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The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States

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Theories of intersectionality have fundamentally transformed how feminists and critical race scholars understand the relationship between race and gender, but are often limited in their focus on contemporary experiences of interlocking oppressions. In The Specter of Sex, Sally L. Kitch explores the "backstory" of intersectionality theory--the historical formation of the ra Theories of intersectionality have fundamentally transformed how feminists and critical race scholars understand the relationship between race and gender, but are often limited in their focus on contemporary experiences of interlocking oppressions. In The Specter of Sex, Sally L. Kitch explores the "backstory" of intersectionality theory--the historical formation of the racial and gendered hierarchies that continue to structure U.S. culture today. Kitch uses a genealogical approach to explore how a world already divided by gender ideology became one simultaneously obsessed with judgmental ideas about race, starting in Europe and the English colonies in the late seventeenth century. Through an examination of religious, political, and scientific narratives, public policies and testimonies, laws, court cases, and newspaper accounts, The Specter of Sex provides a rare comparative study of the racial formation of five groups--American Indians, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and European whites--and reveals gendered patterns that have served white racial dominance and repeated themselves with variations over a two-hundred-year period.


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Theories of intersectionality have fundamentally transformed how feminists and critical race scholars understand the relationship between race and gender, but are often limited in their focus on contemporary experiences of interlocking oppressions. In The Specter of Sex, Sally L. Kitch explores the "backstory" of intersectionality theory--the historical formation of the ra Theories of intersectionality have fundamentally transformed how feminists and critical race scholars understand the relationship between race and gender, but are often limited in their focus on contemporary experiences of interlocking oppressions. In The Specter of Sex, Sally L. Kitch explores the "backstory" of intersectionality theory--the historical formation of the racial and gendered hierarchies that continue to structure U.S. culture today. Kitch uses a genealogical approach to explore how a world already divided by gender ideology became one simultaneously obsessed with judgmental ideas about race, starting in Europe and the English colonies in the late seventeenth century. Through an examination of religious, political, and scientific narratives, public policies and testimonies, laws, court cases, and newspaper accounts, The Specter of Sex provides a rare comparative study of the racial formation of five groups--American Indians, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and European whites--and reveals gendered patterns that have served white racial dominance and repeated themselves with variations over a two-hundred-year period.

32 review for The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States

  1. 5 out of 5

    Quin Rich

    Somewhat disappointing, The Specter of Sex does indeed attempt to lay out the gendered foundations of racial formation. However, it does so in an often superficial, underwhelming, and at times inaccurate manner. To be sure, many of the points it makes are true and important (racial stereotypes are gendered/sexualized, gender dichotomy and patriarchy have been used as standards of "civilization" and tools of white supremacy, women's sexual/reproductive lives and labor have been key sites if racia Somewhat disappointing, The Specter of Sex does indeed attempt to lay out the gendered foundations of racial formation. However, it does so in an often superficial, underwhelming, and at times inaccurate manner. To be sure, many of the points it makes are true and important (racial stereotypes are gendered/sexualized, gender dichotomy and patriarchy have been used as standards of "civilization" and tools of white supremacy, women's sexual/reproductive lives and labor have been key sites if racial formation); yet these points have been made with greater depth, poignancy, and force elsewhere. Most disturbingly, the conclusion attempt to rework the concept of intersectionality in ways that are neither "novel" (women of color feminisms have long adopted the practices advocated by Kitch, yet she fails to mention this) nor a true reworking (her claims that intersectionality reifies difference is much more a matter of misapplication of the theory than endemic to it). As such, The Specter of Sex serves best as an extended literature review, a brief (and lackluster) historical summary, and an annotated bibliography. At MOST, it should be considered a starting point for further reading, not an authoritative or exhaustive source. Other key texts of interest are Angela Y Davis' "Women, Race, & Class", Andrea Smith and Winona LaDuke's "Conquest," Patricia Hill-Collins' "Black Feminist Thought," the anthology "This Bridge Called My Back," and any of the work of Critical Race Feminists such as Mari Matsuda and Kimberlé Crenshaw.

  2. 5 out of 5

    University of Chicago Magazine

    Sally L. Kitch, AM’68 Author From our pages (Nov–Dec/09): "In the late 17th century, Western gender roles were already sharply delineated. Kitch looks at how European and colonial notions of race formed and influenced gender ideology. Through references to policies, narratives, laws, and other media, she traces the racial and gender hierarchies in Europe and the colonies, examining how these patterns have continued to repeat themselves in the 200 years since." Sally L. Kitch, AM’68 Author From our pages (Nov–Dec/09): "In the late 17th century, Western gender roles were already sharply delineated. Kitch looks at how European and colonial notions of race formed and influenced gender ideology. Through references to policies, narratives, laws, and other media, she traces the racial and gender hierarchies in Europe and the colonies, examining how these patterns have continued to repeat themselves in the 200 years since."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Excellent historical account, groundbreaking research, and quick read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Maddox

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sara Olsen

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

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    Michael

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    Matte

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Seeger

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alok Vaid-Menon

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kori Hamilton

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nikhil P. Freeman

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

  18. 4 out of 5

    T.J. Jourian

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  21. 5 out of 5

    benjamin adam

  22. 4 out of 5

    J

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hantrel Greindgo

  24. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alasdair Ekpenyong

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    Adora Myers

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    David

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    Diana Abalos

  29. 4 out of 5

    JElliott

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

  31. 4 out of 5

    Nour

  32. 4 out of 5

    Kimm Possible

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