The Moveable Feast of Economy and Biology: Thirty Years after Sex/Gender
Monday, December 8, 2008
Presented by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and Anthropology Section
Thirty-odd years after Gayle Rubin coined the term "sex/gender system," the study of work, gender, and sexuality remains deeply indebted to a distinction that associates "sex" with immoveable biology and "gender" and "sexuality" with the kind of social malleability that offers hope for a more equitable future. Researchers continue to focus on disparities in wealth and income, discrimination, and exploitation (as well they might), be it in matters of wage parity, sexual harassment, race/class/gender effects in hiring decisions, divisions of labor, sex work, AIDS discrimination in employment, or ceilings made of glass.
Yet much has changed with respect to both biology and global finance since those early days when scholars mapped out new objects of study in response to thriving social movements. In an era of gene splicing, cyborgs, plastic surgery, and transgender politics, biology now appears more mobile. In an era when "the widening gap between rich and poor" incorporates gendered differences, power differentials configured through gender sometimes appear more intransigent. "Working Rich, Working Poor" explores how the new biology is intimately associated with economic innovations such as securitization in ways that are critical to understand in order to confront the acceleration of inequality in nations such as the United States.
Kath Weston is Professor of Anthropology and Studies in Women and Gender at the University of Virginia. She is also a longtime member of the National Writers Union. Her areas of specialization include political economy, political ecology, historical anthropology, kinship, gender and sexuality, surveillance, political theory, history of science in the social sciences, and class relations. She is the author of numerous publications, including Gender in Real Time, Families We Choose, and "Escape from the Andamans: Tracking, Offshore Incarceration, and Ethnology in the Back of Beyond." Her latest book is Traveling Light: On the Road with America's Poor (Beacon, 2008).
Discussant Janet Jakobsen is Professor of Women's Studies at Barnard College.