Heterogeneities: Race, Gender, Class, Nation, and State

By Robert Ackermann John | Go to book overview

GENDER

modulated gender and sexual performances belong to the repertoire of nearly every american adult, and they can be controlled with a precision and intensity that racial, class, and national performances may escape. The experiential basis for this is the ubiquity of gender encounters. Many american adults have had few close relationships across racial, class, and national boundaries, and they have never developed an extensive set of controlled resources for handling such encounters. Theories associated with race, nation, and class often operate on a plane of abstraction that matches this absence of experience; a few concrete experiences nicely supplement theoretical generalizations, without putting them to severe test. Insofar as these confirming events have occurred in public, they can easily be offered to others as narrative examples in support of theory. By comparison, most adults have had constant encounters of a gender or sexual nature, many of them private, both across and within whatever gender and sexual boundaries they may recognize. The concrete constancy and complexity of such experiences explode easy generalization, unless theory manages the tensions inherent in its material by adopting a homogenizing distance from the total range of its experiential base. Further, there are severe cultural restraints on bringing private sexual encounters into theoretical discourse. With its material laundered by the removal of evanescent desire and the publicly embarrassing, gender theory typically proceeds by talking about the differences between "men" and "women," fitting its data into two acceptable cultural categories without the intrusion of deviant concrete instances of sexual or gender experience. To put it bluntly, the existence in most people of a full spectrum of spontaneous desires and of deep levels of repression means that the complexity of experience is usually foreclosed for the sake of generalization in gender theory. The crude distinction between public and private is, for example, not subtle enough to provide the resources for differentiating all the layers of learned lifelong repression involved in sexual and gender relationships.

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Heterogeneities: Race, Gender, Class, Nation, and State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Starting Point 1
  • Racism 9
  • Benign Racism 31
  • Gender 53
  • Class 79
  • Nation 103
  • State 131
  • World System 153
  • What to Do 179
  • FURTHER READING 205
  • Index 209
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