herstory, history, history of capitalism, history of class, history of europe, history of gender, history of identity, history of language, history of race, history of religion, history of sexuality, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton University Press, 2009), Pp. 316)

ann.jpgAnn Stoler presents a twist to the readily acceptable “truth” of many archival documentation. In her monograph entitled, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Stoler discusses the hidden secrets of colonial archival documentation. Stoler specifically looks at colonial documents from the Dutch and critiques archival colonial discourse; or what she calls a “material force” (1-2).  Stoler’s central argument discusses the epistemological and ontological evidence of what she means by “colonial commonsense,” as well as those who may have had un-common sense, and how this was documented (3). In doing this kind of work Stoler looks at what she describes as “epistemic practices” in the nineteenth and twentieth century Indo-European culture (5). For Stoler, the colonial character becomes an aperture into the ways in which there was an “un-common sense” in the readily accepted “common sense” of archives.

This monograph is compelling and is a productive critique. I would recommend this book to historians and anyone who is interested in a solid critique of colonialism.

10/10

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feminist studies, herstory, history, history of class, history of gender, history of race, history of sexuality, history of the united states, Uncategorized, women and gender studies

Book Review: Linda Gordon, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (Massachusetts:Harvard University Press, 1999), Pp.416.

book.jpgLinda Gordon’s historical monograph entitled, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, discusses the shifting ideas about race, class, and gender in twentieth-century Arizona.  This book investigates a case that involved Irish children, from New York,  who were being taken to Arizona in hopes of a better life. This “better life” was more invested with class and preventing poverty than it was about race. Gordon’s central theme of the book discusses the intersection of “Mexican-Anglo relations” (x). Gordon presents this story in a multifaceted way by looking at the Anglo’s motive and intentions, while also discussing how race and class differed within the same nation. The story starts out with a grim depiction of immigrant life in New York. Children were suffering at the hands of poverty and were struggling to survive. In the nineteenth and twentieth-century religious organizations, specifically the Catholic Church, were intervening and removing children from impoverished living conditions and re-locating them with different families. Gordon discusses these particular event in 1904 in North Clifton Arizona. In this particular event Gordon focuses took Irish immigrant children to new families that could provide an adequate life for them in Arizona. The one difference was the race of the children did not match the race of their new families. Instead it matched their socio-economic status.

This is where we see the intersection of race, class, and gender in this monograph. 

 In Arizona the potential parents were Mexican and the type of labor that was common among this group seemed to be the best fit for the orphan immigrants. This was not seen as an improper race placement but a proper class and religious placement. The immigrant children were being placed with class appropriate family structure. Gordon notes this as the “‘wageworkers’ frontier,’” in which the affiliation to ones class would structure the whole way of life (25). The national movement to find better jobs and more opportunity was not only in the working class adults frontier but also in children’s frontier history.

Out of competitive class structures race and gender became more solidified and produced a ridged rhetoric by the twentieth-century. In the case of the orphan train from New York to Arizona, race was being constructed in a very gendered way. The train pulled up to Clifton Railroad Station on the evening of October 1, 1904, with the children prepared to enter their new lives, with the families that would best fit them in terms of class and religion. But something in particular happened on that night, a racialized lens of ownership came upon those children by Anglo women who watched these children come off the train and go home with their new Mexican parents. The Anglo women noticed their light skin and proposed that the children needed to be with them and not the Mexican women and families (41).  This started a several month long battle that would end up constructing notions of race, class, and gendered politics for Clifton Arizona. Race was dictated in this case not only by looks but in how these children should be raised, ultimately by white mothers. Motherhood then became one of the most controversial constituter of race in the case of the orphan abduction of Arizona in 1904. This is a provocative historical case study and would be interesting for those interested in United States history and women and gender studies history. I will warn it is a long text but it is filled with historical details that provide to her overall study and thesis.

10/10

american feminist literature, american literature, feminism, feminist studies, feminist theory, herstory, history, humanism, lgbtq, philosophy, politics, science and technology, sex reassignment, Uncategorized, women and gender studies

Judith Butler, “Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality,” in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 7.4 (North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2001), 621-636.

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(photo credits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Butler)

Bodies and their artistic nature of gender, sex identity and expression is a complicated notion. In the essay entitled “Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality,” Judith Butler discusses these complications in discussing the social construction of bodies, sex, and gender. Butler uses a Foucauldian framework to talk about body politics and the “regulatory regime” of medicine on bodies (621). Butler does this by specifically focusing on one individual in particular identified as “the case of Joan/John” (625).

The case of Joan/John is not a uncommon story but is an example of the ways in which the medical establishment constructs bodies that are “viable” and are coherent for the nation-state. In short the case of Joan/Joan is a story of an infant that goes through a botched circumcision, in which the doctor convinces the parents it will be better for the child to grow up with no penis and assume the identity of a female then to grow up with a deformed penis (622). The narrative gets more complicated as Joan/John grows up and ends up identifying more as a male than his produced female more identity (623). Through this case study, Butler identifies the debate between social and biological arguments for sex/gender (623) More important, this essay offers a theoretical framework for discussing the forced construction of gender on individuals and their bodies. Butler’s thesis states, “in recounting this story and its appropriation for the purposes of gender theory.…I hope to underscore here is the disciplinary framework in which Joan/ John develops a discourse of self-reporting and self-understanding…by which his own humanness is both questioned and asserted” (628-629).

Lasting thoughts from this piece are productive invitations to discuss the body and nation. Asking academics and intellects alike the question of what ultimately constitutes humanness?  Butler asserts there is  major “limits to the discourse of intelligibility [coherent/identification/taxonomy]” (635). If that is so, Butler’s contributions challenge the constructed categories of the nation-state and binary body politics. This essay highlights the nation-states perceived need for these categories to propel nationalism and its citizenship. I would recommend this essay to academics, intellectuals, and social activists. This is a perfect essay to sit down and discuss with like-minded thinkers. I guarantee you will engage in an exciting and stimulating conversation reading this and discuss it with peers or colleagues! 

10/10

american feminist literature, american literature, herstory, history, Inspiration, literature, short story, women

Book Review: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper (1892),Pp. 24.

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A compelling and fascinating short story, Charlotte Gilman, takes the reader on an intense journey through the struggles of women’s autonomy over their minds and bodies. Set in Gilman’s historical moment this short story discusses the damaging consequences of women being treated secondary to their male counterparts. Gilman’s semi-autobiographical narrative discusses her experiences with depression, a controlling husband, lack of autonomy, and finally liberation.  Gilman tell’s a story of a woman who is given no name. This no name woman is experiencing something that she cant quite put her finger on. Her doctor, who is also her husband, tells her she is just acting “foolish” and “hysterical.” He prescribes her rest for three months in hopes of helping her feel more “normal.” This reference Gilman makes to the historical reality of how  women’s mental health was treated in the nineteenth-century is spot on. Gilman is pushing back at Silas Weir Mitchell’s “rest cure” approach that was prescribed to women who were acting “foolish” or “hysterical” in the 1800s.

Gilman narrates the no name woman resting, as prescribed, but in turn going stir crazy.  All the while, her husband continues to dismiss her and insists on her resting.  The woman with no name is left to secretly write wishes and desires down on paper.  If her husband found her writing it would be going against his prescribed rest.  Being locked up in her room the woman with no name becomes obsessed with the room—specifically the yellow wallpaper. The wallpaper becomes a simile for society. 

In a bizarre turn, the woman with no name starts to sees a woman inside the wallpaper.

Gilman allows her protagonist to discusses this woman she sees in the wallpaper as her true desire. A desire for friendship, companionship, and even a career.  By the end of the story she is angry and tired, maybe even “sicker” than before all the “rest” she was prescribed.  In a final act of rebellion, the woman with no name, pulls the wallpaper almost completely off the walls and liberates the woman behind the wallpaper. She liberates herself.

Finally, this texts becomes a stand in for discussing issues Gilman wants to illuminate in  1892. This short story becomes the platform to do just that. The author ultimately brings up topics that were quite racy for the times such as: women’s equality, mental health issues, female heath, women’s desires and career opportunities.  Gilman also pushes back on narratives that relegated women to “hysterical” beings and discusses the true nature of gender oppression in a toxic masculine society.  This is a must read for historians. I would also recommend this to anyone who is interested in a fascinating short read that examines the past and the legacy of male oppression and women’s liberation. 

10/10

#magick, guide, herstory, how-to, Inspiration, Instructional, magick, religious studies, Spiritual Literature, spirituality, wicca, witchcraft, women

Book Review: Cassandra Larsen, Wicca: A Beginner’s Guide to Witchcraft, Spells, Rituals, and Magick (2015), Pp. 88.

 

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Wicca: A Beginner’s Guide to Witchcraft, Spells, Rituals, and Magick (Simple Witchcraft Series Book 1)

For a beginner, excited by the possibility of magic and ritual, this is a wonderful booklet to start with! Cassandra Larsen’s short booklet is more of a hands-on manual. It guides the reader in understanding the key concepts that traditional Wiccan spirituality practice. The booklet becomes interactive in nature by inviting the reader to begin on a journey of practicing Wicca for themselves. Larsen notes, “This guide will teach you the basics of Wiccan beliefs, along with meditation and visualization exercises designed to open your mind and expand your consciousness” (5). The author is able to accomplish this by breaking the book down by each chapter. Even though this a short booklet it is productive that there are chapters. The organization helps the reader to enjoy and also start to practice this new spiritual reality. Another productive feature of this booklet is that each chapter builds on each other. What is really nice is Larsen doesn’t assume you know anything, she is your guide, and that is what makes this booklet all the more enjoyable.

The first chapter is dedicated to introducing you to key concepts and quickly moves into the second chapter. Chapter two creates space for the practice of meditation, visualization, and energy work to be explored by the reader (13-21). Larsen then provides a handy third chapter on a glossary of tools and what they do. Larsen then takes the reader into a more practitioner’s position by discussing how to do “Circle Casting.” Larsen states, “Casting a circle is a way to create sacred space, preparing the area for magick…my purpose in this book is to teach easy, practical rituals and spells, I will outline a simple ritual for circle casting” (33).  The author moves on to chapter five and discusses the holidays or sabbat for each season. Discussing each sabbat and its meaning and ways you can practice celebrating these days. Lastly, chapter six was one of my favorite chapters in terms of how Larsen takes a list of days, moon phases, colors, stones, and different herbs and discusses what they provoke and how we can embody their energies and magick!

I would recommend this booklet to anyone who is interested in practicing Wicca.  I should mention there were times I had to stop reading and look some of the concepts up. I needed a little more insight than what was provided. I was left wanting a little bit more. One thing that might have taken this booklet to the next level would have been illustrations. I think not providing pictures was a missed opportunity by Larsen. Finally, I believe the author met her goal in this booklet. Larsen set out to create an accessible narrative on Wiccan tradition and practice and she accomplished that goal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this booklet and will probably read it again– I liked it that much!

10/10

 

feminist studies, feminist theory, herstory, postcolonial theory, subaltern studies

Essay Review: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader (London: Routledge, 1993), Pp. 66-111.

 

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       (photo credits to link provided: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak [ India, USA ] Biography. Accessed August 31, 2018)

Historical narratives try to give agency and articulate the subjects in colonial contexts, but have they done justice to these subjects (as Judith Butler would say)? For Gayatri Spivak this has been an unsuccessful project of theoretical and historical narratives. In Spivak’s essay entitled, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” the provocative argument of injustice and reproductions of imperialism have been suggested to some of the most influential theorists and historians of our time. Spivak critiques ideology and the intellectuals obsession to categorize categories. In this sense the author is claiming that those who have tried to use deconstruction, post-modern, and intervening language have actually in turn reproduced imperial narratives. This critique the author gives critiques, as well as gives credence to, names such as Foucault, Deleuze and Guattarie etc. The author critiques the ways in which theorists and historians have reproduced terms of subject and citizen ultimately creating a type of violence in the form of narrative presence. Spivak’s thesis states, “I have argued that, in the Foucault-Deluze conversation, a postrepresentationlist vocabulary hides an essentialist agenda. In subaltern studies, because of the violence of imperialist epistemic, social and disciplinary inscription, a project understood in essentialist terms must traffic in a radical textual practice of difference” (80). This critique searches to illuminate if the subject of the state, nation, and empire is adequately represented. Spivak’s continual question, “can the subaltern speak,” is complicated by what the author demonstrates as absences in historical narratives of those termed as oppressed or subjugated bodies. Power is thus driven out of knowledge and the ways in which reproduction rears its ugly head is through historical and theoretical narratives about binary othering (82). Spivak notes, “Deleuze and Foucault ignore both the epistemic violence of imperialism…”(84). By discussing the gaps of theory and history Spivak is able to point to types of personage that is not intelligible or is rendered in a  “blind-spot” to the “privileging of the intellectual” discourse (86-87). For example Spivak spends time teasing out how sati, which is a cultural death of husband and female sacrifice to honor and loyalty aka “good wife” ritual, is read outside of the flattened imperial discourse (101). What Spivak calls attention to is that intellectual discourse does a disservice or does not give justice to the whole story go culture, race, context, and letting one speak from their own experience.

Spivak states, “the broader question of the constitution of the sexed subject is hidden by foregrounding the visible violence of sati…when the status of the legal subject as property-holder could be temperately bestowed on the female relict, the self-immolation of widows was stringently enforced” (99). What the author highlights is the deeper projects of reproducing racialize gendered subject bodies as victims for saving rather than free agent respectable of self-reporting. Spivak states, “between patriarchy and imperialism, subject-constitution and object-formation, the figure of the woman disappears, not into a pristine nothingness, but into a violent shuttling which is the displaced figuration of the ‘third-world woman’ caught between tradition and modernization” (102). Reified bodies and histories is the crux of Spivak’s critique of historical and theoretical narration of bodies and the nation vis versa. In the end of this powerful essay Spivak answers her question, “can the subaltern speak?” with the answer— “the subaltern cannot speak” (104). Spivak calls for a more nuanced and self-reporting narration of history for those who are spoken for and spoken about. Wonderful read to expand your mind and theoretically challenge static historical narratives. 

10/10

 

american feminist literature, american literature, feminist studies, feminist theory, herstory, history, history of africa, history of europe, history of india, history of magic, history of the united states, literature, political theory, postcolonial theory, religious studies, science and technology, short story, subaltern studies, Uncategorized, witchcraft, world history

Magickal Reviews

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“You ran away to find freedom, and you found it. You made it. Now you gotta tell it. You gotta figure out how to tell the story.” — Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha