Preface

Textbook Learning Objectives

  • Apply a feminist intersectional lens to analyze gendered practices.
  • Assess how local gendered lives are shaped by global processes.
  • Evaluate how gendered practices are culturally constructed and influenced by key regional, economic, historical, and political factors.
  • Analyze key gender issues anthropologists study.

Gendered Lives: Global Issues was born from two deeply rooted experiences teaching undergraduates. First, with more than thirty years (cumulative) experience teaching anthropology of sex and gender, we acknowledge the ongoing challenge of imparting to students an understanding that ideologies and practices of gender and sexuality are culturally shaped, historically changing, and globally situated. The comparative study of sex and gender globally helps us understand the diversity of the human experience. By reflecting on this diversity, we can ultimately expand our perspectives on gender and sexuality beyond our own cultural backgrounds. We have consistently seen our students realize that by studying the “other,” we learn more about ourselves. In a world that is sometimes violently structured by gender inequalities, these remain key issues for everyone to grasp.

Second, we recognize that many students struggle with the ever-increasing costs of textbooks and that without access to quality educational materials students cannot succeed in their classes (Perry 2014; Senack 2014). Data shows that open educational resources (OERs) help all students succeed (Colvard et al. 2018). Creating open resources is one way to demonstrate our commitment to fostering equity and access in higher education. Gendered Lives: Global Issues seeks to address these two issues through a peer-reviewed, edited textbook covering key topics related to the cultural construction of gender in locations around the world.

This textbook is organized around two central perspectives: global connections across a regional framework and an intersectional lens. First, to better understand the gendered lives of men and women, students need to see how their experiences are embedded in a nation’s and region’s particular histories and cultures. Understanding the broader cultural, historical, political, and economic contexts that shape the social constructions of gender is essential. To this end, the book is organized into sections based on geographic region and the global forces that have linked regions together, often in unequal relationships. Each section begins with an “Introducing the Region” chapter that provides an overview of key historical, cultural, and political factors, as well as outlines central gender-related issues facing that region today.

It is within these broader regional contexts and global linkages that we ask students to situate the gendered lives they are reading about in the individual chapters, each of which present the findings of one ethnographic study. The topics covered range from women and work to parenting and transnational families, masculinity, and gender-based violence. Included in the “Introducing the Region” sections are “Profiles,” each of which present the work of an activist or organization fighting for gender equality and justice in their communities.

While cognizant of the earlier critiques of area-studies approaches, more recent research has recognized the value of tracing the global in the local (Alvarez et al. 2011). It is through local analyses that we can best understand the impact of global dynamics. Thus, our geographical approach does not imply the existence of bounded cultural areas or self-contained regions. Rather, the chapters are both deeply place oriented, while solidly linking the local to relevant global processes and histories.

In soliciting chapters for this book we cast a broad net and hoped for contributions that would span all regions of the world. This first edition of the textbook presents the responses to our call for contributors and includes research based in the following regions: Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia, and the Global North (Europe and North America). In future editions, we hope to expand the coverage to include other areas such as Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East.

The second central perspective in the book is an intersectional lens. In taking an intersectional approach in each chapter, we see how gender is shaped not only by culture but also, for example, by one’s particular class, ethnic, or religious identity within that culture. The two threads of intersectional positioning and global linkages connect the chapters across the regions. An intersectional analysis reminds us that power is unequally distributed both within and across cultures. Those ethnic, gender, racial, religious (and other) inequalities shape lives both at home and abroad. The gendered lives readers encounter in the chapters are rooted in particular histories and cultures that are deeply entwined with the Global North through histories of colonialism and global capitalism. In the connected and inherently comparative perspective of anthropology, we hope readers will examine their own “naturalized and gendered” practices with a critical lens and come to see how their own lives are intersectionally and globally shaped.

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Gendered Lives by State University of New York is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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