Feminist Anthropology Part II

Feminist anthropology began in the 1970s not merely to promote a wider paradigm shift in ethnographic research, but to galvanize the discipline into remodeling how anthropologists functioned in the academy and the field.
By Emma Louise Backe Feminist anthropology began in the 1970s not merely to promote a wider paradigm shift in ethnographic research, but to galvanize the discipline into remodeling how anthropologists functioned in the academy and the field. Although feminist ideologies were incorporated into anthropology’s postmodern turn, and the work of feminist anthropologists gained purchase outside of the discipline, feminist anthropology was largely treated as the niche province of female practitioners. As Marilyn Strathern writes, “a milieu of tolerance has also reduced feminist scholarship to just another approach, one way among many into data […] Feminist anthropology is thus tolerated as a specialty that can be absorbed without challenge to the whole.” Strathern laments that while feminist anthropology had the potential to transform the way anthropologists thought about themselves and their interlocutors, it did not initiate the sorts of changes or… Read More...

Healing History

Discrimination toward women in the medical arts can be traced back to the story of Agnodice.
By Abby Norman Discrimination toward women in the medical arts can be traced back to the story of Agnodice. Some scholars argue that she was not a real person, but rather a well-constructed myth. Whether lore or not, her story has been held tight by midwives for millennia. As the story goes, Agnodice had been determined since her youth to aid women in their childbearing—a task that for much of human history fell to female relatives or wizened old women. Facing young Agnodice in Ancient Greece was the problem that women had been completely blocked from studying, let alone practicing, medicine, which included the somewhat mysterious witchery of midwifery. (more…) Read More...

What Does a Woman Know?

Kathleen Sheppard explores how women archaeologists become hidden in archives and left out of history.
By Kathleen Sheppard Whenever I have the chance, I can’t resist watching any of the The Mummy movies or Indiana Jones movies (except the Crystal Skull, but that’s an issue for another time).  As an archaeologist, I think I’m supposed to avoid them in some sort of protest over how the fictionalized version of my discipline is sensationalized, but I get drawn into the stories, the adventures, and, of course, the characters.  I do, however, take issue with the lack of presence women have in many of the films. (more…) Read More...

Feminist Anthropology

Emma Backe writes a brief history of feminist anthropology and how female archeologists have been buried by Great Men.
By Emma Louise Backe Compared with other scientific disciplines, anthropology is relatively young—it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the fundamental principles of ethnographic fieldwork and theory were conceived and taken up by practitioners. Early anthropology was essentially the study of human difference, although the analysis of cultural variation was often co-opted by colonial regimes hoping to justify the discrimination and dispossession of “primitive” or traditional cultures. As anthropologists distanced themselves from the biological determinism of 19th century ideologies, they adapted more nuanced, contextualized, and reflexive approaches to studying foreign and subaltern communities. Even though Franz Boas is often heralded as the father of 20th century modern anthropology, his female pupils are equally responsible for building the foundations of contemporary sociocultural anthropology and ethnographic fieldwork. During his tenure at Columbia University, Boas trained Ruth Benedict , Zora Neale Hurston ,… Read More...