Wednesday, September 19, 2007

While I thought the Appadurai article was extremely convincing, I was confused by his conclusions about women and cultural reproduction. He poses the question of how families/small groups, the “classical loci of socialization,” deal with the reproductions of themselves and cultural forms as shapes and cultures grow less bounded (17, 19). As opposed to what he calls the traditional anthropological problem of “enculturation in a period of rapid culture change,” this new form of enculturation also faces the problem of deterritorialization as families try to negotiate mutual and divergent aspirations and understandings in the new order of “fractured spatial arrangements” (18). What is interesting to me is that in the midst of this description of fractured arrangements, disappearing points of reference and constant flux, Appadurai posits the female body as the constant and default site of the violent friction that ensues. He writes that women become “subject to the abuse and violence of the men” who are torn about their heritage and opportunity within shifting formations (18). He writes that B-grade films blanket the world in gendered violence that “reflect and refine” gendered violence as “young men … come to be torn between the macho politics of self-assertion” in arenas in which they are denied agency (19). He concludes that the “honor of women” (which seems to be the bodies of women) then becomes an “armature of stable (if inhuman) systems of cultural reproduction” as well as “a new arena for the formation of sexual identity and family politics” (19). Women’s honor becomes a surrogate for “the identity of embattled communities of males” (19).Violence against women is hardly a new phenomenon and I think his explanation that some of it is now the result of male confusion about heritage/opportunity leaves something to be desired. I am not sure exactly why women must become the object of violence in this situation. His example about the son who joins Hezbollah results simply in the son not getting along with his family. Why do “women in particular” bear violence as a result of this friction (18)? Why do increasingly fetishized representations of work and leisure cause women to be the surrogate for identity for males?

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