 Regulation * Judith Butler
19 Religion * Regina M. Schwartz
20 Sex / Sexuality / Sexual Classification * David M. Halperin
21 Utopia * Sally L. Kitch


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