Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
3 & 4 September 1996, Johannesburg, South Africa



Mind, gender, and culture:

A critical evaluation of the phenomenon of Tokoloshe "sightings" among prepubescent girls in Kwazulu-Natal

Nhlanhla Mkhize

University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg

This paper intends to provide a critical examination of tokoloshe "sightings" among prepubescent (or early adolescent, mainly rural) girls. Tokoloshe is a fabulous, short and hairy-looking elf said to be mischievous and fond of women and sour milk. Sighting of this creature is accompanied by fainting spells, deterioration from previous level of (scholastic) performance, fearfulness, and other psychosomatic type symptoms. It is argued that the experience could be conceptualised as a culturally-situated gender discourse. The view taken is that every culture develops a set of narratives which function as "tools" mediating human functioning, which narratives in turn enable or constrain thought, action, and feeling. A methodology focusing on the notion of "voice" is recommended for research into such phenomena. Alternative explanations (e.g., secondary benefits associated with being afflicted) are also explored.

Tokoloshe "sightings" among prepubescent (or early adolescent, mainly rural) girls are quite common in KwaZulu-Natal. "Sightings" of this creature are accompanied by fainting spells, deterioration from previous level of (scholastic) performance, fearfulness, and other psychosomatic type symptoms. It is argued that the experience could be conceptualised as a culturally-situated gender discourse. The view taken is that every culture develops a set of narratives (Bruner, 1990), which function as "tools" mediating human functioning, which narratives in turn enable or constrain thought, action, and feeling. The role of narratives in organising thinking, identity, and moral development has been explored by a number of authors recently (e.g., Day & Tappan, 1996; Tappan & Brown, 1989; Howard, 1991).

It is further argued that the human psyche originates in the social context, and that through the process of "internalisation" what was initially on the social plane between people (an interpersonal process) is later internalised to become an intrapsychological process (Shotter, 1993). Bakhtin (1981) uses the notion of voice to explain this process. A distinction is made between internally persuasive discourse (adapting the word in language to one's intentions and accent) and authoritative discourse (i.e., voices of others, such as parents, cultural dictates, etc., which may determine our interrelations with the world). The process of ideological becoming (or identity, moral development) therefore entails claiming responsibility for one's feelings, emotions, and acts. The Tokoloshe narrative, therefore, could be seen as an intense struggle against authoritative discourse. It could be viewed as a cultural narrative that young girls resort to by virtue of their (inferior) position in society (Shotter, 1984). Indeed, as properly socialised members deriving "their personal powers from the 'natural' powers made available to them in the social relations in which they are involved in the course of their upbringing" (Shotter, 1984, p. 56), they have to express themselves in a culturally-appropriate way. The Tokoloshe narrative is clearly authoritative. He instructs the children "not to tell anyone" that they have seen him (Thou shall not!). He makes several threats, and those who disobey him are punished (slapped on the face). He also offers rewards (money, apples) to those who obey him. Thus, his is a voice of authority with the powers to reward or punish.

Day (1991) has argued that moral life is not only narrative, but also theatrical. The notion of an audience to which one's utterance or act is addressed is also noted by Bakhtin (1981). It is important therefore to unravel the central actors as well as the audience whose responsive understanding is being sought through the Tokoloshe narrative. That is, the narrative could be seen as an intentional act, or (especially if the sexual abuse hypothesis were to hold) an appeal for justice.

It could therefore be a mistake to interpret the narrative solely on traditional terms (e.g., she has been bewitched, we know the cure). Although such interpretation makes cultural sense, it could feed into the authoritative nature of the Tokoloshe discourse. Such interpretations could deprive the narrative of their intentional, indeterminate, and intentional nature. The fact that Tokoloshe is seen mainly by prepubescent girls strengthens the hypothesis that there is something of an moral and developmental nature (ideological becoming) in the experience. Brown and Gilligan's (1991) methodology is recommended for researching Tokoloshe and such phenomena. This methods focuses on the notion of voice (e.g., whose voice?) as well as the relationships and cultural framework within which the experience is manifest.


Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination. (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays. (C. Emerson & M. Holquist,

Trans). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Brown, L. M., & Gilligan, C. (1991). Listening for voice in narrative of relationship. In M. B. Tappan & M. J. Packer (Eds.), Narrative and storytelling: Implications for understanding moral development (pp. 46-62). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Day, J. M. (1991). The moral audience: On the narrative mediation of moral "judgement" and moral "action". In M. B. Tappan & M. J. Packer (Eds.), Narrative and storytelling: Implications for understanding moral development (pp. 27-42). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Day, J. M., & Tappan, M. B. (1996). The narrative approach to moral development: From the epistemic subject to dialogical selves. Human Development, 39, 67-82.

Howard, G. S. (1991). Culture tales: A narrative approach to thinking, crosscultural psychology, and psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 46(3), 187-197.

Shotter, J. (1984). Social accountability and selfhood. England: Basil Blackwell.

Shotter, J. (1993). Vygotsky: The social negotiation of semiotic mediation. New Ideas in

Psychology, 11(1), 61-75.

Tappan, M. B., & Brown, L. M. (1989). Stories told and lessons learned: Toward a narrative approach to moral development and moral education. Harvard Educational Review, 59(2), 182-205.

Department of Psychology

Natal University

P/B X1



Discussion group:

Useful Objects

Penny Siopis & Kaolin Thompson

Department of Fine Arts, University of the Witwatersrand

Can the controversy emanating from the artwork Useful Objects which, according to Mail & Guardian critic Hazel Friedman, resembles "a black vagina, lips or turd" be productive? Could it, for instance, be the beginning of defining a very particular body politic shaped by gender and race in this country? Or, is it simply one more insult to black women in South Africa?

Stealing the Wind From the Men -

Women windsurfers and gendered embodiment

Val Woodward

University of Strathclyde, Scotland


Contextual comments:

My paper is centred around the lived experiences of women who windsurf and enters little into current debates about disengaged bodies. Despite therefore having few similarities with the majority of contributions to the conference 'the body politic', it engaged interest and positive responses. Lessons about gendered embodiement, that can be gleaned from the feelings of women about their participation in windsurfing and how it affects their perceptions of femininity and empowerment, seemed to inspire fascinating conversations and desire for further exploration. The paper itself forms a fragment of ongoing work on this subject, and being at this conference further motivated me to continue to develop my research.


Women who windsurf provide excellent material to explore the processes involved in creating, resisting and re-shaping gendered embodiment. Windsurfing, reflecting sports generally, involves actions and activities that do not conform to stereotypical ideas of femininity-the social construct posed in opposition to masculinity. In Britain, more men than women windsurf, especially at expert levels. For those women who do windsurf, they enter a complex masculine world. Material variables counterpose with structured gendered subjectivities that are grounded in patriarchal inequalities. Women who windsurf therefore challenge patriarchal concepts of gender, whether or not they mean to. This small scale qualitative study is based upon the experiences of thirty recreational women windsurfers whom I've interviewed. The research process was developmental and reflexive, with an emphasis on continual reconsideration of ideas and interpretation, influenced both by the data collected and by theoretical writings. Those interviewed have been actively involved through discussion of, and reflection on, recordings of my progress. This paper considers those methods as well as exploring the women's recalled experiences as embodied subjects, indulging in the exhilaration of windsurfing. It reflects on how we can explore women learning to live in their bodies and the restrictions and resistance this may involve.

Windsurfing is exciting and challenging. It relies on individual competence and control, engaging with the natural elements of wind and water. Windsurfing requires considerable energy, but technique plays a greater part than strength. While all levels can be very enjoyable, windsurfers generally prefer progressively stronger winds as they increase their expertise.

Windsurfers stand on a board, connected to a sail, through which they power and steer the board's movement. This movement may be anything from a gentle cruise on inland water to a fast blast through the surf of the sea. Whilst competitive windsurfing does exist, and is promoted by most windsurfing organisations, those who windsurf do not need to be competitive, and women windsurfers seem to resist joining in competitive events (Birrell, 1994).

Windsurfing is only mentioned in passing, if at all, in recent feminist writings on sport. ( Cahn, 1994; Cohen, 1993; Hargreaves, 1994; Lenskyj, 1990; Messner and Sabo, 1990 & 1994; Nelson, 1994). Women's participation in outdoor recreational pursuits generally is a neglected area of study (Humberstone, 1995).

Windsurfers, like rock climbers, hang-gliders or off-road motorcycle scramblers need a fairly large degree of control over their lives, which few women have despite tremendous changes in patterns of consumption and leisure this century (Green et al., 1990). Spare time, resources and freedom to engage in pleasurable pursuits are a privilege in our unequal society and associated with the groups in society enjoying the greatest wealth and power (Deem, 1986; Scraton, 1986; Talbot, 1988; Willis, 1982; Wimbush, 1986; Wimbush and Talbot, 1988).

Windsurfing is elitist because it involves having freedom, time and money (Jessica).

It should therefore be no surprise that windsurfing is male dominated (Hornby, 1993).

There are no women in the group that I sail with. In fact I don't know any other women windsurfers (Lisa).

Those interviewed rarely found other women to sail with, except at Windsurfing Women events- organised voluntarily to provide a sociable, supportive windsurfing environment for women.

Nor should it be a surprise that while the windsurfing women interviewed included a wide range of experiences and perspectives, only two did not have an independent income of their own, and all were white and able bodied. Windsurfing is a self indulgent activity and involves a complete escape from duties or responsibilities. For women, who have historically been defined by their ability to nurture others, a commitment to nurture themselves, through windsurfing, is a radical departure from convention. can go to work, do aerobics, go home and make the dinner. Whereas, windsurfing is so totally different, it gets you out, you spend the whole day doing it... (Grace).

This paper is based upon a small study of thirty women windsurfers. Their stories are not necessarily representative of all women, or even of all windsurfing women. Other than being recreational women windsurfers currently living in Britain, there were no criteria used to select those interviewed. The interviewees included women with a range of experiences and perspectives. The longest any had been windsurfing was twelve years, and the shortest one day. Skills level varied from complete novice to above the standard needed to be a trainer of instructors. The women lived in various parts of Britain and few knew the interviewer prior to participation in the study. [When interviewees are referred to in this paper, pseudonyms are used to preserve anonymity]

Being an enthusiastic windsurfer myself helped access to these women, as it did for Belinda Wheaton, a windsurfing woman researching the almost exclusively male 'elite' of windsurfers. However, unlike her, I do not have the skills or confident attitudes necessary to join this sub-culture, which she descibes as becoming 'one of the lads' (Wheaton, 1995).

Only three of the women I interviewed were highly competent windsurfers. One of these made a similar comment to Belinda's observation.

I think maybe quite a few of us who want to go windsurfing actually enjoy being one of the boys (Pam).

Gaining entry into the male domain of windsurfing, at whatever level, involves entry into an exciting, privileged world which as Linda said ' a way, makes men more exciting'.

The research methodology used was influenced by community education and feminist theory and practice (see for example: Collins, 1990; Comstock, 1982; Crawford et al, 1992; Fay, 1977; Friere, 1972, 1973; Gluck and Patai, 1991; Hall, 1977, 1992; Haug, 1987; Keiffer, 1983/4; Maher, 1987; Parmar 1990; Simon, 1990; Walkerdine, 1990; Ward and Mullender, 1992; Williams, 1989.). It is therefore based on the premise that the participants' experiences provides data and understanding that is potentially empowering .

'Personal narratives of non-dominant social groups... are often particularly effective sources of counterhegemonic insight because they expose the viewpoint embedded in dominant ideology' (Personal Narratives Group, 1987 p7).

The process was developmental and reflexive, with an emphasis on continual reconsideration of ideas and interpretation, influenced both by the data collected and by theoretical writings. Written findings and interpretations were fed back to participants whenever possible, in order to encourage comment and further reflection. Dialogue was sought between those interviewed and the interviewer. Some women were interviewed in groups and these women were encouraged to develop ideas amongst themselves.

Those interviewed windsurf because they enjoy it, not because they see it as a political gesture. Yet, reactions to the discussion and written outcomes involved in the reflective process of this study, have been very positive. Talking about the satisfactions and frustrations they experience as women windsurfers is reported to be very pleasurable and often individually empowering, as they realise perceived incompetence may be, at least partly, due to learnt gender. They report few other opportunities to voice, reflect upon, and discuss their experiences as windsurfing women.

While the overall study was broader, this presentation concentrates on gendered embodiment. Recent analyses of the gendered body reveal 'a patriarchally imposed body movement that physically disables and thus oppresses women' (Costa and Guthrie, 1994: p30). Windsurfing involves physicality, instrumentality and athletic skill, which are generally associated with masculinity rather than femininity (Allison, 1994; Mangan, 1995; Sabo and Runfola, 1980; Theberge, 1981). Women who windsurf therefore provide interesting insights into the lived reality for women who consciously or not, stretch the boundaries of gender.

What this is not about-

surfing the cybernet

top level competitive sport


What this is about-

the feelings of women about their participation in windsurfing and how it affects their perceptions of femininity and empowerment.

Gendered Embodiment

Embodiment is a cultural process by which the physical body becomes a site of culturally ascribed and disputed meanings, experiences and feelings. The body is not simply something we are born with, but something we mould through our everyday living. Womens freedom to shape and enjoy their bodies is strongly affected by cultural concepts of feminine bodies. The hesitant, fearful body movements of women are symptomatic of a wider context in which women's bodies are considered objects to be gazed at (Young, 1979,1980 and McKinnon, 1987). Women are taught to value their bodies through the eyes of others, more than for their own direct active pleasure (Bartky, 1990). This is closely bound up with western constructs of feminine beauty (Bordo, 1990).

I really want to get my muscles into shape and to look fit but my boyfriend said he didn't want me too muscley because then I wouldn't be attractive (Lorraine)

The women interviewed all expressed complex emotions about their bodies, rarely feeling confident about them.

I didn't like wearing wet-suits and that was one thing that made windsurfing more difficult for me. I used to wear long tee-shirts over a wet-suit because I thought my body was horrible (Grace).

Femininity teaches women to be concerned about their appearance in a way that makes it difficult to enjoy the potential of their bodies for themselves.

I hadn't really thought about it before, I just knew I had this odd feeling when I wear a wetsuit. Its very interesting this whole thing about the ambiguity of how we're supposed to look and our self consciousness and our feeling good about our bodies...(Pam).

Currently, feminine bodies within western culture are thin ones.

I found the very few wetsuits designed for women were labelled as extra large for everything bigger than a size 12 (Natalie).

The acquisition of strength, muscularity and athletic skill has little cultural value for women, yet is empowering for men. Men grow up generally having greater opportunities and confidence to occupy space and act forcefully with their bodies (Connell, 1983:27; Bartky, 1990) Interviewees found it difficult to assert themselves on the water, especially in terms of making, and keeping, space for and around themselves, as they choose a good line to sail. They claimed that they frequently felt 'cut up', by other sailors.

Men are happy to take up space...women try to make themselves small and try not to get in other people's way (Lorraine)

Feminine lack of confidence is bound up with women's embodiment (Darlison, 1985; Gill, 1993; MacKinnon, 1987; Shilling, 1993; Young, 1980). Those interviewed had little confidence in their bodies or in their ability to manoeuvre and control windsurfing equipment, on or off the water.

Men just mean a completely different thing when they talk about lack of confidence to what women mean (Vanessa).

Men tended to overestimate their abilities, while women consistently underestimated what they can do. Both interviewees and recent feminist texts suggest this to be because boys and men are encouraged to be daring and push their limits, unlike girls and women ( Crawford et al., 1992).

Men will go for things and women won't. It's the way they're brought up. Men aren't constantly having people warning them not to do things. They're encouraged to do things ( Linda).

We are taught to move in feminine ways as girls. We learn to throw 'like a girl', and run, climb, swing and hit like a girl too (Young, 1980 p137-156). Crucial motions in windsurfing, include lifting the sail in a counterbalanced way, assertively twisting to control the sail once moving, and using the whole body weight and strength to accelerate and control the board plus sail. This contrasts sharply with the movements Iris Marion Young describes women learning as they grow up, quoted here at some length as it so eloquently encapsulates feminine restrictions and barriers for women windsurfers. 'Women often do not perceive themselves as capable of lifting and carrying heavy things, pushing and shoving with significant force, pulling, squeezing, grasping, or twisting with force. When we attempt such tasks, we frequently fail to summon the full possibilities of our muscular co-ordination, poise and bearing. Women tend not to put their whole bodies into engagement in a physical task with the same ease and naturalness as men. For example, in attempting to lift something, women more often than men, fail to plant themselves firmly and make their thighs bear the greatest proportion of the weight. Instead, we tend to concentrate our effort on those parts of the body most immediately connected to the task- the arms and the shoulders- rarely bringing the power of the legs to the task at all. When turning or twisting something, we frequently concentrate effort in the hand and wrist, not bringing to the task the power of the shoulder, which is necessary for efficient performance' (Young, 1980:159)

However, Iris Marion Young goes on to say-

We decide beforehand- usually mistakenly- that the task is beyond us, and thus give it less than our full effort. At such a half hearted level of course, we cannot perform the tasks, become frustrated, and fulfil our own prophecy. When we do release ourselves from this self perpetuating spiral we are surprised at what we can do (Young, 1980: 149).

A female windsurfing instructor said something similar-

Time and time again, the men came along with lots of confident expectations about soon being able to do the fancy tricks they've seen the good sailors do. But the women don't tend to believe that they're ever going to be that good. They start by saying that they will be happy if they can just stand on a board...and they get such a buzz when they can actually do things and get so excited. At the end of the course they are so surprised at what they've achieved, but the men tend to go away frustrated because they can't do more (Vanessa).

Windsurfing Women

The women in this study all reported gaining physical and mental strength and pleasure windsurfing, whatever their standard of competence. Through windsurfing the women increased their feelings of bodily competence and strength, through which they increased their perceptions of themselves as competent beings.

...the exhilaration of windsurfing does make you feel very strong and powerful (Kim).

The first time I started just remember it so clearly, I just thought 'gee whizz'... I was planing, and I was in control, and I could do it...and I just felt so good (Vanessa)

A windsurfer starts planing when they are travelling at sufficient speed to lift their board out of the water. This feels as if the windsurfer is flying across the water rather than travelling through it.

The more women gain confidence in their bodies the more they challenge learnt feminine behaviour. As such behaviour becomes exposed as socially constructed and restrictive women may feel, individually and collectively, more able to resist. when we were at Beadnell Bay- that was really good when that woman was so pleased that we were a group of women out there (Fiona).

If I've got my board on the car roof,...all these kids come up and say 'wow, is that your board miss? In particular, for the girls, I think I'm creating a really good role model because they're so surprised and gobsmacked and it also makes me feel really strong and positive... (Rachael).

The windsurfing women interviewed are challenging the culturally ascribed and gendered meanings imposed on their bodies by others and challenging prevailing patriarchal representation of women's bodies as objects, shifting the focus to women's bodies as active subjects (Hall, 1990).

...but when my mother was here she was asking is there something that happens to women when they get do they get more testosterone...she thought I was becoming more like a man (Wendy).

Participation in windsurfing does not turn women into men, but it does allow the development of socially and culturally constructed characteristics associated with power and masculinity.

There are many advantages for men in maintaining ideas of feminine and masculine bodies.

And I reckon that men just want to be stronger than us. They'll do anything to keep that idea that they are stronger than us because it advantages them. Men feel threatened by images of strong women (Celia).

Windsurfing women, whether or not they realise they are doing it, are challenging socially constructed femininity, and the power associated with windsurfing as masculine, every time they indulge themselves in this exhilarating activity. They provide strong examples of women's capacities for action and fulfilment.

Reactions to this research have been very positive, most importantly to me, especially from windsurfing women. My written work has provoked discussions amongst participants which I see as potentially very empowering at an individual and collective level. I also believe this work throws up fascinating questions about body Politics.


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Biographical note:

Currently senior lecturer, in Social Policy, specialising in Community Work and Women's Studies, University of Plymouth UK. Until very recently lecturer in Community Education at Strathclyde University. Previously a political and community activist and both a paid community worker and mainstream local politician, as well as a town planner at one point in my existence. A keen, but not highly competent, windsurfer who managed to develop her personal, political and academic interests into a rewarding piece of research. Writes about this work, but also enjoys writing about politics, community work and related bits of theory. Recent output outwith work on women and windsurfing/gendered embodiment; on experential lessons related to theories about women and politics, and postmodernism and community education.

Theory as a rewriting:

Reading the anorexic body through a post-colonial lens

Sharon Fuller

Green College, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Cultural critics have seen the woman with anorexia mostly as victim, and passively so, of patriarchal capitalist culture, and anorexia nervosa as contemporary as a contemporary phenomenon occurring in mass-media-dominated Western market society. While women are and have been the victims of negative events and representations in the mass media and elsewhere, this paper argues that self-starvation - although differently configured with changes in historic time and location - can be traced across time and space and that it is also the manifestation of a challenging and subversion of patriarchal structures and the feminine slim ideal.

By considering the anorexic as an angry and resisting subject using her body as a weapon, and reading anorexia in terms of a postcolonial and poststructural feminist approach, I take issue with the accounts that currently dominate the field, arguing instead that anorexia can also be seen as a mime of the upheld ideal, a mocking of the "masters' discourse" of the female body, a particular form of mimesis entailing an active parody of the social disorder of relations between the coloniser and the colonised. This reading is underpinned by the assumption that in contemporary society acts are not confined alone to the reproduction of social structures and dominant orders but are characterised also by social action and resistance, transformation and indeterminacy. I draw on the work of Homi Bhabha to make this argument but with the relationship of mimicry reversed so as to argue that with anorexia it is the colonised subjects who produce "irony, mimicry and repetition" with their iteration of a centred discourse of authority, turning from the ideal in the process. Boldly put, the woman with anorexia emerges as using her body also as a site of resistance to deploy a strategy against a colonising power and knowledge.

The paper, by thinking anorexia and psychotherapy and their intersection, considers what such a reading would mean for theory, cultural criticism and therapeutic practice. By seeing the anorexic as not just a consequence of a dominating male discourse, but also of a resistance to it, an active agency can be recognised, and the social theories that hold to an essential condition in the phenomenon of anorexia are destabilised in the process.

Therapeutic practice is transformed by this shift that disavows easy dualisms because health professionals can more easily conceive of formulating collaborative (and thus decolonising) responses with the knowledges of those with whom they work in a process that is liberating for them as well as they push at the constraints of a medical discourse that speaks them (albeit in a different power relationship) as it does those on the other side of the therapeutic relationship. I consider these arguments alongside empirical research on the practices of health professionals engaged in collaborative approaches informed by the work of Michel Foucault at the Eating Disorders Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada.

The anorectic, starving in the midst of plenty, has become the enigmatic icon of our times, half heroine, half horror. (1)

The confounding image of a skeletal, anorexic figure, coming to know herself as "sharp enough to look after herself" as her ever bonier frame reveals the potentials of her body as weapon(2) is a suggestive one for the position taken in this paper. I consider anorexia in terms contrary to those that dominate the field where, for the most part, the anorexic is seen as a victim, and passively so, of a consumer culture in which male preferences heavily influence expectations of women. I do not seek to deny that women in contemporary culture, and beyond, are subject to dominating discourses, and negative events and representations, but I argue with interpretations that see women as passively accepting situations of inequality, and unresistingly taking on roles assigned them. I argue that anorexia is a strategy - although defying easy universal narration - which challenges, subverts and transgresses, spurning patriarchal structures and the feminine slim ideal even as it hints at collaboration with these privileged forms. Recognising the anorexic as also a resisting and transgressing subject contesting her more general lack of control and - drawing on the work of Gayatri Spivak - as seeking a strategy that opposes a situation in which the anorexic as a person is left no position from which to speak, I consider anorexia to be a miming, turned mockery, of the upheld ideal. Many women diagnosed as anorexic feel they have been made invisible through the relations of power in which they are located. By adopting the strategy they do, their seeming act of disappearance ironically comes back writ large to haunt those implicated in the discourses of domination. Thus, re-reading anorexia in terms of a postcolonial and poststructural feminist approach, it can be examined as a mocking of the "masters' discourse" of the female body, and can be viewed as a particular form of mimesis that confronts the social disorder of the particular power/knowledge relations between the coloniser and the colonised.

As is the case with any risky strategy or action, the anorexic subject may not fully internalise the possible deadly consequences and her motivations, like those of most subjects, may be ambivalent in their configurations and complex in their origins.

To make this argument I draw on the work of Homi Bhabha, recognising that in this context it could be that, like other colonial subjects mouthing the discourse of post-Enlightenment English colonialism, it is the anorexic who is speaking with a tongue that is forked (Bhabha, 1994:85). I take his analysis not merely to reproduce this argument in a different discourse or context but rather take the spirit of his argument and think it elsewhere: with anorexia it is the colonised rather than colonising subjects who produce "irony, mimicry and repetition" with their iteration of a centred discourse of authority, turning from the ideal in the process.

Bhabha argues that mimicry mocks the power of the monument to be a model with profound and disturbing effect on, and for, the authority of colonial discourse. This mode of colonial discourse - which he calls mimicry and in which he argues colonialism repeatedly exercises its authority through figures of farce, producing in the process a text rich in irony - is an ironic compromise, a sign of double articulation and a complex strategy which appropriates the Other as it visualises power, but is also a mark of the inappropriate. And it is this difference, almost the same but not quite, that poses a threat to normalised knowledges and disciplinary powers and the continually reiterated norm (Ibid: 86).

The discourse of mimicry then, which Bhabha sees as "at once resemblance and menace" is constructed around an ambivalence so that in order to be effective it "must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference." Using this approach based on an ambivalence in what is always in place and already known but also something which must be anxiously repeated, the anorexic subject can be seen as not merely engaged in an attempt to be a copy of the dominant culture's ideal through the reiteration of the upheld slim norm continually portrayed in the media but as engaged in an act that transforms what it resembles, a reiteration both similar and dissimilar that destabilises, in turn calling into question systemic closure and a system's pretension to be self-grounding (see Butler, 1993:45). In Bhabha's conception: a difference that is almost the same, but not quite; indeed not the slim ideal, not quite. Bhabha's analysis teaches that the colonial discourse's rendition of stereotypes is also its moment of fear and anxiety, its authority coming under severe stress as the mimicry of the colonised image it creates turns to mockery.

The same ridiculing by supposed imitation is in evidence in what is continually demanded of the anorexic by the health discourse which measures, monitors and disciplines, a ridiculing which appears to challenge the adequacy of the discourse and its professionals in dealing with the disorder of anorexia nervosa. For example, under the surveillance of the health professional, anorexics in treatment seem to repeat the inner disciplining, measuring and surveying generally associated with modernity, and specifically psychiatry, but often with scornful deliberation, as for example when they painstakingly measure themselves or count their calories. Thus, these imitations of the letter but not of the spirit, this "female obedience," appear to be a further reiteration that leads away from, rather than to, normalisation and the "ideal." Ironically, these actions then continue to call for normalising interventions by health professionals, whose desperate re-iteration, as if from a Charlie Chaplin movie with its critique of modern times, appears as a mockery.

As Gyan Prakash argues, power exists in a form of relationality in which the dominance of one is never complete.(3)

Adopting this post-colonial and post-structural approach has advantages and consequences. Firstly, by incorporating the ambivalences and indeterminacies associated with these positions with a disavowal of dualistic, essentialist thinking, this approach allows for a fluidity between and deconstruction of categories that counters an absolutism, so that the anorexic is no longer seen merely as victim but, along a continuum, as transgressor and resister as well. It is this theoretical attitude that provides a route to a more complex reformulation of anorexia and enables one to get away from the stark alternatives generally offered in the various literatures on anorexia that see women with anorexia positioned within a world of bald oppositions, leading to theorising and therapeutic practices that straightjacket anorexics and offer unproductive dualisms, an irony given that the dangers of dualistic thinking are recognised elsewhere in much of feminist theories. Secondly, it works against the Western and contemporary bias evident in the essentialist accounts of the phenomenon that dominate and have proliferated in recent years where a fat phobia and focus on consumer society lead to a failure to recognise that anorexia can be traced across time and space and is differently configured with changes in history and geography. This bias - which occurs in much of the theory and cultural criticism on anorexia, where the focus is on fat phobia as a central feature of anorexia - is, not surprisingly, in evidence, too, within the discipline of psychiatry. In the manual central to both its status and its practices, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1987:65), the discipline defines what it seems as the condition of anorexia nervosa as having the essential features of:

# A distorted body image and disturbance in the way in which one's body weight, size or shape is experienced. For example, the person claims to "feel fat" even when emaciated and believes that one area of the body is "too fat" even when obviously underweight;

# Refusal to maintain body weight over a minimal normal weight for age and height;

# Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight;

# In females, absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles when otherwise expected to occur.

These essentialist emphases occurring in, and dominating, the fields of social theory, cultural criticism and the psychotherapeutic profession exacerbate the neglect of the phenomenon's contradictory and multifarious aspects, pushing practitioners to a less, rather than more, complex position and producing interpretations that ironically might result in disempowering girls and women further than may already be the case arising from the sexist images that surround them. However, this can be worked against if anorexia is thought of in the contradictory terms in which it manifests itself, beyond the dualist and essentialist categorisations by which the anorexic either rejects her body with its appetites by transcending it, or rejects herself when falling prey to its desires.

Interpreting anorexia through the act of mime turned to mockery, where there is the appearance of a reiteration of the gestures of the dominant but at the same time "its slippage, its excess, its difference" (Bhabha, 1984:86 ) is being produced, allows one to do just this. It facilitates an argument of agency and resistance while at the same time calling into question the wider system in which the anorexic, the theorist and the therapist are located, destabilising patriarchal culture, the categorisations and norms of the medical profession, and orthodox philosophy and essentialist and dualistic social theory. It is this releasing of the category of anorexic from a fixity that allows the thinking of agency for which this paper argues.(4)

The re-reading presented here is underpinned by the assumptions, firstly, and following Alain Touraine, that in contemporary society acts are not confined to the reproduction of social structures but are characterised also by social action and resistance, transformation, and indeterminacy, and secondly, that the body is constructed by the moral, medical and scientific knowledges of the time coded such that even medical perceptions of the body are based upon readings of its signs rather than a knowledge of its essence.(5) Thus, it is informed by Foucault's critique of the rule of modernity. The body is seen as a changing product of culture with cultural practices inscribed upon it, with its sexuality as a construction rather than an essence, based on an active agency that follows from the position that while subjects may be constituted, they are not determined; on the contrary, the constituted nature of the subject is the very precondition for its agency.(6) Further, following Chantal Mouffe, social agents are constituted by an ensemble of subject positions that can never be completely fixed in a closed system of differences, and are constructed by a diversity of discourses among which there is no necessary relation, but a constant movement of overdetermination and displacement.(7) These positions work against an essentialising, colonising discourse in the desire for a reformed Other, giving an underpinning to the argument that places the focus on anorexia as an act rather than as a condition, with the anorexic emerging as exhibiting critical agency against an oppressive power and knowledge, not merely as one passively reiterating the norm, but as making a choice to use her body as a site of resistance.

There is resonance here with an argument Maud Ellmann makes in The Hunger Artists, where she says that "self-starvation is above all a performance" and one that implicates its audience. Drawing an analogy with Hamlet's mousetrap, she argues that self-starvation is staged to trick the conscience of its viewers, forcing them to recognise their implication in the spectacle they see (Ellmann, 1993:17). This position that self-starvation is a performance that implicates others is suggestive, too, of the argument that anorexia is an act of mime turned mockery, mirroring back to the community in which the anorexic is located the oppressiveness of its social relations.

A critique, reformulation and argument for active agency

To consider the implications of this alternative reading for theory and therapeutic practice, it is useful first to survey the dominant narratives about anorexia in these fields. In the accounts that portray anorexics as having little agency and drawing passively into themselves the messages and negative representations that surround them - in both the language used to talk about self-starvation and the assumptions that underpin these narratives - anorexics are seen as facing contradictory but polarised options. On the one hand, they are conceived of as dissociated from their alien bodies, yet on the other, haunted by their appetites. What research has been done on what the health profession sees as a "difficult" research community indicates women diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa have often been sexually abused and are thus the victims of the appetites of others, rather than of their own. Like hysteria, which has also been seen as an option women have taken to voice opposition to their situations, only one in 10 of those diagnosed with anorexia are male, thus bringing into focus the gendered nature of the phenomenon and its analysis, and strengthening the appropriateness of the use of a post-colonial approach to it. Their youth indicates a further disadvantage in regard to power. The onset of anorexia occurs often at about the age of 15 and it is most commonly developed by the age of 25 (Turner, 1984:183).

Anorexics are often described as passively internalising the taunting missives of lack as they construct taut and sparse bodies either to approximate the male form which, through history, has been put forward as that of the perfected sex, or to conform to that which is put forward by patriarchal consumer culture as the feminine ideal. So much so, indeed, that they are seen to exhibit a fear of going out of control by becoming fat and ruining their chances for love and career, because being thin in contemporary society is equated with being successful, competent and loveable. Food is seen as a source of anxiety for millions of women, simultaneously an object of dread and intense desire, and women as engaged in an ongoing battle with it: craving it, fearing it and letting it control their lives. The battle between abstinence and indulgence is waged on a daily basis, and this interpretation is contrasted with former fears around the erstwhile "forbidden fruit" - sex. Therapists such as Rosalyn Meadow and Lillie Weiss argue that this battle is similar to the time when sexual fantasies fuelled the imagination and women became obsessed with having sexual intercourse. The agony and the ecstasy of succumbing to the passions of the flesh were ever-present in women's imaginations. Sex was at once the ultimate danger and the ultimate delight, creating a continuous struggle between experiencing sexual pleasure and risking their future. The paradox for those women was that to be loved by a man, they had to deny themselves the most basic way of experiencing love: they had to deprive themselves of their natural, instinctual sexual appetites. Meadow and Weiss argue that this constant repression of normal bodily drives resulted in a variety of sexual disorders in women, including the inability to achieve orgasm and a complete lack of sexual desire. Ironically, Meadow and Weiss, like the medical professions, focus on the role of food, arguing for a similarity between contemporary eating problems and the sexual conflicts of past decades, with women still repressing their basic needs - whether oral or sexual - in order to be loved (Meadow and Weiss, 1992:x). Recounting a narrative that appears as very disempowering for women, they say that in their therapy practices they are witnessing the new "Good Girls Don't" phenomenon revolving around eating and dieting - a shift in women's central preoccupation from sex to food. Susan Bordo, whose work in the discipline of philosophy is well established in the field of anorexia, also gives a significant role to food. She argues that anorexia, which often manifests itself after an episode of sexual abuse or humiliation, can be seen at least in part as a defence against the "femaleness" of the body and a punishment of its desires, which have, in her view, frequently been culturally represented through the metaphor of female appetite. The extremes to which the anorexic takes the denial of appetite (that is, to the point of self-starvation) suggest to theorists such as Bordo the dualistic nature of her construction of reality: either she transcends body totally, becoming pure "male" will, or she capitulates utterly to the degraded female body and its disgusting hungers. If fat in contemporary society is the sign of failure to control the bodily appetites so important for the privileging of reason over emotion and mind over body, it is a burden that weighs more heavily on women, as did the burden of repressing sexual appetites in Victorian times.

Cultural critics outside of the academy generally tell a similar story. Shari Graydon, the national president of Media Watch, the Canadian organisation that polices demeaning images of women in the media, robs anorexics of agency when she describes anorexia as a "monster" out to "destroy" teenage girls; "to kill them before they reach adulthood." Located as cultural critic of the media, a task associated with empowering women by countering the dominant discourse around them, Graydon, however, argues that this monster is insidious and operates "with the tacit support of corporate America and the girls' family and friends." (Shari Graydon, Vancouver Sun, 1995) For her, young women are without agency as the monster of anorexia, described as speaking in a million voices and, seemingly in the fashion of aliens in popular science fiction, worms its way into their heads, infecting their minds and turning them against their bodies. Meadow and Weiss argue likewise by attributing enormous power to the media and little to anorexics when they see food advertisements in print and on television as tantalising women and fuelling their consuming passions for forbidden foods, as romance magazines, novels and movies did previously in serving to keep the obsession with sex alive in women's imaginations (Meadow and Weiss 1992:6).

Women diagnosed as anorexic, however, give a very different view. One, in response to an open letter by a therapist in which he constructed a woman he was working with as being in the deadly hold of anorexia which was external to her, argued in a letter to him:

I also find this all so demeaning and patronizing. By separating anorexia and depression away from Sheri it seems to me that you are taking away any of her own responsibility and putting her squarely into the victim role. Obviously Sheri is not to blame for the horrible circumstances that have transpired in her life, but she has made choices - one of them being anorexia.

Exhibiting the Western bias discussed earlier, Meadow and Weiss claim that in the 1950s conflict over whether to eat was non-existent, eating disorders were rare and bulimia almost unheard of. Other accounts, in stark contrast, argue that self-starvation stretches back centuries, and was, for example, practised by saints (see Rudolph Bell, 1985), or take issue with studies giving primacy to fat phobia as an explanation for diminished food intake, showing that extreme forms of self-starvation can be traced across place as well (see Sing Lee, 1995).

Even on the occasions when an agency is recognised, as in portrayals of the rituals and practices of the anorexic as areas in which she exhibits control over her body, these actions are considered as being so compulsively driven as to severely problematise any conception of agency. Indeed, the practices and rituals are conceived of as controlling the anorexic who repeatedly performs them. For Bordo this type of desire for control over the body demonstrated by the anorexic has strange echoes with that of female body-builders, since both place the same emphasis on will, purity and perfection and conceptualise the body not as weapon, symbolic or otherwise, but as alien. Hilda Bruch takes this interpretation a step further when she reports that anorexics speak of having a ghost inside or surrounding them that dictates and dominates. Paul Garfinkel and Allan Kaplan depict the pursuit of a thin body as an isolated area of control in a world in which the anorexic feels ineffective, with dieting providing an artificially dangerous sense of mastery and control. Indeed, it appears as another area in which social theorists and therapists can agree on the anorexic. Obsessional, compulsive: The verdict offered by the medical profession is repeated by the social theorists and cultural critics.

The formulations within all three fields of the choices faced by the woman with anorexia tend to be extreme, and the positions in which she is located polarised and static. In what appears a move of transference and projection, the anorexic is conceived of as unable to see a middle ground (Bordo, 1993:8) and, thus interpreted, anorexia is examined with a determinacy that can blind theorists in much the same way as it does therapists to the transformative aspects that come with the dangers of the phenomenon, as well as to the potentials for collaboration either in research or therapeutic practice. Indeed, if these more limited readings of anorexia flow in good part from an approach in which, following the profession of psychiatry that it sets out to critique, anorexia is interpreted as a condition (in this case of society), there can be little room for notions of agency and resistance, and action thus assumes little significance in the accounts.

Nasty Girls; Dirty Theory?

If an alternative interpretation of social action and active agency is adopted, with anorexics conceived of more as "nasty" than "good" girls (and here I make an articulation with the suggestions made in the movie Nasty Girl); using their bodies in an active strategy to take control and become "sharp enough" to look after themselves, what narratives are needed to sustain the argument, and in which archives should these be sought? What, then, are the consequences of such a course?

Theory, it seems, could change in this way. Seeing the anorexic as not just a consequence of a dominating and controlling male discourse, but also of a resistance to it, enables the recognition of an active agency not only in the specific context but more generally within social life. The anorexic then becomes not merely a victim of patriarchal culture but a resister of it as well, and the social theories that want to hold to an essential condition and dualistic thinking while examining the phenomenon they are studying are destabilised in the process.

Secondly, research attitudes could change as the archives from which the theorist seeks accounts begin to include more narratives from local knowledges provided by women who have experienced anorexia and its "treatment" - the type of archive referred to by a former anorexic as "the real research of lived experience." It is a source of local knowledge, to follow Foucault, to which members of the psychotherapeutic community are increasingly looking as traditional methods appear inadequate for the task, with one attempt at this being the Eating Disorders Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, another with the formation of the Anti-Anorexia, Anti-Bulimia League. Accounts from this archive of local knowledges compiled by women diagnosed as anorexics suggest bodies not so alienated or captured as to act not also as resisters and transgressors - as agents engaged in active choice.

What Ian Hacking argues in connection with multiple personality disorder could be argued in this context as well - that a woman makes an implicit choice that fits in with her cultural milieu. Hacking maintains that at any time, people suffering severe psychological distress that is not organic or biological "choose" from socially available modes (Hacking: 1994:73), an argument reinforced by the narratives of anorexics, which are, in great part, strikingly different from those in the fields that analyse the anorexic.

Local knowledges of women who have experienced anorexia or bulimia - a phenomenon that often accompanies anorexia and is closely associated with it - show that they do not generally see anorexia as an issue of food. Evelyn Lau, a former bulimic, describes eating disorders as an issue of control, not food, recognising the body as a site of contestation and that control over her body was the one thing that could not be taken away from her. In her account she describes the feelings of control and pleasure that purging herself of food gave her, and how purging was a displacement not only of all the food she had eaten, but her entire past (Lau, 1995:13). Yvonne Roberts makes similar arguments, saying that anorexia is not a slimmers' disease but a means of gaining control in one highly visible area when on every other issue the anorexic appears powerless (Roberts, 1995:4). Sheila MacLeod describes her body as her weapon in her bid for autonomy and likens her actions as an anorexic to the withdrawal of labour, or strike action, the only weapon available to the labourer. In an argument that coincides with Hacking's, MacLeod describes how she chose a form of passive resistance.

Just as the worker's ultimate weapon in his negotiation with management is his labour and the threat of its withdrawal, so my body was my ultimate and, to me, only, weapon in my bid for autonomy. It was the only thing I owned, the only thing which could not be taken away from me. My motivations were not as clear-cut as those of any contemporary workforce, but there is no doubt in my mind that I was going on strike in the only way I knew how to, and that in this sense Szasz8 is right to describe anorexia nervosa as a political problem. (MacLeod, 1981:66)

At the level of "therapy" health professionals can more easily conceive of formulating collaborative responses if those with whom they are working are seen as active agents with whom they can collaborate, and if they can conceive of local and universal knowledges as being mutually informed - positions that have not been the tradition within the discipline. At its most basic, the practice of psychiatry has traditionally involved working to identify and treat a "problem" - the "patient" has the problem and the psychiatrist the authority to give the "problem" a name with a view to treating it while acting on the usually passive "patient." Thus, confronted with the problem anorexic body, most often "resistant" to treatment and frequently scornful of practitioners and their ability, the therapist stares professional, intellectual and emotional lack in the face. Feeling unable to resort to the particular reason, as legitimised and made common by their particular scientific community, implicated as it is in the post-Enlightenment modernist paradigm, health professionals have little to equip them for the challenge posed by the persistently wasting form in the attempt to restore it to that which is deemed normal. Thus is glimpsed the "insanity" of a modernist reason that pushes towards normalisation, and the complicity of medical science in the production of the dominant discourse that oppresses. This phenomenon which, like other forms of mental illness and insanity, is seen as a disorder, contradicts the idea of the separate and rationally sane individual. It points not merely to a lack of reason but also to the flaw of thinking the mind/body as a dualism, especially given the complexity of the disciplining process that acts on both body and consciousness and the body and its environment with this disorder. Indeed, we should question our very conception of the body which in the modern epoch (something thinkers such as Foucault have sketched out in their critiques) exists in reified terms; as a thing, an object for the medical gaze, an object similar to those objects that surround them.

In this regard Linda Nicolson argues:

The growing dominance of a materialist metaphysics also meant an increasing tendency to understand the "nature" of things in terms of the specific configurations of matter they embodied. The import of this for emerging views of self-identity was a growing tendency to understand the "nature" of human selves in terms of the specific configurations of matter that they embodied. Thus the material or physical features of the body increasingly took on the role of providing testimony to the "nature" of the self it housed.(9)

The conceptualisation of the Christian body offers a useful contrast to the modernist one. There is not just the body of matter - the function which Christ in his material form performs - but also the symbolic form that the father, which is language, the word, performs, and then there is the holy ghost, the fluid which makes the transition from the one to the other possible.

The moments of indigestion

Medical and psychological factors coexist, with eating-disordered patients increasingly admitted not to the strictly medical but to psychiatric units,(10) which nevertheless generally appear inadequate for the switch, especially in the face of the consequences should they fail to put a stop to the wasting of the anorexic body. Indeed, the failure to treat anorexics with success leads Walter Vandereycken to speak of anorexia curing therapists "of omnipotence fantasies" (Vandereycken, 1993:16). In the face of anorexia, the "impossible profession" (Malcolm, 1982) seems even more so. Even the research sources usually available are largely absent as women with anorexia nervosa are seen as "difficult" for researchers as well as practitioners,(11) pointing to the inadequacy of the view of the various knowledges as neatly segregated.

The therapeutic profession's riposte in the face of this challenge has been at least two-fold, with practitioners either co-constructing the problem with what they commonly call clients rather than patients, or, ironically, being as resistant as they claim the anorexic to be, steadfastly denying or minimising the severity of the challenge to the traditional roles they have played and the knowledges they have championed. If the anorexic body is scripted around issues of control, contempt, and competence, and the medical discourse, and psychiatry in particular, is the disciplinary field most implicated in the naming of the "normal," conferring competent status while granting control of bodies, the legitimacy of the order of knowledge produced by the medical profession and the accompanying role of the therapist as expert are most in jeopardy of being eroded by the condition named as anorexia, at a time when legitimacy across the social sciences is also being challenged at the theoretical level by feminist, post-colonial and other post-structural theories.

Of those who do reflect on their relationships, health professionals working with anorexics talk often about experiencing a deep sense of inadequacy and failure in their relationships with anorexics as well as slippage between what is required for the "treatment" and what is proffered by the practitioner, undermining the practitioner and traditional professional practice. The anorexic thus calls into question the profession's scientific authority and, indeed, scientific authority itself as being self-contained in its ability to provide answers. This shortfall is something recognised by both practitioner and anorexic alike, as the description of an anorexic indicates when she relates how, in sessions with her therapist, she moves at a faster pace than the therapist:

Every time I think I'm getting a little bit ahead of you I draw back. I hesitate. I start to stutter. (Chernin, 1985: 4)

As the quotation illustrates, "patients" can feel that they have a greater knowledge than the therapist and thus must lead them slowly to the "problem," but while they do this they do not lose sight of the inherent power relationship since psychiatry was installed as the competent discipline in this area.. Thus the "stutter" of the woman quoted.

A growing number of health professionals seem, indeed, to be attempting a casting aside of the "omnipotence fantasies" that have characterised the profession. Through the use of what has become known as narrative ideas and practices - informed by feminist post-structural theory, especially the work of Foucault, and reformulated by Michael White in Australia and David Epston, in Auckland, New Zealand - therapists are attempting a transformation of their "therapeutic" relationships. Those practitioners engaged with this project, with what they call their clients, see themselves as collaborators. Groups of health professionals within the profession see themselves as having moved towards what can be seen as a collaborative rescripting of the therapeutic relationship, drawing in and on the knowledges of those on whom they previously acted, which is in line with the theoretical shift conceiving of active agency on the part of anorexics argued for in this paper. Health professionals are even departing from the "talking cure" with its catharsis, where for the great part the "patient" talked while the therapist uncovered the "problem." The diagnosis came from the authoritative source, as did the treatment, although the "talking cure" could make up part of that treatment. Its practitioners describe narrative ideas and practices as differentiated from earlier forms of practice by the language used and the collaboration engaged in with clients, which often grows into joint projects where the expertise and knowledge of those being "treated" is valued, such as the creation of archives of their knowledges alongside those of the health professionals.

Health professionals engaged in collaborative approaches with anorexics suggest that it is for them a far preferable option to the traditional but inadequate response of categorising and dispensing. It is a process that health professionals see as liberating for themselves as well as they push at the constraints of a medical discourse that speaks them (albeit in a different power relationship) as it does those on the other side of the therapeutic relationship. The colonial relationship speaks both parties to it.

This attempt at collaboration with the knowledges of those who are anorexic, what in Foucault's terms would be local knowledges, is far from being welcomed across the board. Many in the profession recognise its threat to the normalising and normalised knowledges of the disciplinary powers of psychiatry, in the way Bhabha sees this happening with colonialism, leading in turn to a questioning of the legitimacy of the order of knowledge produced by the profession and the accompanying role of the psychotherapist as expert. However, whatever the approach adopted, the challenge to the profession comes from the phenomenon itself. Indeed, the anorexics' "resistance to treatment" gives an urgency to the project for a transformation of therapeutic practice.

A Therapeutic Alliance?

The psychiatrists and other health professionals associated with the Eating Disorders Clinic directed by Elliot Goldner in the department of psychiatry at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver are involved in what could be considered as perhaps such a transformative move. Goldner, and others interviewed for this project, believe that a strong therapeutic alliance between the anorexic and health personnel is important in the "treatment" of anorexia nervosa, and are developing an approach, often associated with narrative therapy, or, to use the preferred description, narrative ideas and practices, the main developers of which are Epston and White.

In what is seen as Foucauldian fashion, narrative "therapy" works against the more common practice that tends to devalue the language, expertise and knowledge of those being treated and acts in favour of the therapist's view of things. The approach, its practitioners claim, aims at collaboration, and one of its key methods is to externalise the "problem," a process which sets the "disorder" apart from those that are in therapy. This they see as helping therapists build alliances, even with "difficult" clients, to use the preferred term of reference (clients) for those who consult them. This method of externalising the "problem," however, is not seen to be without its difficulties. Some anorexics caution that by separating the "problem" of anorexia from those seeking therapy, therapists using this method can act to take away agency from those with whom they wish to form an alliance, and place anorexics more firmly in the role of victim.

Practitioners say that with narrative "therapy," the collaboration begins with the naming; therapist and client together coming up with a mutually acceptable explanation for the problem. They attempt together to create a context for re-authoring and they co-construct the terms and language of the "therapy," the therapist placing a value on the contributions of the client. Therapists, for example, collect an "archive" of audiotapes, letters and artwork contributed by former clients. In addition, former clients are frequently used as consultants, being regarded by the therapists as experts on the "problems" they have overcome. Clients once viewed as the passive recipients of the legitimated knowledges of therapists are now participating on "therapy" teams, offering their own knowledge and often contributing to journal articles.

These practices extend beyond the clinic. An example of this is the formation of an anti-anorexia and bulimia league in Vancouver that brings therapist and client together to fashion a rethinking of anorexia. Stephen Madigan, a narrative "therapy" practitioner and former consultant at the Eating Disorders Clinic, was influential in the establishment of the league and sees the project in Foucauldian terms. For Madigan, Foucault positioned himself to deconstruct the dominant, culturally constructed discourses of social control and that which is viewed as normal or abnormal by the individuals of a society. He sees Foucault's influence in his opposition to the practice of systematising and universalising the political and scientific discourses that act to turn people into things and subjects into objects, and he and colleagues inside and outside of St. Paul's as working against practices such as these, making a connection between what happens to them and what happens to their clients. For example, a psychiatrist visiting Canada and St. Paul's, also a practitioner of narrative ideas and practices, reported that he could see himself as being spoken as an object by the professional discourse as much as he saw the psychiatric discourse speaking clients as objects. He spoke of himself as feeling like a rapist when confronted by the anorexic

To speak the traditional institutional discourse would be to continue to exercise control over bodies, the same control to which those who have come to them for support have been subject, indeed, an exercising of control that may well have been responsible for their condition. These health professionals who engage with narrative ideas and practices can be seen to think with Luce Irigaray: ... by submitting women's bodies to a general equivalent, to a transcendent, supernatural value, men have drawn the social structure into an ever greater process of abstraction, to the point where they themselves are produced in it as pure concepts: having surmounted all their "perceptible" qualities and individual differences, they are finally reduced to the average productivity of their labor. (Irigaray, :190)

They speak, along with Irigaray, of ways of pushing for a rethinking of the profession from within, interpreting the way the male imaginary has reduced many to silence, to muteness or mimicry, and from that starting point and at the same time, attempting "to (re)discover a possible space ..."

Further collaboration, not necessarily under the sign of narrative ideas and practices, takes the form of an "anti-treatment" stance adopted by the psychiatrists and other health professionals working at the clinic, a stance that is seen as paradoxical with regard to therapy since the disorder is defiant and control is a key issue. An alternative vision and lifestyle is co-authored and talk of anorexia is absent. What is seen as the paradox of women wanting to live but not wanting to eat, always resistant to control and with treatments plagued by significant rates of failure, is matched by a therapy that rejects the therapist as controlling agent in favour of collaboration. To this end, a group was established in October, 1994 that includes women diagnosed as chronically ill with anorexia. This approach can frustrate therapists trained for, and by inclination predisposed to, taking a role very different to the way in which it is conceived here, indeed, that of rescuer, but in the face of "resistant" anorexics and an enterprise often destined for failure if a controlling stance is adopted, this alternative proves less frustrating and often more successful. Instead of the despair and sense of inadequacy on the part of psychiatrists that can follow therapy with "difficult" patients, therapists following these sessions recount feelings and attitudes of satisfaction emanating from the group interaction with its local collaboration rather than exclusive reliance on the global knowledges that dominate the field of psychiatry. The usually delegitimised knowledges of the anorexic women with whom they have formed a therapeutic alliance are enthusiastically embraced in the therapeutic relationship, with comments like, "It was all her, I didn't do anything;" "She was taking the role of therapist; passing on that which had been helpful to her."

How are we best to understand these changes, given Foucault's understanding of power and knowledge where, for him, subjugated knowledges are distinct from any general common sense, and their particular, local or regional aspects are stressed; and where he juxtaposes this discontinuous knowledge against the unitary body of theory that would stratify, discipline and order such knowledges in the name of "science?" It matters not for Foucault whether it is embodied in an institution such as psychoanalysis or a political system such as Marxism - what is important are the effects of the power of the discourse considered to be scientific. He asks:

What types of knowledge do you want to disqualify in the very instant of your demand: `Is it a science?' Which speaking, discoursing subjects - which subjects of experience and knowledge - do you then want to `diminish' when you say: `I who conduct this discourse am conducting a scientific discourse, and I am a scientist?' Which theoretical-political avant garde do you want to enthrone in order to isolate it from all the discontinuous forms of knowledge that circulate about it?(12)

Given the attention Foucault paid to what he terms subjugated knowledges - referring to the two aspects of historical contents that have been buried and the set of knowledges disqualified as inadequate or insufficiently elaborated, with people excluded from the hierarchy of knowledges and sciences - can these attempts at changes be seen as a consideration of local knowledges by the "centre?" Foucault, after all, gave as an example of a disqualified local knowledge the knowledge of the psychiatric patient (Foucault, 1980:82). Further, he pointed out the subjugated knowledges which the hegemonic and unitary dominant discourses block out, warning that should these delegitimised knowledges - what he refers to as fragments of genealogies - be taken up, accredited, and put into circulation:

... they run the risk of re-codification, re-colonisation ... In fact, those unitary discourses, which first disqualified and then ignored them when they made their appearance, are, it seems, quite ready now to annex them, to take them back within the fold of their own discourse and to invest them with everything this implies in terms of their effects of knowledge and power. (Ibid: 86)

With this view in mind is it possible, then, for the "centre" to collaborate with the "margins?" Also, thinking with Foucault in regard to his work on the confessional (Foucault, 1980:59-64), the agency of domination can, of course, reside in the person who listens and says nothing. Should then the work at St. Paul's be seen as a further move to control, rather than to collaborate? Indeed, how should the wider practice of narrative ideas and practices be viewed, especially given its Foucauldian inspiration?

Perhaps if one thinks with Foucault in an "anti-science" mode - that is against any theory or set of ideas that would wish to stratify and discipline, rather in the mode of incorporating that which is ambiguous and not immediately coherent - it is possible both to consider anorexia as a resistance to domination and colonisation while it seems to collaborate, and to see "margins" brought to the "centre" in those institutions from which they have been excluded, without it being a mere recolonisation, for these different ways of knowing would destabilise that disciplinary power that had previously set out to normalise knowledge.

Irigaray, asked whether, by working within her chosen framework, her intention was to produce a type of listening that would not invoke the name of analysis, in other words, would destroy the analytic procedure, replied: I am trying rather to analyse one of its modes of operation, and from that starting point to modify its practice (Irigaray, 1985:146).

This paper thinks with Irigaray; both in response to the specific instance and more generally. The thinking is "both and," but not quite. As the argument was made for an active agency on the part of anorexics on the basis that while subjects may be constituted, they are not determined - indeed, that the constituted nature of the subject is the very precondition for its agency - so, too, is the agency argument made for health professionals who may wish to transform the discourse within which they are located, an activity which has precedent in the anti-psychiatry movement in which psychiatrists play key roles. An attitude which sees any engagement or collaboration between a privileged and a subjugated knowledge as always necessarily an act of colonisation, straightjackets all agents attempting change while calling into question all acts of the powerful, at whatever level. Foucault should not surely be seen as a mere coloniser of prisoners' knowledge, for example, or other such groups with which he worked, nor should the move towards collaboration of narrative ideas and practices be prejudged. Indeed, to see all occurrences of engagement as being necessarily acts of colonisation, whether as professor with students or medical practitioner with clients, would be at one level anti-Foucauldian, moving to unify and systematise rather than to dig into local instances of alliance and leading to that which Vandereycken believes therapists have been cured of by anorexia - "omnipotence fantasies" about the power of a theory.


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This paper also drew on conversations, research and interviews since October 1994 with the health professionals working directly for, or associated with, the Eating Disorders Clinic at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. Elliot Goldner gave much of his time to discussion and Stephen Madigan, too, gave of his time and allowed me to sit in on seminars conducted at Yaletown Family Therapy, as did women diagnosed with anorexia participating in group therapy and associated with the Anti-Anorexia, Anti-Bulimia League in Vancouver.

I also thank Rebecca Fraser, John Fuller, Derek Gregory, Lorraine Grieves, Kevin Haggerty, Chris McCutcheon and Lorraine Weir for their comments in discussion or on earlier drafts of this paper.


1 Maud Ellmann, The Hunger Artists (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993) p. 2.

2 An illustration entitled "What happens when an angry young woman discovers her bones" appeared in an alternative arts magazine, Discorder, published in Vancouver ( March 1995, p. 28). It portrayed a woman losing significant weight as the potentials of her bony body as weapon dawned upon her. Among the captions: "Terms such as knee to the groin took on a whole new meaning" and "She knew she was sharp enough to look after herself."

3 Gyan Prakash, "Postcolonial criticism and Indian historiography," Social Modernism: Beyond Identity Politics. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) p. 93.

4 Judith Butler makes similar arguments in "Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of `Postmodernism'," Feminists Theorize the Political p. 16. Butler argues that, "Paradoxically, it may be that only through releasing the category of women from a fixed referent that something like `agency' becomes possible."

5 Gayatri Spivak makes arguments of this kind in Lukas Barr, "An interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak," BLAST nuLTD (Summer 1989), p. 12.

6 See Butler, "Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of `Postmodernism'," Feminists Theorize the Political p. 12.

7 Chantal Mouffe gives this position in "Feminism, citizenship, and radical democratic politics"in Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.318.

8 MacLeod is referring here to Thomas Szasz, the author of such books as The Myth of Psychotherapy.

9 Linda Nicholson, "Interpreting Gender" in Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) p.44.

10 As described by Robin Sesan, "Feminist Inpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders: An Oxymoron?" Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders p. 253.

11 For a discussion of this see Nancy C. Raymond, James E. Mitchell, Patricia Fallon and Melanie A. Katzman, "A Collaborative Approach to the Use of Medication," in Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, 1994 p. 232.

12 Ibid 85.

Abnormal eating attitudes in an urban setting: evidence of the Homogenisation of a multi-ethnic society?

Christopher Paul Szabo

Department of Psychiatry, University of the Witwatersrand

The social fabric of South African society has been greatly influenced by the legacy of the political doctrine of apartheid. This system no longer operates within a legislative or constitutional context. A study examining eating attitudes in an urban, adolescent population (n=1300) was undertaken in an attempt to establish the potential public health risk that eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa) pose to black, adolescent females. Using the Eating attitudes test (EAT-26), the prevalences of abnormal eating attitudes for black and white respondents were remarkably similar. Subscales generated from specific items of the questionnaire, which describe specific aspects of the eating attitudes, revealed a similar profile of eating attitudes for black and white respondents. The study appears to provide evidence, that within certain settings a homogenisation of specific value systems has taken place. Does the "normalisation" of South African society have pathological implications?

Apartheid had a tremendous impact on the social fabric of South African society. Legally enforced seperation of South Africa's various race groups imposed, it seems, a certain cultural homogeneity along racial lines. It sought to prevent "cross pollination". To a certain extent, it was remarkably effective. Times have changed. This system no longer operates within a legislative or constitutional context. South Africa strives to become a "rainbow nation". This would appear to be for the betterment of all, but at what price? Specifically, will the emergence of a more homogenous society bring only health?

Whilst not the specific aim of the study, the potential impact of politics on bodies is a most appropriate concept with regard to the emergence of eating disorders in black, female South Africans. Until very recently, such conditions were thought not to affect this population group, in South Africa. They were believed to be in some way immune. Recent experience has taught us otherwise. The first series of cases was published in 1995. The question arose as to whether these cases constituted a chance event or were they in fact the forerunners of more to come?

A preliminary study employing the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) was conducted at a private, all girls, secondary school in Johannesburg (n=213). The study aimed to establish the extent to which abnormal eating attitudes existed in an at risk group for the development of these conditions. The sample was biased and was in no way intended to represent the broader adolescent population, however the findings gave an indication of the status regarding eating attitudes in a specific section of a vulnerable population. The prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes for the total sample was 22% and for the black sample specifically, 39%. The current study involved a much larger sample (n=1353) of school girls attending three seperate "government" schools in Johannesburg. The prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes was 18.6% for the white sample (n=506) and 18.7% for the black sample (n=578). Of interest, the mean score was not significantly different between the two race groups. Abnormal eating attitudes, as measured by the EAT-26, should not be interpreted as reflecting the prevalence of eating disorders. However, such attitudes may reflect the presence of an eating disorder, a preclinical or subclinical eating disorder. At most, such a prevalence reflects the extent to which the sample studied may have problematic eating behaviour.

Specific factors (subscales) are generated from the items that comprise the EAT-26. Black respondents scored significantly higher on the "bulimic" and "oral control" subscales. Certainly, restraint with regard to eating may predispose to bulimic behaviour. Hence it would appear that black adolescents within this sample, if they develop an eating disorder would most likely develop bulimia nervosa or an eating disorder with bulimic behaviour, which has been our clinical experience. The "dieting" subscale did not reveal a significant difference between black and white respondents, implying that black respondents are as concerned as their white counterparts with regard to a preoccupation with being thinner. This was borne out by the response to a body figure preference test which demonstrated that 72% of white respondents and 62% of black respondents had such a desire i.e. to be thinner. However, 19% of black versus 9% of white respondents had a desire to be larger. The differences whilst significantly different, demonstrated a high number of black respondents with a desire to be thinner. Within the context of the study, the prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes and the mean EAT-26 scores did not differ significantly. Does this imply that such attitudes are homogenous across race groups? It seems that such a process is occuring and that the situation may evolve further. However, the specific differences may reflect a cultural bias that will persist i.e. that black individuals are less likely to develop anorexia nervosa. Within a broader social context, it would seem that concerns previously thought to be unique to the white population of South Africa are "spreading" to the black population, in an urban setting. Is this a function of political change and greater integration or does this simply reflect the process of urbanisation. I would assume the latter, with political change being coincidental, but possibly contributing to this process with the adoption of prevailing value systems. This remains an area for more rigorous investigation.

Biographical Note:

Christopher Paul Szabo is Senior Psychiatrist and head of the eating disorder and adolescent units at Tara, the H. Moross Centre. He also lectures in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has published extensively in the field of eating disorders.

Department of Psychiatry

University of the Witwatersrand

PO Wits


Manifestations of the body in early German social policy:

The German 'Bund fuer Mutterschutz'

(Federation for the Protection of Mothers)

Regine Heidenreich

Universitat Regensburg, GERMANY


Contextual comments:

The research underlying this paper forms part of my studies of the emergence of welfare states. The text analysis included the periodicals of the Federation for the Protection of Mothers until World War I when the Federation became part of the International Peace Movement (German Peace Cartel and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom). I nevertheless wanted to focus on issues of sexual reform and reproductive politics. The discourse constructed around the body - bodies of flesh and bodies of knowledge and social techniques - unfolds its power with the development of the social sciences. Presentations at the conference did underline the significance of reproductive politics and thus the social construction of the body in international comparative research.


In Imperial Germany at the turn of the century, the debate on the related issues of population policies and eugenics was structured mainly by male elites - political, clerical and scientific. How do women, politically interested and organised women, deal with these issues? Do they enter the discourse and how do they define their own role within? This paper presents the results of a text analysis of the periodicals of the 'Bund', Mutterschutz, 1905-1907 and Die neue Generation 1908-1916. The 'Bund fuer Mutterschutz' represented a dual commitment to individual rights and to social responsibility that distinguished it from individual liberalism at one extreme and corporatism at the other. Its founder, Helene Stoeacker, insisted on reproductive rights and more social support for mothers, married and unmarried, as well as the dissemination of contraceptives and the legalisation of abortion. While the public discourse was dominated by a pro-natalist and anti-feminist ideology, centred on the preservation of high German culture, the 'Bund' aimed at the definition of a new 'generative ethic'. Social Darwinism provided support for the movement's radical ideas about marriage, contraceptives and abortion. It involved a concern for social reform, for improving the nation's standard of health and for lowering Germany's notoriously high rate of infant mortality. In the diction of the German romantic movement the aim was the evolution of mankind (Hoeherentwicklung der Menschheit). The body and its sexuality moved into the centre of the discourse. Sex is the intersection between body and population. The socialisation of reproduction affords individual responsibility - the evocation of responsibility towards the body of society. It goes along with a process of internalisation. Mechanisms of control shift into the individual. Techniques of discipline, social control, and empirical research, evolve in a complex process of rationalisation and this process engenders a system of practices as well as the accumulation of knowledge and technologies. The scientific handling of the body and its sex has political and economic implications. The science of sexuality produced a pattern of knowledge that worked with the dichotomies healthy/unhealthy, worthy/unworthy, normal/pathological that thus allowed to establish norm and deviation. It forms part of a strategy of stabilisation of bourgeois hegemony. Ideological background is the organicist model which legitimises the submission of the individual under a hypothetical collective, defined in biological categories. Thus, the body is nothing natural or undomesticated. It is a strategic terrain where power relations unfold. The body is the primary instrument of representation of the self, a genuine product of culture.

In Imperial Germany at the turn of the century, the debate on the related issues of population politics and eugenics was structuredmainly by male elites - political, religious and scientific. How didwomen, politically interested and organised women, deal with these issues? Did they enter the discourse and if so how did they define their role?

Liberalism in Germany

Historical background is the political and cultural emancipation of the German bourgeoisie, academics, merchants, entrepreneurs, in a society dominated by aristocracy and military. This emancipatory movement - German Liberalism - established its values and norms, sometimes opposed to those of the leading classes in Imperial Germany (Evans 1976). The women's movement in Germany formed part of the infrastructure of German Liberalism. Feminists in Imperial Germany were mainly educated middle-class women. Of all segments of the female population, they had benefited the most from recent advances in women's educational and professional status, but had no political rights. In Germany, women did not gain the right to vote until 1919 (Britain 1918, Finland 1906).

The New Generation

This paper presents the results of a text analysis of the monthly periodical of the 'Bund fuer Mutterschutz'. The periodical was called 'Protection of Mothers. A Journal for the Reform of Sexual Ethics' (Mutterschutz - Zeitschrift zur Reform der sexuellen Ethik, hereafter MS) and was published from 1905-1907. In 1908 its name was changed to 'The New Generation' (Die neue Generation, hereafter NG). Helene Stoecker, an activist in the abolitionist movement and the women's educational movement (Verein Frauenbildung-Frauenstudium), edited 'The New Generation' until her exile in 1933 (Hackett 1984).

Despite being a small organisation, its membership in 1908 has been estimated at 3700, the Federation for the Protection of Mothers was nonetheless highly suspicious of forming part of the radical feminist movement. Reasons were both the Federation's philanthropic measures on behalf of unmarried mothers and their children, as well as the open discussion of sexual, familial and reproductive issues.

In Imperial Germany, journals were an important means of communication and representation for bourgeois intellectuals. The structure of the periodical reflects the cultural mission. The Federation's periodical consisted mainly of an introduction by the editor, a review of the press and public international information, political articles and cultural or emotional contributions. This included for instance a series of articles on prostitution in ancient Greece and contemporary societies written by sociologists and sexologists.

The `letters to the editor', another regular section, were an important means of participation and representation for the members of the Federation. The journal was a medium of diffusion of scientific and philosophical discourse.

Using the diction of the German romantic movement the aim of the Federation was the progressive evolution of humanity (Hoeherentwicklung der Menschheit). An evolution not in terms of race but in terms of culture. The membership structure reflected the Federation's cultural elitist ideology. Members or contributors to the journal were members of the female suffrage movement like Frieda Radel, doctors like Sigmund Freud, social scientists like Max Weber, Othmar Spann and Werner Sombart, sexologists like Havelock Ellis and Magnus Hirschfeld, social democrats and socialists (Henriette Fuerth and Lily Braun), teachers, and authors or artists.

There was always a gap between the practical side and the ideology (NG 1915, 1ff.). The practical side, hardly reflected in the journal, aimed at women of the working class and underclass who never became members. Helene Stoecker wrote in the first editorial in 1905: The journal looks at "problems of love, marriage, friendship, parenthood, prostitution, and related questions of morale and of the sexual life from a philosophical, historical, juridical, medical, social, and ethical perspective" (MS 1 1905, 1, all quotations translated by the author - RH).

Just a minority of members represented the practical side, organised counselling centres and maternity homes, and conducted surveys about the needs of their clients. The first office opened in 1905 in Berlin, where the sexologist Max Marcuse dispensed free advice to unmarried mothers. Two years later, 1907, branches were founded in several German cities, mainly in the North. Furthermore, the `Bund' arranged lectures on contraception for working-class women (see the report in MS 3 1907, 45ff.).

The Free and Emancipated body

The 'Bund fuer Mutterschutz' represented a dual commitment to individual rights and to social responsibility that distinguished it from individual liberalism at one extreme and corporatism at the other. Its founder, Helene Stoecker, insisted on reproductive rights and more social support for mothers, married and unmarried, as well as the dissemination of contraceptives and the legalisation of abortion. Her philosophy of the reconciliation of the sexes aimed at an increase of the cultural influence of women: "One sex should never dispose over the other to so great an extent as it does in our society, in its social life, its legislation, and in its sexual and love-life" (MS 1 1905, 2). The Federation aimed at the definition of a new 'generative ethic' as opposed to the dominating pro-natalist and anti-feminist ideology, centred on the preservation of `high German culture'. These new ethics are grounded in the intersection of natural sciences, philosophy, history of culture, medicine, law, ethnology, psychology, economics and sociology, biology and aesthetics (MS 1 1905, 5). The New Morality as a system of orientations provided the symbolic capital of a scientific discourse and thus the legitimation of its practical and ideological aims.

As far as the Civil Code was concerned, the New Moralists in the `Bund' wanted legal equality of husband and wife within marriage and in their legal relations to the children of the marriage. The institution of marriage was criticised. The position of the wife as male property within marriage, according to law, counters social progress - this was the critique (MS 1 1905, 427ff., 483ff.). Havelock Ellis stated in 1911 that there is no difference between a wife and a prostitute apart from the price and the length of the contract. The members of the Federation demanded easier divorce. Furthermore, they wanted the legal recognition of 'free marriages' insofar as police interference - not unusual in such cases - would not take place. The children of such 'free marriages' should be subject to the same legal rights as the children of legal marriages.

Kant's philosophy formed the background of the 'ethical individualism' of the Federation's members (MS 1 1905, 302ff.). He stated that the anatomical-physiological knowledge of the body floats between the two poles of physiological anthropology and pragmatic anthropology. Pragmatic anthropology implies that by means of voluntary action man is free to invent himself. The radical feminists in the Federation claimed this natural right for women too. Or, in the editor's, Helene Stoecker's words, inspired by the German philosopher Nietzsche: Become, what you are! Reading Nietzsche she had learned that "when we change, transvalue our ideas about things, we also change the things themselves - that we ourselves are the ones who make our life happy or unhappy, worthy or unworthy" (MS 1 1905, 3).

The journal's interpretation of Nietzsche propagates a romantic form of liberal individualism, teaching the conquest of the self and the development of the creative powers of the individual. Thus, the practical base of the New Morality was that women (and mothers) must be made economically independent through a general improvement in women's education and chances for employment, as well as an extensive maternity insurance and by ameliorating the legal position of illegitimate children (MS 3 1907, 465ff.). This resulted in several petitions by the `Bund' addressed to the Reichstag since 1907.

The Ideal body

Social Darwinism provided support for the movement's radical ideas about marriage, contraceptives and abortion. It involved a concern for social reform, for improving the nation's standard of health and for lowering Germany's notoriously high rate of infant mortality. The idea of a new generation of the healthy and beautiful - according to the Greek classicist ideal - carried the hopes of many of the Federation's members. Thus, eugenics was an issue. "Because of its emphasis on the importance of individual choices and ethical commitments, eugenic theory could be used to justify widely varying views of the role of women in the evolutionary process (Taylor Allen 1988, 33).

The Federation criticised the mainline eugenics movement for its degrading view of motherhood as chiefly the passive transmission of hereditary traits. In the public discourse, denunciations of bourgeois individualism were applied selectively to women, denounced as a selfish pretext for the avoidance of motherhood whereas individualism was lauded in elite males as a sign of superior fitness. In `The New Generation' Stoecker protested the eugenicist's exploitative attitude toward women: "A sexual ethic that does not rest on the development of women as personality, but instead regards her merely as an instrument of male lust, is absolutely counter-evolutionary" (NG 4 1911, 389).

The Healthy and Administrated body

At the end of the 19th century the human and biological sciences worked towards an enhancement of the social control of reproduction. Rudolf Goldscheid, an economist and member of the Federation, mentioned the development of a social biotechnique, reorganising administration, research, public health, and social reform as well as the state and the national economy. Human life became evaluated in terms of biology, aesthetics and economics. Protestant ethics and the rationalisation of work shaped human nature and sexuality. In Imperial Germany a social movement emerged and propagated the individualisation of the control of reproduction. The Federation, forming part of this movement, stressed that contrary to the pronatalist politics in Imperial Germany the declining birth rate was not a sign of degeneration and loss of culture. On the contrary, generative behaviour follows the trend of social rationalisation.

The body and its sexuality moved into the centre of the discourse. But this body is not a sensuous, it's an ideal body. This refers to the German Lutheran tradition (MS 1 1905, 7f.). Whereas in Roman-Catholic faith the body ex ante forms part of god's order in the world, in Calvinist faith god's order can only ex post be seen. The story of Daniel Defoe's Robinson gives an example. After running aground on an uninhabited island Robinson was desperate. Then he started to work, lead a moral life and experienced god's mercy in the success of his labour. He was `chosen' and therefore rescued. Martin Luther removed the good and pious works (Catholicism) and the products (Calvinism) from faith. He divided strictly between god's order and the world's order. As a consequence the single believer had no objective means to realise god's will within this world. Thus, the individual had to find its own, subjective, way to god. Self-observation and self-contemplation became the first step to god.

This was not a pragmatic body, an instrument for work and success, any more. It became an ideal body. The majority of the Federation's members were Protestants and the periodical very well reflects the appeal to self-observation and internalisation of control. The healthy body and responsible reproductive behaviour became primary issues in the process of social rationalisation analysed by Max Weber and Werner Sombart and were discussed in many semi-scientific publications.

For the German bourgeoisie the body became a primary means of representation of the self. Sex was the intersection between body and population. The socialisation of reproduction afforded individual responsibility - the creation of responsibility towards the body of society (NG 3 1910, 230f.). In Foucaultian terms, this formed part of a process of internalisation. Mechanisms of control shifted into the individual. Techniques of discipline, social control, and empirical research, evolved in a complex process of rationalisation. This process engendered a system of practices as well as the accumulation of knowledge and technologies of the body, its sexuality. The scientific handling of the body and its sex had political and economic implications. The science of sexuality produced a pattern of knowledge that worked with the dichotomies healthy/unhealthy, worthy/unworthy, normal/pathological that thus allowed to establish norm and deviation. The perception of difference (social, physical) was mainly aesthetical and thus formed part of the chosen cultural assignment of the Wilhelminian bourgeoisie. It formed part of a strategy of stabilisation of bourgeois hegemony, introducing the reproductive behaviour of the upper class to working class women.

Ideological background is the organicist model that legitimises the submission of the individual under a hypothetical collective: the body of society defined in biological categories. Thus, the body is nothing natural or undomesticated. It is a strategic terrain where power relations unfold. The body is the primary instrument of representation of the self, a genuine product of culture.


Apart from the social motivation - which is important in its own - the radical feminists of the Federation, together with male scientists and doctors, aimed at the socialisation of reproduction and the individualisation of responsibility. Arguments that used the collectivist rhetoric of the eugenics movement had a better chance of being heard (Taylor Allen 1988, 35). In the tradition of German Liberalism feminists and social reformists established a secular religion of social rationalisation and progress. The dynastic body of the German aristocracy was replaced by the healthy body on whom hopes were pinned.


MS - Mutterschutz. Zeitschrift zur Reform der Sexuellen Ethik, 1905-1907, Frankfurt/M.

NG - Die Neue Generation, 1908-1916, Berlin.


Ellis, H. (1911); Geschlecht und Gesellschaft. Grundzuege der Soziologie des Geschlechtslebens, Wuerzburg.

Evans, R. (1976); The Feminist Movement in Germany 1894-1933, London.

Hackett, A. (1984); Helene Stoecker: Left-wing Intellectual and Sex-Reformer, in: Bridenthal, R./A. Grossman/M. Kaplan (ed.); When Biology became Destiny - Women in Weimar and Nazi-Germany, New York, 109-130.

Taylor Allen, A. (1988); German Radical Feminism and Eugenics, 1900-1908, in: German Studies Review, 32-56.

Biographical note:

Regine Heidenreich is currently teaching Social and Economic Policy at the University of Regensburg, Germany. She graduated in Sociology at the University of Regensburg. Ph.D. 1994 on Institutional Theory (Oekonomie und Institutionen. Peter Lang Verlag: Frankfurt 1994). She was a Research Fellow in the Gender Institute at the London School of Economics from June 1995 until March 1996. Research on welfare regimes and gender. Case study on welfare regimes, gender and housing in Britain and Germany (LSE Gender Institute Working Paper Series: Welfare Regimes and Gender: A framework for comparing housing policies in Great Britain and Germany: London 1996). Current research interests: Transformation of welfare states and labour markets: institutional regimes and gender. Women's labour market participation.

Universitat Regensburg


D-93040 Regensburg


Dads in ads

Poster presented by Charlotte Hagstrom

Department of European Ethnology, University of Lund, Sweden

In Sweden, advertisements and commercials are full of images of fatherhood. A handsome young man with a small child could be used to sell almost anything. Most of these ads convey a feeling of closeness, care and consideration. In my poster, I will present three examples of this kind of advertisements. I will also give a short description of the Swedish system of parental leave, and briefly discuss how legislation and social and cultural changes affects advertising and vice versa.

Departement of European Ethnology

Lund University

Finngatan 8

S-223 62 Lund


Mirrors of Motherhood

Helen Terre Blanche

History Department, University of South Africa

In this poster various images of Afrikaner mothers are analysed in the context of the time in which they appeared and juxtaposed with each other to form a time and place-specific contextual kaleidoscope.

PO Box 1893



Gifts of the body. Rethinking intergenerational heritage

Dagmar Lorenz-Meyer

Gender Institute, London School of Economics

This paper provides an analysis of intergenerational heritage in a family lineage of German women born around 1930 and their adult children born between 1953-64. In the biographical accounts of the older women moments of 'expenditure' (G. Bataille) emerge, the giving of a surplus of commitment that retrospectively becomes 'visible' as traces in the body. The 'logic' of expenditure contradicts the logic of maintenance and reciprocity. The women give what they have not: they try and constitute families of their own where (bodily) contact can take place that they themselves in the historic circumstances of war and norms of parental respect have not experienced. The paper investigates ways in which these gendered practices relate to the general discourse of women's "gift and task of self-devotion" in the 1950s and 60s. In an intergenerational perspective it analyses processes of the transmission of these practices taking the actual or potential care for elderly relatives as an example. How do adult children perceive the bodily practices of their mothers? To what extent are their own practices influenced by family tradition and by a general shift in discourse? Methodically the ways in which bodily practices are constituted in the narratives of different generations and genders are analyzed.

"It is this ability of bodies to always extend the frameworks which attempt to contain them, to seep beyond their domains of control, which fascinates me" (Grosz, 1994: xi)

1. Introduction: Notes on theories of the body

Since the 1980s theories of the body which used to be "of an absent presence" in the social sciences (Shilling, 1993: 9) came to prominence in their own right as well as becoming a major part in (social) theory building. An example of the latter is the popularized notion of the increasing reflexivity of the body that is considered to be a defining feature of what Anthony Giddens (1991) has termed "high modernity". Here, the reflexive monitoring of action inherent in individual agency (as developed in his theory of structuration (1984)) becomes radicalized in a reflexive mobilization and cultivation of the body in and by which social structures and self-identity are (re)produced. A careful reading of Giddens, however, reveals that the ways in which self-monitoring institutional systems via "specific body regimes" (1991: 62) constitute and shape "reflexive mobilized bodies" (ibid. p. 7) remain unspecified.

To gain a better understanding of the body as "an action system" (Giddens, 1991: 77) and "a practical mode of coping" (ibid. p. 56) and the interconnectedness of body and reflexivity or consciousness, it is worthwhile to consult in some detail Maurice Merleau-Ponty's theory of the body (to which Giddens himself refers) that was set out "to leave behind us, once and for all, the traditional subject-object dichotomy" (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1994: 174). I will illustrate Merleau-Ponty's argumentation of the "body as subject-object" (ibid. p. 95) by referring firstly to his discussion of the phantom limb in which the enactment of mind and body is 'exemplified' and secondly to the perception of spaciality in its primary dependency on corporal existence.

The phenomenon of the phantom limb whereby a limb is still felt as existing after its amputation which only stops after a severance of the nerves to the brain can be interpreted either physiologically (as the false persistence of interoceptive stimulation) or psychologically (as the false persistence of a memory). Merleau-Ponty argues that both explanations "would be still imprisoned in the categories of the objective world in where there is no middle term between presence and absence" (p. 80). More appropriately the phantom limb has to be conceived of "as the ambivalent presence" or "quasi-presence" of the limb. The subject's seemingly unawareness of the loss of the limb according to Merleau-Ponty results from her refusal of mutilation. This refusal, however, is not merely a psychological process but must be understood through the bodily existence that is always orientated towards the world and therefore refuses to close off possibilities of action.

In so far as objects continue to present themselves as utilizable for "a hand that I no longer have" Merleau-Ponty argues that the subject "realizes his disability precisely in so far he is ignorant of it, and is ignorant of it precisely to the extent that he knows of it" (p. 82). In his terms the layer of the "habit-body", the habitual body knowledge or "body image" screens off the mutilated "body at the moment". "Thus are delimited, in the totality of my body, regions of silence" (ibid.)(1). Although Merleau-Ponty does not mention it, in this light the effect of the severance of the nerves becomes plausible: the unscathedness of the nerves through which the stump can be felt is the necessary condition for the feeling of the phantom limb or the fantasmatic unscathedness of the body. It is in the phenomenological perspective of the subject as being-in-the-world that mind and body cease to be two unreconcilable entities, nor are they reducible to effect and cause or an arbitrary amalgamation. Rather their connectedness is enacted in every instant "to and fro" "corporal form" and "personal acts" (p. 88).

Although Merleau-Ponty emphasizes that body consciousness can only be obtained "via the world" (p. 82), he also argues that the perception of spaciality and temporality depend on corporal existence. The body is both condition and context for any relation to the world. It is the third term in a figure-background structure that provides a standpoint and thus the necessary horizon without which figures and points as well as spatial relations like "on" or "under" would remain indistinguishable. Thus "our body is not primarily in space, it is of it" (p.148). The inherent 'locality' of ones perspective necessarily includes Merleau-Ponty's own work on the (universal) body and his failure to take into account his position as historic and gender-specific is one of the striking contradictions, maybe most obvious in his discussion of sexuality, and thus the main focus of the feminist critique (Butler, 1981/1989; Grosz, 1994).

Among those who explicitly focus on the ways in which socio-historic conditions shape subjective orientations to action, the work of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu are of prime importance. Foucault's work analyses the intersection of production, signification and power as (re)produced in discourses. The body comes into focus as constituted through discourse. Techniques of domination and discipline eg. are particular discourses by which social order through practical routines is inscribed in "bodies and their pleasures" (Foucault, 1976/1979: 47; 1975/1991).(3). These techniques intersect with scientific discourses as Foucault illustrates in the "hysterization of women's bodies" (1979: 104) in the 18th. century. The body becomes one site where generative power operates.

It is the focus on the practical dimension of power and on the body as a living memory path that links Foucault's work to Bourdieu's, namely to his concept of the habitus, a set of (culturally and materially incorporated) dispositions which incline actors to act and react in certain ways, an enduring orientation to action which, in turn, is constitutive for social structures(2). Habitus according to Bourdieu is an em-bodiment of cultural principles, cultural values "made body [...] beyond the grasp of consciousness and hence cannot be touched by voluntary transformation" (Bourdieu, 1972/1985: 94). However, a particular practice is always a product of habitus, the specific social context and the actors ability to play the game of social interaction.

Although Foucault like Merleau-Ponty equates the body with the male body, both his theory of the tactical polyvalency of power and knowledge and Bourdieu's work have inspired feminist research on gendered bodies (eg. Bordo, 1992; Ramazanolu, 1993; Krais, 1993). What is intriguing is that both theories bring out moments of transgression as an inherent constitutive aspect of social systems. In Bourdieu's terms it is the "game of the twofold objective truth" (1985: 133) by which order in the Kabyle society is constructed and transgressed: inevitable violations of a social truth (eg. ploughing as a forbidden act of violating nature, "the murder of the field" (ibid.)) are 'undone' by an intentional collective mise en scène of a ritual act that is the exact opposite of the socially recognized truth (eg. the uprooting of the last sheaf by hand accompanied by the sacrifice of an animal which is both the embodiment and substitute of the murder of the field (p.135)). And Foucault emphasizes that resistance "are the odd term in relations of power; they are inscribed in the latter as an irreducible opposite" (1979: 96). We shall come back to his discussion of transgression (see 5.) What seems to be absent both in the phenomenological account and in the structuration theories is the possibility of bodily transgression, of actions and processes of the body which are both beyond the calculation of the individual subject and beyond the logic of any prescribed cultural regime: instances of what Lacan (1972) calls "jouissance" [enjoyment], referring to that moment of sexuality that is always in excess or what Bataille (1949) calls "dépense" [expenditure], referring to practices of excess and waste in sacrifices or war, in other words the possibility of "gifts" of the body. The conceptual exclusion of transgressive body practices might be one reason for the recent reappearance of "apocalyptic theories of the body invasion" (Turner, 1991: 24) which seem to be inspired by "the threat of chemical warfare, the destruction of the natural habitat, the epidemic of HIV and AIDS, the greying/declining populations of northern Europe and the apparent inability of national governments to control medical technology or medical costs" (ibid.). It seems to me that theories of the body once again have to be read with and against empirical research on historic and gender-specific bodies. I suggest that the seemingly self-evident "ordinary feelings of embodiment - of being 'with' and 'in' the flow of day-to-day conduct" (Giddens, 1991: 60) have to become a focus of analysis. This paper aims to contribute to the project of "bringing the body back in" (Frank, 1991: 41) by analysing the ways in which "ordinary" older German women and their adult daughters speak of their bodies and body practices when they tell their life stories. It investigates changes (the reproduction and transformation) of speaking (of the) bodies in an intergenerational life course perspective that takes into account the historic and societal context.

2. Sample and methods

The sample of 52 older women and 50 of their adult children is taken from two subsequent studies conducted at the University of Bremen (Germany) which investigated changes of the life courses of men and women in an intergenerational perspective(4). The first project investigated the trajectories between employment and family of 220 German women at the actual or potential transition to retirement. The women were born between 1929 and 1931 and had undergone skilled training directly after the Second World War, lived in two culturally contrasting (rural/catholic and urban/protestant) regions in West-Germany and later started a family. In a follow up study the women's husbands and later 147 of their adult children born between 1953 and 1964 were surveyed to analyze the extent of similarity and difference of life-style between generations and gender by regarding both family tradition and institutional change.

All projects followed a strategy of an integration of quantitative and qualitative data (Born, Krüger, Lorenz-Meyer, 1996). For the analysis of the role of the body I will draw on the semi-structured interviews which, according to a 'deliberate sampling for heterogeneity' based on the quantitative analysis, were conducted with the 52 older women and 50 adult children of the samples. The interviews were transcribed, coded according to a "disjunctive group technique" (ibid.), whereby the categorization of text elements and "rest" categories was repeatedly compared and examined in a group process and fed into the computer program "The Ethnograph". After the coding, a theme-centred interview analysis was carried out that aimed to identify the range and patterns of the women's accounts. Differences in interpretation patterns were then compared within and across regional and generational groups.

3. Older women speaking (of their) bodies

The older German women interviewed do not speak about their bodies as a source of pleasure(5). In their life stories, narratives of their bodies are related to experiences of sexual harassment or abuse, the lack of bodily contact in their childhood and the ill and exhausted body. Experiences of sexual abuse are not directly spoken of. They reflect most clearly the fundamental lack of words or vocabulary to speak about the body and convey one of the prime experiences of the women interviewed: the body is what actually or potentially can hurt - and it keeps these memories. In the following account the act of seeing, of looking at a plant, evokes the form of the male genital. This triggers memories of abuse that remain unsaid but suddenly give meaning to diffuse feelings of fear in relation to the male body. The concomitant laughter might reflect embarrassment but also relief over the simplicity of the discovery that validates the woman's feelings and renders her memories 'manageable'.

And you know how I realized that I saw a man as a threat? Because I couldn't have named it either. I see men as a threat because because this happened to me (in childhood). How do you - how do you, I know all this today. I had in my garden {laughs a bit} big beans, and they stood up so strai~ {laughs} straight, and then suddenly it became clear: that is why I see men as a threat, his - the symbol, yes? Then I laughed about myself and shook my head, but that was how it was. (73:48)

Lack of body contact

The lack of vocabulary to speak about bodies and emotions has to be seen in the context of the authoritarian mode of education in the 1930s and 40s in Germany, characterized by strong norms of body discipline and respect and obedience towards one's parents. Most of the women temporarily lived in authoritarian camps while being evacuated as school children during the war [Kinderlandverschickung]. The subsequent narrative on the mother-daughter relationship is typical in that it illustrates the distance felt towards the parents. The body is depicted as divided in an inner part of feelings which is concealed (to the point of physical collapse) and an outer appearance of conform behaviour which the family takes as face value.

I never had an open conversation with my mother. I simply was the good girl but what I felt inside she never knew. Partly due to awe, you had a lot of awe for your parents at the time [...] Even when I was sick as a child, I would really had to fall out of my shoes - what really happened, I simply had such high fever, that I got unconscious, I didn't say: I'm not well [literally: I lack something]. We never communicated. There were only rules and orders. (851:48)

While current intergenerational relationships are often described as "intimacy at distance", the mother-daughter relationship in and during the war from the point of view of the daughters can be characterized as "distance at proximity" - mutual concealments, frictions of surfaces at a time when both mothers and daughters faced existential fears and struggled for survival. It seems as if the educational code of the Third Reich and extreme hardship strengthened each other. body contact is described as either absent or cold and cruel, enacted by one interviewee in a gesture of her mother that retrospectively summarizes this form of body contact as madness.

[...] I was so alone in the way you can only be alone together with her [...] We never could talk to each other. You didn't learn to talk to each other. As for the cuddles there wasn't any of that. My mother showed her love by putting her hands on our heads like this, and saying 'that's how the wolf goes through the thorns'. Sheer madness. Madness! (37:52)


The post-war years in Germany were characterized by a firm restoration of the traditional family model with its gendered division of labour between homemaking wife and breadwinning husband. Women born around 1930 faced an almost absolute imperative to get married enforced by a strong discrimination of single women and a firm control of their communities. The body reinforced this imperative in that more than half of the women interviewed 'had to' marry because they fell pregnant(6). Yet, although none of the women actively opposed the biographical certainty of marriage, those who could postponed it in time in order to remain in the sphere that was associated with pleasure: paid work. Contrary to the gendered norms, marriage finally was initiated and pursued by the husbands-to-be (which is confirmed in the interviews with the husbands). Only at this point some of the women articulate their "motivation" to start a family - in the hope of creating a space of their own where those acts could take place which they themselves had missed in their childhood: communication, closeness and bodily contact.

In fact, the lack of gratitude that some of the women felt towards their parents sets off a peculiar logic that perverts the (male) principle of indirect alternating reciprocity, "What your father has given to you, you should give to your son" (Mauss, 1931/1969: 19), namely their intention to 'compensate' for what they have missed with their parents by giving it to their own children. "What my parents have not given to me, I will give to my daughter" seems to be the principle guiding the action of women born around 1930; in the words of one interviewee: "Then I can maybe make good with this child, what I experienced as a child" (71:20). In and through this recompense for a loss that they themselves have suffered the women turn from the position of a 'victim' to that of an active agent.

The women's practice of giving what they did not get, however, has several facets. On the one hand it interlocks and is refined by a gender ideology that programmatically prescribed women's "gift and tasks of self-devotion and self-denial" in the family, as the first German conservative minister of family affairs Wuermeling (1963) formulated it. On the other hand, the required selflessness is undermined by the fact that the vast majority of the 220 women surveyed - against the norm of the 'good', that is homemaking mother - remained employed beyond child birth or re-entered the labour market within 3 years. Decisive were their personal interests (Born, Krüger & Lorenz-Meyer, 1996). It is also undermined by the fact that for some women the 'mirror image demand' of the (selfless) commitment "I shall give for I did not receive" is the (self-confident) expectation "I shall receive because I did not give". The paradoxical demand "The most important thing is [...] that my daughter loves me. Because I didn't love my mother" (35:51) can entail the hope to finally get as a mother the acknowledgement and love which they felt they didn't get as a child. But once again the promise of a reciprocal circle of give, take and return in the family seems to remain unfulfilled. Let me fill the omissions in the extract quoted above:

And because I had always suffered from my mother and I never had confidence in her, and saw her as hardened and bitter, what she partly still is, and I never felt warmth and security with her - I was so alone in the way you can only be with her - with my daughter and me this is completely reversed. That was overprovision. I said: The most important thing is that my children feel secure and that my daughter loves me. Because I didn't love my mother. We never could talk to each other. You didn't learn to talk to each other. As for the cuddles there wasn't any of that. My mother showed her love by putting her hands on our heads like this, and saying 'that's how the wolf goes through the thorns'. Sheer madness. Madness! And my daughter, the dolls I didn't get, I bought for her and she didn't want to play with dolls at all. (37:51f.)

Well, we were fond of our mother, and she did everything for us. But there was no warmness between the parents and us. To give a hug sometimes, to give a kiss and say, 'well done', there wasn't any time, we were too many. I can hug my daughter, 'uh, you hurt me' but she knows how it's meant. And we missed that. (525:26)

Gift and expenditure

Women's agency in the family, their attempts to give with their bodies love and security is thus situated between gendered norms (of selfless commitment) and their violation (in pursuing paid work and the expectation of something in return). It is in this inter-space, at points where they neither aim to compensate nor to be compensated for what they have not caused, that their commitment can have elements of the gift in the Derridarian sense: the women give what they do not have. And they give it in and through their bodies. The gift that Derrida (1992) conceives as a possibility, transgresses the circle of reciprocity, and thus excludes a return or exchange, or a counter-gift whereby one would simply pay back one's debts. For the gift to take place paradoxically, neither the receiver nor the giver must perceive it as such as this would be rewarding on a symbolical level and thus the gift would be annulled.

N: Well, what does family mean? I can look after them, protect them, I can sew for them, I cut my husband's hair, I am there for them.

I: Are they also there for you? ['they', in German 'sie', is homonym with the formal address 'Sie', so the question can be understand as: are you also there for yourself?]

N: Yees, for me too, yes. I go to M. whenever I want, I go to K. whenever I want. I don't need to ask: may I? I have my own money, always had. (834: 44)

The misunderstanding of the question of the interviewer reveals that for this woman already the possibility of a reciprocal giving in the family is unthinkable(7). What the family can give is negative freedom, the absence of restriction. Traces of the necessarily fugitive gift which according to Derrida requires a particular mode of "absolute forgetting" can be found in some of the obscure every-day-life stories, eg. when a woman enacts in painful detail the process of buying a variety of apples for her husband and thereby evokes a 'surplus' of giving (Lorenz-Meyer, 1992).

This excessive surplus is conceptualized in Bataille's theory of "expenditure", expounded in Bataille's his "general economy" (1949/1988) where he distinguishes production and consumption (for reproduction) from unproductive and excessive expenses (see 1.). The latter he terms expenditure which he conceptualizes as the principally excluded 'Other' of productivity and rationality. Expenditure according to Bataille is of primary importance to the principle of acquisition and maintenance. In the interviews, expenditure is expressed in and through the women's regular, often unnoticed and unmemorable practices. However, the women's narratives challenge Bataille's distinction of productive and unproductive expenditure as the women are both within and outside the logic of reciprocity, both excessively productive and reproductive when they exceed their forces.

Y'know, basically for me this [her current work load] is already so regular and well-worn and so natural, that I don't feel it. Because I have so many years for my mother - well, 20 years of laundry and for my father-in-law almost 15 years of laundry, the past years I cooked for my mother. Then I had her as a case for nursing upstairs. Then - my father-in-law died three weeks ago - I had him as a case for nursing in his house alone next-door. So you can more or less imagine, why I'm somehow a bit on my last legs, can't you {cries}. (3:24)

Well, how did I manage to do that? Now I get the price I have to pay for it. [...] I can hardly remember any details at the time when our children were very small. You simply tried, well let's say to get out of bed early in the morning, do the work until you fell in your bed late at night. There weren't any thoughts for me personally whatsoever. It was always only this rush: this has to, this has to, this has to be done! [...] It simply wasn't any, any big ---- God, yes, if you pass it in review, what thoughts do you get through this whole - ! (805:12/31)

At the actual or potential transition to retirement the women's bodies are expressed as tired, exhausted, ageing and often ill. For the women this appears to be "the price to pay". Like the experiences of abuse expenditure seems to be unmemorable and inexpressible. Yet, it is the body which preserves traces of abuse and expenditure, seemingly forgotten and suddenly evoked in an invasion of thoughts that is marked by the women falling silent or an outburst of crying or laughter.

The analysis of older women speaking (of their) bodies reveals a perceived lack of body contact in their childhood and adolescence which motivated a peculiar form of recompense: to return to their own families as well as to their families of origin what they did not get. In and through their bodily practices women exceeded their forces. In a socio-historic context of a body politic that calculated women's uncalculated gifts of the body, the gift where it occurred beyond prescription and the women's continued expenditure turned into poison. In the narratives a certain illiteracy to speak about the body is complemented by an astounding eloquence of body practices and expressions.

4. Younger men and women speaking (of their) bodies

Contrary to the claims of the reflexive mobilization of the body and despite an enormous change in discourse that places the body at the centre of public attention regarding sexuality, sports, health, diet and exercise (Giddens, 1991; Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 1990), the 30 to 40-year-old children of the women born around 1930 actually talk less about their bodies when telling their life-stories than the generation of their mothers. This is independent of whether they are workers or academics, men or women. And as in the older generation, the body is not spoken of as a source of pleasure(8). The body in the narratives of the younger generation is related to their perception of the body practices of their mothers and a comparison of the kind of body contact they had with their parents and now have with their own children.

In contrast to the women's husbands, the adult children have a very precise perception of their mothers activities and practices. A comparison of siblings of different sex shows that there is no gender difference in the perception of their mothers' expenditure.

I can't remember that my mother - when I think about it - just sat there and didn't do anything. She always was working, in principle, actually always. Until today. I know my mother only working. (Daughter 845: 1)

And my mother actually always was committed, she didn't work on the side, but she did it properly. (Son 511: 1)

The enormous work load of their mothers had considerable effects on the younger generation: almost half of the men and women interviewed were partly raised by their grandparents who often were the persons to whom the children related most closely. The relationship to their parents is generally described as "warm". It is in the comparison of the ways in which they deal with their own children that the lack of intensity of the body contact they had with their parents is accentuated and parts of the accounts become almost interchangeable with those of their mothers.

The relationship to my son is very different from what we experienced at home. I think, I simply look after my son more intensively. I take him into my arms, we often cuddle. I can not remember that my mother - she certainly did that too, but not with the same intensity as I somehow have it with my son. To show affection, that was very difficult at home, yes. Whereby my parents - my mother always and still worries a lot about us. She loves us dearly, but to show it, to show affection was always difficult in our family. I think she didn't have the time for it. We have a very close, a lot of body contact to our son. (Daughter 546d: 25)

This shift of body practice has to be seen in the context of the psychologizing of childhood in which the personality of the child and body contact become of prime importance. "Unstimulated time is wasted baby time!" is the headline in an American pedagogical advice book and studies show that the state of knowledge of working class parents on infant psychology almost reflects the state of the art in the sciences (Beck & Beck-Gersheim, 1990). The child becomes a value in and of its own - and (as the 'we' in the above quote indicates) both men and women consciously engage in a bodily relationship with their children and express interests in personal communication. Given that the vast majority of their fathers did not participate in child care, the intergenerational change appears greater for men. Yet, still it is women who provide "primary care" as one interviewee calls it, who are the ones who hear when a child cries at night and discuss intimate issues with their (young) children. Although the younger generation - in contrast to their parents - was told about the facts of life, this was limited to the biological facts. Their own agenda often includes explicitly the emotional contents of sexuality to promote what they call an "emotional literacy" of their children. The apparent changes in body contact and interaction are mostly attributed to the changing social context as the following account of a working class mother from a strict Catholic background illustrates.

I: So the changes occurred in your generation although you were brought up that way?

N: No, my parents have changed not us. I mean my parents brought us up that way, but it wasn't - we wanted to talk about it [sexuality], only we couldn't. We were relatively liberate, even though our parents brought us up very strictly, but through the public, the social area where we grew up, friends and so on, school, it was relatively liberal. And there was this radical change at the end of the 60s and that was basically the big outbreak were you liberated yourself from all constraints and so on. That everybody could express his views and that - that was really hard for my parents. [...] They never spoke about their wishes and feelings. (Daughter 546b: 54).

The interaction the younger generation describes with their own children confirms that the absence of speaking (of their own) bodies is not a result of an 'emotional illiteracy'. Rather it is the effect of a tight time regime, particularly for those who are in the phase of active parenting. The constant "absorbtion of time" (834: 36) is 'embodied' in the huge time-tables that were put up in many of their houses. Paid work, child care, homework, but also 'voluntary activities' like buying a house and continuously renovating it over the years set "the cornerstones" (834: 36) of the time available and lead to a constant lack of time for one-self. This is summarized by a man who works in computing but holds equally for the workers of the sample.

I already talked with friends about it, we are all in a phase where you just rush around - you have a lot of work, everybody somehow either has a business or a house or kids and is busy with it and does not come to his senses, just timewise. That was certainly the same for my parents. They were busy with house and garden and work around the clock and never had breaks either. (Son 115: 26f.)

The absence of speaking about their own bodies thus seems to be an age rather than a generational effect: the younger generation due to their age and competing responsibilities is in a biographical phase that one of the older women had described as "It was only this rush: this has to, this has to and this has to be done!" (805: 31) Hence, the results of the analysis are different from what one would expect according to the theories of high modernity. Bodily practices as regards body contact have definitely changed for both women and men. Yet, as regards the intense work and family lives, little has changed since Foucault, in forgetting the family, wrote "The body is moulded by a great many distinct regimes; it is broken down by the rhythms of work, rest and holidays; it is broken down by food or values, through eating habits or moral laws; it construct resistances" (1985: 153). Bodily resistances in the younger generation are not articulated.

5. Outlook

The empirical analysis of ways of speaking the body in a intergenerational perspective does not answer the question of gifts of the body or transgressive bodily practices in a straight forward way. Traces of an excess of forces are revealed in the older generation as traces in the body as well as traces of a 'surplus' of giving in their narratives. I argued that the excessive practices are not simply a reflex of obediance to gendered norms but that these norms are themselves contradictory. Let us reconsider the concept of transgression as discussed by Foucoult (1985). The problem Foucault faces is the question of how transgression can be conceptualized without referring to a notion of transcendence. With the death of God the absolute sin appears no longer possible. One answer to the question of what space transggression actually opens up is that transgression is the experience of the limit. "It is likely that transgression has its entire space in the line that it crosses" (1985: 34). But in and through this movement boundaries move and therefore transgression "is not related to the limit as black and white, the prohibited to the lawful, the outside to the inside [...] Rather their relationship takes the form of a spiral which no simple infraction can exhaust" (ibid. p.35). The empirical findings can be read as a plea of not longer thinking in terms of closed circles divided by limits and transgression as the absolute other. Elisabeth Grosz's outline of a conceptualization of a body theory reflects the idea of the spiral. She, inspired by Lacan's work, takes the Möbius strip, the inverted three dimensional figure eight: "The Möbius strip has the advantage of showing the inflection of mind into body and body into mind, the ways in which, through a kind of twisting or inversion, one side becomes another [...] the passage, vector, or uncontrollable drift of the inside into the outside and the outside into the inside" (1993: xii). The findings presented support the idea of this being a model to approach empirical 'reality' so that passages as well as uncontrollable drifts of boundaries become more visibile.


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1. We are reminded of the process of repression in the psycho-analytical sense to which Merleau-Ponty refers. The particular state in which one knows and at the same time not knows is expressed in one of Freud's early case studies. After repeatedly renouncing Freud's interpretation that she was in love with a factory director Lucy R. one day suddenly admits her love. To Freud's question, why if she knew that she loved the director, she did not tell him, Lucy replies: "I didn't know it, or rather I didn't want to know it, I wanted to put it out of my mind, never think about it any more" (Freud, 1895 as quoted in Weber, 1990: 228). In Merleau-Ponty's account the habit-body has the imaginary qualities of the I whereas the mutilated body is of the unconscious. The constitution of the two is inseparable from corporal existence.

2. Postone, LiPuma and Calhoun (1993) argue that Bourdieu introduced the term 'structuration'. Although they do not explicitly refer to one another there are strong links to Giddens' theory of structuration.

3. "The body is the inscribed surface of events" (1977: 148) as Foucault put it elsewhere.

4. I refer to the projects "Women's status passages between occupation and the family" and "Status passages and intergenerational legacy. On the change of sequence patterns between employment and family" both financed by the German Research Community (DFG) from 1989 to 1991 and 1994 to 1996 at Bremen University's Special Research Centre. Both projects were directed by Helga Krüger in cooperation with Claudia Born.

5. The women do speak of pleasure firstly, in the context of their work experiences and secondly as regards the time after the actual or potential retirement which interestingly marks a transition of (finally) putting personal interests first (see Born, Krüger, Lorenz-Meyer, 1996).

6. In a different way illnesses often set the imperatives of action. A woman who suffers from neurodermatoses repeatedly states: "... and the my skinstory [Hautgeschichte] broke out again and I had to give up my job" (805:10). The skin in her narrative literally becomes a subject when she reflects about taking the pill: "I had this bad skinstory and I absolutely didn't know how these hormones would react to my skin" (805:25) (instead of saying "I didn't know how my skin would react to the hormones").

7. With two exceptions the women interviewed 'pay back' their parents and parents-in-law when they were in need of care. The following account however, illustrates very clearly that contrary to common perceptions care is not necessarily based on reciprocity:

N: And that's how my mother was - more likely to give me the stick than a hug. That's how it was.

I: And that didn't change later? Sometimes when one gets older and has more distance ...

N: No, no, no. Couldn't. I cared for my mother at the end. And sometimes my children said to me 'how can you?' And I told them not to remind me. If I think about those times I can't do it. That time, I just have to forget it.

I: Did she live with you in the house?

N: On and off. And then I cared for her with love, I have to say. (822:27)

8. The only exception is a man who loves to dance and talks about his body experience in dancing.

Biographical Note:

Dagmar Lorenz-Meyer (Dipl.-Psych.), born in 1966, studied French at the Sorbonne, Paris and Psychology at the University of Hamburg and has been a research fellow at the European Gender Research Laboratory at the London School of Economics since 1994. She is author, with Born, C. and Krüger, H. of 'Der unentdeckte Wandel. Annäherung an das Verhältnis von Struktur und Norm im weiblichen Lebenslauf' (1996, Berlin: edition sigma) and currently writes her dissertation on the generation contract. She has also written on the narrative construction of identity and works in an international research project on migration and ageing.

Gender Institute

London School of Economics

Tymes Court

Portugal Street

London WC2 2AE/ GB



Patricia Hill Collins

Department of African-American Studies, University of Cincinnati

In the United States, motherhood as a constellation of social practices, as a social institution and as a cultural icon influence definitions of American national identity. Just as mothers are viewed as being central to family well-being, ideas about motherhood remain central to the nation-state's assessment of its own health and prosperity. But in a nation-state like the United States where social class, race, ethnicity, gender, and citizenship status operate as intersecting dimensions of social inequality, not all mothers are created equal. In this politicized climate, the issue of which women are best suited for the tasks of reproducing the nation takes on added importance.

In the following extended summary of the arguments presented in a much longer essay, I outline this relationship between motherhood, American national identity, and population policies. First, I examine how the traditional family ideal functions to structure notions of normal, idealized motherhood and how this familiar ideal in turn frames American national identity. I suggest that the metaphor of the biological, nuclear family not only operates to shape notions of an American nation whose health is assessed using family rhetoric, but that this American national family draws upon race for much of its meaning. Second, I investigate how the logic of eugenics thinking provides an intellectual context for assessing contemporary population policies by which the nation-state aims to attend to its health. Eugenics movements that seek biological solutions to what are fundamentally social problems arise when other mechanisms of controlling subordinate populations seem no longer adequate. I suggest that the United States may be in such a time, and that understanding American population policies aimed at regulating motherhood might benefit by viewing such policies against the backdrop of the logic of eugenic thinking. In order to highlight the centrality of motherhood in these relations, I survey selected population policies targeted toward four groups of women, namely, middle-class White women, working-class White women, African-American women, and undocumented immigrant Latinas. These four groups of women each occupy different positions concerning their ability to be mothers of the nation. As a result, population policies applied to each group demonstrate how the nation-state seeks to regulate experiences with motherhood of women from different racial, social class, and citizenship groups in defense of nation-state interests.

Motherhood and the Traditional Family Ideal

In the United States, families constitute primary sites of belonging, namely, to families as assumed biological entities, to communities composed of families organized via geographically identifiable, racially segregated neighborhoods, to so-called racial families codified in science and law, and to the nation-state as extended family marked by citizenship and alien status. Family operates as a fundamental unit of social class structure, whether via concepts of inherited wealth of affluent White families or White working-class assumptions about entitlement to the male "family wage" attached to good jobs. Grounded in notions of blood ties where who belongs to one's "blood" or family remain central to issues of responsibility and accountability, individuals feel that they "owe" and are responsible for members of their families, even when such family members lack merit. In contrast, no such allegiance is extended to outsiders or to those who somehow have been excluded from biological, geographic, racial or national "families."

According to the traditional family ideal, a normative and ideal family consists of a heterosexual couple that produces its own biological children. Formed through a combination of marital and blood ties, the traditional family ideal views this nuclear unit as having a specific authority structure, namely, a father-head earning an adequate family wage, a stay at home wife and mother, and children. Assuming a relatively fixed sexual division of labor, wherein women's roles are defined as primarily in the home with men's in the public world of work, the traditional family ideal assumes the separation of work and family. Viewing the family as a private haven from a public world, family is seen as being held together through primary emotional bonds of love and caring. While this idealized family type has been defined as a natural or biological arrangement, based on heterosexual attraction, it articulates with governmental structures for it is organized, not around a biological core, but a state sanctioned, heterosexual marriage that confers legitimacy not only on the family structure itself but on children born in this family. Proper ''family values" consist of adhering to this idealized, allegedly normal and normative family structure.

Just as mothers remain central to family well-being, sustaining particular versions of motherhood as an institution continues to be essential for maintaining the "family values" deemed so important for the American nation-state's health and prosperity. Ideas about idealized and stigmatized motherhood permeate family rhetoric associated with the traditional family ideal.

First, as mothers, women remain central to reproducing putatively biological blood ties that frame American constructions of family, race and nation. Women's bodies produce children who are both part of a socially constructed family grounded in notions of biological kinship and whose physical appearance allows their classification into racial groups. Moreover, diverse groups of women participate in producing the population for the national family or nation-state. Recently, technological changes have profoundly altered these racialized biological functions and thus have changed the very category of mother. The proliferation of reproductive technologies in the post world War II era has allowed the splitting of motherhood into the three categories of genetic, gestational and social motherhood. Genetic mothers are those who contribute the genetic material to another human being. Gestational mother are those who carry the developing fetus in utero until birth. Social mothers actually care for children actually both. Traditional views of motherhood promulgated by the traditional family ideal present one White middle-class woman as fulfilling all three Junctions, assisted by domestic servants who assumed the unpleasant tasks attached to social motherhood. New reproductive technologies has made it possible for two or even three women to each specialize in one of these mothering categories for one particular child and thus promises to change these historical relationships.

Second, motherhood appears linked to themes of place, space, and territoriality, themes that articulate with constructions of race and nation. Mothers simultaneously care for the "home" and symbolize "home." Thus, the multiple meanings attached to the concept of "home" -- home as the childhood family household, home as one's racially segregated neighborhood, home as the place of one's birth, and the "home" country as the source of original ethnic identity -articulate with motherhood. The theme of the "home' as sanctuary from outsiders and the turmoi1 of the public sphere creates boundaries for the biological family along lines of privacy and security. Notions of public and private so central to discussions of liberalism, capitalist markets and civic nationalism itself all rely on the notion of the family sphere as a private one beyond the reach of government. Family space is for members only - outsiders can only be admitted in by family members or else they are intruders. In the United States, institutionalized racism also draws strength from notions of place, space and territory. For example, efforts to maintain racial purity by separating Whites and Blacks follows a similar geographic logic. The notion of having a "homeland' or national territory has long been central to both definitions of nation and to nationalist aspirations. Spaces of household, neighborhood as a community and nation are seen as needing protection from all those coded as outsiders. Through their domestic labor, women are physical caretakers of the home and are simultaneously identified as teaching the family values transmitted in the private sphere of home. Women as mothers symbolize home itself.

Third, motherhood occupies a particular position in family connections to naturalized hierarchies. Family rhetoric contributes to the construction of race and national identity in the United States by naturalizing hierarchy and thus obscuring history. Well functioning families allegedly socialize their members into an appropriate set of "family values" that simultaneously naturalize the hierarchy within the assumed unity of interests symbolized by the family, while laying the foundation for external systems of hierarchy, specifically those of gender, age and sexuality, operating outside family boundaries. Just as mothers are viewed as being central to this socialization function within individual families, the status of motherhood as an institution is viewed as essential to the nation-state's health and prosperity. Moreover, since families typically operate as naturalized hierarchies with men having authority over women, adults over children, etc., hierarchy is routinized.

Women's experiences as mothers remain directly related to issues of family inheritance and intergenerational transmission of wealth. Naturalized hierarchies of gender, age and sexuality embedded in the traditional family ideal articulate with actual social hierarchies of social class. Thus, a fourth connection between motherhood and the family ideal concerns family genealogy, especially rules of inheriting property or entitlements that are seen as being like property. In nuclear families, the legitimate sons and daughters of a heterosexual marriage related by blood to biological parents are contrasted to the illegitimate children who, while they may also be related by blood, stand outside state sanctioned marital relationships. In a similar fashion, those lacking the appropriate blood ties to the American nation state are seen as outsiders, non-family members, and are treated accordingly. For women, widespread stigmatization of women-alone, mothers raising children without male partners in state-sanctioned marriages, speaks to the centrality of idealized traditional family forms in social class arrangements.

Fifth, the traditional family ideal posits a distinctive ideal relationship between the rights and responsibilities of family membership generally, and motherhood in particular. Depending on their placement within family hierarchies, individuals within family units incur certain naturalized rights and responsibilities. For example, people within family units routinely help members of their own families by babysitting, lending money, assisting relatives in locating employment and housing, or caring for the very young, the elderly and other economically unproductive family members. Family members who belong by virtue of blood ties are entitled to these benefits merely by belonging. In contrast, those who lie outside the family orbit are not entitled to such benefits - such individuals acquire family rights and responsibilities by being redefined as fictive kin.

In a similar fashion, conceptualizing the American-nation state via the rhetoric of family highlights the importance of categories of belonging. Based on their race, class and citizenship status, different groups of women encounter markedly different patterns of state-sanctioned rights and obligations regarding their status as mothers. Population policies designed to regulate motherhood illustrate this issue. Rather than the more typical narrow definition of population policies emphasizing reproductive policies, I define population policies more broadly as being a constellation of social policies, institutional arrangements, and ideological constructions that shape reproductive histories of different groups of women within different racial/ethnic groups, social class formations, and citizenship statuses. This definition of population policies is deliberately broad. Focusing on explicit state policies reinforces the visibility of groups of women disproportionately dependent on state revenue and minimizes institutional patterns for women who allegedly are free from state support. Specifically, market based policies are more applicable to middle-class and affluent women. Because they do not depend on direct government subsidies, population policies targeted toward this group are more likely to take the form of marketing of new products, health insurance industry policies concerning coverage of selected procedures, beneficial tax policies concerning home ownership, maternity leave and child care expenses. While state policy regulates these allegedly free market activities, state involvement is less visible as an active agent in structuring population policies. In contrast, working-class and poor women rely more overtly on public revenues and as a result are more likely to encounter population policies crafted within and implemented by social welfare agencies. Thus, it may appear that the bulk of population policy activity is targeted toward the fertility and mothering experiences of these populations. Moreover, while women lacking citizenship may appear to fall completely outside population policies, reliance on the domestic labor of these undocumented workers makes their mothering experiences more central to population policies than is typically realized.

Finally, the issue of who will control women's mothering experiences lies at the heart of family planning decisions within individual families. When attached to state policy in a racialized nation-state, this question of controlling women's fertility becomes politicized. Differential population policies developed for different segments of the American population, especially those identifiable by race, citizenship status and social class, emerge in direct relation to any group's perceived value within the nation-state. Eugenics movements of the early twentieth century compellingly illustrate the thinking underlying population policies designed to control the motherhood of different groups of women for reasons of nationality and/or race. Such policies aim to increase fertility for more desirable segments of the population and decrease fertility of putatively less worthy citizens. Moreover in periods of profound social change, eugenics philosophies can reemerge such that different population policies are targeted toward different population segments. In such situations, some women will be seen as more worthy to become "mothers of the nation" than others. I suggest that the United States experienced such a period in the 1950s and 1960s, and that American social policies of the 1970s through the "family values" debate of the 1990s become more comprehensible when placed in the context of a longstanding logic of eugenics.

The Logic of Eugenics as a Framework for Public Policy

The preceding six dimensions of family rhetoric framing motherhood and the traditional family ideal not only contribute to the construction of a racialized national identity in the United States, they collectively provide an interpretive framework for contemporary population policies. In particular, a longstanding logic of eugenics frames the diverse population policies targeted to different groups of women in post-world War II United States. The following sketches of population policies targeted toward different groups of women are designed to describe the range of choices offered to women of varying racial, social class and citizenship groups. The analyses is not meant to be exhaustive but instead suggests an analytical framework for understanding the differential patterns of choices available to different groups of women. Within these categories, women exercise considerable agency. Thus, nothing about the following discussion should be taken to mean that women's experiences are determined by their racial, social class or citizenship status. Rather, these categories constrain choices and may foster women's agency that can be quite unintended.

Mothers of the Nation: Middle-Class White Women

Following the logic of eugenics, where the falling birth rate of the dominant group is seen as "race suicide," women belonging to dominant groups are routinely encouraged to increase their reproductive capacities. In the United States, White women's reproduction is central to American national aspirations. White women who are citizens of varying social classes are encouraged to become genetic and gestational mothers in order to avoid "race suicide" and meet so-called positive eugenic goals. Through their genetic motherhood, White women hold the key to notions of racial purity central to systems of White supremacy.

But when it comes to social motherhood, not all White women are the same. Middle-class and affluent White women remain central in socializing White youth into naturalized hierarchies of race, gender, age, sexuality and social class permeating the traditional family ideal. Their activities as mothers receive praise in light of this goal. Moreover, middle-class White women have been central both as symbols of the nation that must be protected and defended, and as responsible for transmitting national culture to the young. White women, particularly those of higher social class status, are encouraged to have babies and remain firmly entrenched in both popular culture and scholarship as emblematic of desirable motherhood worth protecting.

Population policies targeted toward middle-class and affluent White women remain less visible than those aimed at working-class and poor women primarily because such policies remain privatized. One feature of the traditional family ideal is its putative economic self-sufficiency. Idealized motherhood defined within these parameters must demonstrate a similar economic autonomy. Insurance coverage allied with benefits of full time employment via husbands' or women's own employment, corporate day care for working mothers, and tuition remission plans for children in families with employed parents, all directly or indirectly subsidize middle-class women's reproductive activities. Moreover, state policies that encourage middle-class women to reproduce remain largely hidden in a complex edifice of tax policies such as the deductibility of home mortgage interest and child care credits for the children of working parents. State policies concerned with motherhood lie less in direct reproductive policies or in social welfare policies for family support than in policies governing taxation, family relations, and health care regulation.

Becoming "Fit" Mothers: Working-Class White Women

Contrasting working-class White women's experiences with motherhood reveals the importance of social class in structuring the mothering experiences of all women in the United States. On the one hand, because working-class White women can be genetic and gestational mothers of White children, this group is seen as being "fit" to produce the biological or population base of the nation. But on the other hand, working-class White women are also seen as less "fit" for the tasks of social motherhood such as passing on national culture, raising economically productive citizens, and as being symbols of the nation. In response to this contradiction, working-class White women are encouraged to give birth to children, but receive much less support in raising them. If married, such women experience the pressure of the declining family wages available to their spouses as well as their own vulnerable positions in changing labor markets. In contrast, unmarried women, especially if young, encounter pressures to give birth to White babies in order to relinquish them for adoption.

Reproductive, employment, and social welfare policies having disproportionate impact on working-class White women reflect this basic contradiction of encouraging working-class White women to become genetic and gestational mothers while stigmatizing their performance as social mothers. With the passage of Roe vs. Wade in 1973, working-class and poor White women gained access to legal and safe abortions. As a result of this legal protection, many young White women decided to have abortions. Moreover, the decreasing stigma attached to single motherhood coupled with changes in eligibility for social welfare benefits made it possible for low income single mothers to procure a steady if inadequate subsistence income for their children. Many White women who formerly would have remained in troubled relationships and marriages or released their children for adoption choose to keep them and raise them as single parents. Together, these factors fostered increasing rates of White female-headed households with children coupled with decreasing availability of healthy White adoptable babies.

Working-class White women thus encounter a specific constellation of population policies. They are denied abortion services. They are denied educational and employment opportunities that would allow them to support their children financially. They encounter increased exposure to cultural messages that encourage them to have their biologically White babies but to become mora1 mothers by relinquishing their children for adoption to "good" homes.

"Undeserving Mothers": Working-Class African-American Women

Controlling the genetic, gestational, and social mothering experiences of working-class African-American women has long been essential to maintaining a racialized American nationalism. In prior eras, a combination of a need for cheap, unskilled labor and the political powerlessness of Black populations fostered population policies that encouraged Black women to have many children. Since African-Americans themselves absorbed the costs attached to reproduction, a large, disenfranchised and impoverished Black population matched the perceived interest of elites. Black children cost employers little because they required little costly training and could be easily fired. In Southern states, for example, shortened school years allowed Black children to work in agriculture. Because Black children were denied educational and social welfare benefits routinely extended to other groups, they cost the state little.

Two factors in the post World War II political economy changed all this. First, decreasing need for low-skilled labor generated a need for a more highly educated workforce. As children became more expensive, privatizing the costs of their training became increasingly attractive to employers. Second, African-Americans won considerable victories in gaining citizenship rights long denied via de jure and de facto racial discrimination. Allowing Blacks to benefit from entitlement programs long enjoyed by Whites meant that Black labor became too expensive to train. Black children who by virtue of citizenship became entitled to public benefits increasingly were constructed as too expensive.

Beginning with the government report The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, also known as the Moynihan Report, published in 1965, Black women as mothers increasingly came under attack. Black women are deemed deficient in all three categories of mothering. Since Black children are increasingly seen as expendable, Black women's contributions as genetic mothers is not wanted. As African-American children in particular gained certain basic rights attached to American citizenship, they simultaneously became coded as "public" children and thus suffer the increasing stigmatization targeted towards public institutions. These children are the ones who need "public assistance," who attend "public schools," who ride "public transportation,'' and who are in need of "public health care." In contrast to both middle-class White children who represent the future of the nation and world-class White children whose dependence on public institutions remains less visible, Black children as 'public children" become associated with the deterioration of public institutions and, by association, of the nation-state itself.

In such a political and economic context, population policies situated in social problems, the quality of Black women's domestic labor as social mothers to White children has also come under attack. White middle-class employers prefer immigrant workers, finding African-American women less suitable because, having rights attached to citizenship (social security and the option of claiming social welfare benefits), such workers are more expensive than the more vulnerable immigrant workers.

Currently, undocumented immigrant Latinas from Mexico and other Latin-American countries have become the newest group of women who provide social motherhood for the children of more affluent women. Research exploring the experiences of this super-exploited group of women as genetic, gestational and social mothers to their own children remains in its infancy. Of current concern is the employability of undocumented immigrant. women of color as well as potential claims on state services of their children. ln her 1994 article in Mothering; Ideology, Experience, and Agency entitled "Undocumented Latinas: the New 'Employable Mothers'," Grace Chang provides a comprehensive view of how whiteness and blackness constructed in opposition to one another depend both on specific social class arrangements and on categories of nationality. Middle-class households often make exploitative use of immigrant women to do child care and domestic work. As a result, the "advances of many middle-class, white women in the work force have been largely predicated on the exploitation of poor, immigrant women" (Chang 1994, 261).

In this environment, undocumented women become or remain part of an underclass for two main reasons. First, undocumented women have been confined to employment in the secondary sector and often remain in highly exploitative work conditions for fear of losing their chances to legalize. Second, these women earn incomes far below the poverty level, yet they underutilize public assistance and social services to which they or their children are entitled, again fearing that they well jeopardize their legalization applications. The invisibility and exploitation of immigrant Latinas in providing services as social mothers for predominantly White middle-class and affluent women speaks to the centrality of citizenship in the American national family in framing women's encounters with a logic of eugenics and national family planning policies. Because such women exist outside the national family, their experiences as mothers hold little interest to Whites, Blacks, and other groups with citizenship. Such women appear in the literature primarily when they enter the private space of the national family to fulfill social mothering functions. Overall, by standing outside the nexus of family relations, undocumented immigrant Latinas reinforce the meaning of belonging.

* * *

Overall, race, social class and nationality interact in providing markedly different mothering experiences for diverse groups of women. Middle-class White women are encouraged to reproduce and provide infertility services and top notch prenatal care. Because they receive insufficient economic supports in raising their children from the disadvantaged position of working-class White males, from their own position in the labor market, and from the insufficient government supports affecting poor people, working-class White women are increasingly encouraged to give up their babies to infertile middle-class White women. Working-class White women are encouraged to reproduce only if they absorb the costs of child rearing or relinquish their children to another home. Because their labor and the costs of raising their children are currently devalued, working-class African-American women, especially those living in poverty, are discouraged from reproducing at all. Finally, undocumented Latinas fill the void, completing a puzzle where the logic of eugenics leads to very different experiences with motherhood.


Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Sociology

Department of African-American Studies

University of Cincinnati


OH 45221-0370


The cyborg and religious views on the female body

Christina Landman

Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa

In this paper Donna Haraway's insights into the cyborg ("A cyborg is a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction") will be used to undermine religious views based on the hysterisation and naturalisation of the female body. It will be argued that the efforts of religions to take external social and cultural control over the naturally sinful (sin-evoking) female body has led to religious cyborgism amongst religious females who have to survive as hybrids of social reality and religious fiction. The paper will attempt to redefine the subjectivity of genderness for religious women and restrict it to one of many experiences. The paper will furthermore react against forced bodily experiences of the religious self and try to stimulate the crisis in dualistic thinking, which is still prevalent in religious thinking. It will acknowledge the cyborg ridiculing religions' deterministic views on gender; on the other hand it wishes to liberate the female body of external modelling and the force religiously exercised on it to belong to two worlds simultaneously, a contextual as well as an ideal world.


1.1 Religion against cyborg

"Cyborg" is not a term easily to be found in theological literature. It is fully absent in popular religious literature.

A cyborg may designate a body which is partly human and partly extra-human. Although people with breast implants and laboratory made arms and legs are to be found amongst secularised as well as religious people, religious people shrink back from the idea of deliberately improving on God's handywork. Also, the latter would not refer to a reassembled body by any other name as that of "human being", thus ignoring the possibility that cyborgs can exist alongside God's creatures.

While cyborgs like Robocop and The Mighty Morph'n Power Rangers abound in children's cartoons, one will not find machine-like human beings or human-like machines who/which act of their own free will in religious cartoons. Also, nobody has ever tried in a religious programme to give religious instruction to a robot or a computer.

Religion belongs to humans only - which of course allows religion to exploit the humanness of people and its need of salvation.

1.2 Defining the cyborg

A cyborg may be anything in which the divisions between dualities are blurred and dualities become blended. I have already referred to a human body built up with machine made materials as a cyborg. However, a cyborg need not be a physical construct; it can also be a social construct in which fact and fiction, for instance, are merged. "Woman's experience" can be viewed as such a cyborg since it merges the fact that women do have experiences related to their womanness with the fiction that all women universally participate in these same basic experiences.(1)

This paper is about the cyborg as a religious construct. It will simply explore the possibilities of blurring the duality between body and soul, that is, between morality and immorality. It will be argued, with examples from South African religion history since Jan van Riebeeck, that religions like Dutch Calvinism created and used the dualities in the female body for social and political gain. Finally the feminist gains in reconstructing the female body in religion biography according to cyborgian insights into the undermining of dualities will be discussed.


When Jan van Riebeeck and his men came to South Africa in 1652, they saw and met an almost naked young woman amongst the Strandlopers (Beachrangers) and gave her a religious name, Eva. This young woman aged ten, whose Khoi name was Krotoa, was renamed after the woman who allegedly introduced sin into the world, the Biblical Eve, and her nakedness reconstructed according to the religious views of the Dutch men who saw the female body within the duality of natural and moral. What the Khoi holistially saw as natural, the Dutch saw as an immoral manifestation of nature. With that the indigenous holism of the-body-in-context was in South Africa forever shattered.

Not that the men mentioned were against what came naturally - what is remarkable is to what extent they were enabled by their religious view of the female body to blame the immorality on the female nature. They gave Eva liquor and sex - and when she died twenty odd years later as a prostitute and a drunk with several children of mixed blood, they mourned the fact that they had to perform a Christian burial for an immoral woman simply because she had herself baptised earlier, albeit also to please them, their power games, their views of the indigenous female body and their religion. Art historian Keith Dietrich points in his dissertation(2) to the preference of European travellers for relating on the sexual practices of the Khoikhoi and for displaying the Khoikhoi women's breats, genitalia and buttocks grotesquely in their paintings and illustrations. He concludes that this obsession "could be viewed as arising from the fear of giving expression to the uncontrollable and irrational characteristics of their own sexual impulses. Once held spatically at a distance from Europe, Africa as 'body' was to contain these impulses as the antithesis of European rationalism. Being thus reduced to her sexual parts, the Khoikhoi woman served as an icon of extreme degeneration and as the supreme antithesis of the idea of European womanhood."

The missionaries perpetuated this tradition of the duality of the female body and installed a soul, a faculty of moral decision making, in the bodies of their converts to take control over the uncontrolibility which the white men projected on them as they had on their own white women. The soul was placed in constant conflict with the other inhabitant of the duality, the body, which was naturally inclined towards immorality.

Men, both black and white, were seen as superior to the women because their bodies contained not only a duality but a triality which included the mind. The mind gave met access not only to public life but also to private leadership roles in the family.

The most recent missionaries who came (back) from Euroep with these views on the female body were the young white ministers of the Reformed Church who returned from the Netherlands during the first decades of this century with the ideas of Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper, a minister turned statesman, gave "an honorary posision"(3) in the house and in the house alone, making the following statements on their bodies:

The natural woman is shy and passive; her bones are weaker than those of a man; although she can shout louder than a man, her physical abilities are limited. The strengh of a man settles in his head and chest, while a woman is strong only in her lower body; few women possess a natural of developed sharpness of brain. Kuyper acknolwedged that behind his attack on women lay the fear that women would have the majority vote in politics; during his time there were 28 000 more women than men in the Netherlands.(4)

Back home, these (white) religious leaders quoted Kuyper in defence of not giving the vote to women, arguing that a woman's soul was too pure for politics.(5) The same women with the same souls were used in the 1930s to add their newly acquired votes to that of the men in keeping the Coloureds from Parliament.

The white women of South Africa, especially since they have not been exposed to any feminist thinking/insights, have still not liberated themselves from this duality of pure soul created in their private bodies and still suffer under its social and political implications.

Even black women theologians in South Africa who have rejected most of what the white women had told them about religion, have still not addressed the soul-body duality they inherited from missionary theoly. When black women speak about the unity of the female body, they mean that women should (re)claim the right to think with their experiences, which is the right to express themselves theologically on the grounds of their bodily and contextual experiences. Thereby the mind-body duality is addressed - which is noteworthy in the light of the fact that the worth of women's minds have been ridiculed by other theologians in the past (Abraham Kuyper being far from the only one) - but it still leaves the body-soul duality intact.

This duality between body and soul, this inability of the female body to make it on its own, has left black and white South African women "helpless but guilty": helpless to change themselves to the liking of a male god, they fantasise on how much their acknowledgment of guilt will please him and his office bearers.(6)


This paper is not on pastoral counselling to women who are plagued by depression, guilt fantasies and low self-esteem due to the religious dualities installed in them. The paper is on how cyborgian views on the female body challenge religion biographers like myself when writing the stories of religious women.

The religious woman as cyborg, that is, as a construct in which soul and body have been blended, allows the religion biographer to engage in some exciting lines of interpretation which will be illustrated here by referring to the story of Krotoa/Eva mentioned above.

Krotoa, in short, was brought to the fort of Van Riebeeck on 1 August 1652, when she was ten years old, to work as a servant. She liberated herself from semi-slavery by learning and internalising the Dutch language, culture and religion, consequently becoming indispensable to Van Riebeeck as interpreter and cultural broker between the Dutch and the Khoikhoi in cattle bartering. During this time she upheld her links with her Dutch kinspeople. When Van Riebeeck left in 1662 she desperately tried to keep her favourable position by getting baptised as a Christian (1662) and by getting married to a white man (1665) at a time when she already had several children of mixed blood. The new governor considered the mixed marriage a moral embarrassment and whisked the couple off to work on Robben Island. Removed from her Khoi context and her job, Krotoa became a drunk and a prostitute the more so after her husband's death three years later. The last five years of her life she spent as a prisoner on Robben Island. She died in 1674, aged 32.

When the religion biographer views a religious woman as a cyborg, the following becomes possible:

1) the blurring of morality and immorality. For three hundred years Krotoa/Eva's story has been told as that of a woman who, because she has been born a savage, was by nature not able to honour the duality between morality and immorality in herself. Her story has been told time and again as that of the first fallen Christian in South Africa and her irreligious nature was blamed for it.(7) However, as cyborg her story can rather be told as that of a woman who successfully lived in two worlds, that of the Khoikhoi and the Dutch. It was when she was forced to commit herself to one of these, that her life was shattered and she lost part of her humanness.

2) One should, however, not equate the cyborg with holism. The cyborg is primarily clandestine. Viewing the religious woman as cyborg therefore allos the religion biographer to depict Krotoa simultaneously as a passive and innocent victim of her circumstances and as a strong woman with a chronic urge to liberate herself from these circumstances. It allows the religion biographer to depict Krotoa not only as a woman sometimes rising above her circumstances and sometimes falling prey to them, but also as a woman who tried to manipulate her circumstances to her own benefit, sometimes making wrong decisions which eventually lead to her downfall - without the biographer passing moral judgement on this. This also allows the religion biographer not to see drunkenness and prostitution outside of a religion's ideals but as one of its manifestations.

3) The cyborg allows for any type of blending and therefore allows space for differences between women. Van Riebeeck, impressed by Krotoa's adaptation to Christianity and ignoring her constant disappearances from the fort, probably to attend puberty and other religious rites with the Khoi, called her by another Biblical name, that of Esther. During this time Esther was presented as the ideal type for Dutch women in several plays performed in the Netherlands.(8) The religion biographer is, however, free to eliminate ideal women from religion biography and liberate Krotoa from her plight to conform to the ideal woman. On the other hand, the cyborg allows for Krotoa being portrayed both as a timeless example for women for all ages to come and as a selfish individual whose only concern was herself. The religious cyborg blends symbolic and personal life.

The religious cyborg then is moral and immoral, in between or neither. She is holistic or/and feels comfortable within swifting contexts. She can be viewed idealistically, typically, individualistically or symbolically - or as a blending of some of these.

But what is in it for feminism? Does the cyborg mean the end of "the female nature" and the "gendered body"? And is that what religious feminism wants? Different feminisms, of course, are in need of different cyborgs. Ecological feminism aims at blending the female nature with mother nature, thereby reaffirming the existence of a universal "female nature". Cyber-feminism blends the female body with the female machine, thereby creating a superbody with very strongly gendered features.

What does religious feminism want? And specifically within the context of this paper: What does it want from her foremothers? The cyborg allows for a personal mixture, a personal recipe. I like a foremother to whom there is not only access when I go looking for oppression; I like a foremother who can celebrate life with me, who was sometimes in control of it, and sometimes not; I like a foremother who also explored the "immoral ways" of her time, and sometimes survived it, and sometimes not. Furthermore, I like a foremother who does not only have a gendered body, but also an intellectualised body, an emotionalised body, a hungry body, a body yearning to be touched. By the historian, of course.


1. Example used by Donna Haraway, "A manisfesto for cyborgs: science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s" in Linda J Nicholson (ed), Feminism/postmodernism (New York & London: Routledge, 1990), p 191.

2. Of salvation and civilisation; the image of indigenous southern Africans in European travel illustration from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries (Pretoria: UNISA, 1993) p 74.

3. A Kuyper, De eerepositie der vrouw (Kampen: Kok).

4. Quoted from Christina Landman, The piety of Afrikaans women (Pretoria: Unisa, 1994), p 112.

5. See Willem Postma, Die boervrouw, moeder van haar volk (Bloemfontein: De Nationale Pers, 1918).

6. See Aleid Schilder, Hulpeloos maar schuldig: het verband tussen een gereformeerde paradox en depressie (Kampen: Kok, 1987); Joé Eijt, Religieuze vrouwen: bruid, moeder, zuster: geschiedenis van twee Nederlandse zuestercongregaties, 1820-1940 (Nijmegen: Katolilek Studiecentrum); and Christina Landman, op cit.

7. See, for instance, DB Bosman in Die Huisgenoot of September 1942. C Landman analyses these stories in her The religious Krotoa (1642-1674) in Kronos November 1996.

8. See Simon Schama, The embarrassment of richer. An interpretation of Dutch culture in the Golden Age (London: Fontana Press, 1987) pp 101-103.

Biographical note:

I am an associate professor in religion at the Research Institute for Theology and Religion at Unisa. My research focuses on popular piety amongst religious women in South Africa, from an historical perspective. I obtained my doctorate in 1987 on political theories in the middle ages and I have acquired two Master's Degrees, the one in Classical Greek and the other in Theology. I have recently published two books, The piety of Afrikaans women and Digging up our foremothers - and currently I write on the religious experiences of the first local (black) women who converted to Christianity.

Research Institute for Theology and Religion


PO Box 392



"No more I love yous":

Gender moving into the androgynous twilight zone

Amanda du Preez

University of South Africa

We propose to research the move of gender-identity from fixed entities towards a continuum of possibilities pendulating between extreme masculinity and extreme femininity. The figure of the gender inbetweener or deconstructed androgyne as it shows its paradoxical face in Cape Town artist Tracy Payne's visual images, will take centre stage in our discussion. Payne tackles the issue of gender dissolvement or fusion by depicting gender indecisive inbetweeners hovering in the twilight zones of gender identity. Her regeneration of the ancient myth of androgyny dresses (or rather undresses) the ambigious figure in a late twentieth century postcolonial and trans-gender guise. We would like to discuss the gender qualities of Tracy Payne's visual images as part of contemporary debate on shifting borders of gender and identity constructions. We propose to use a deconstructed version of the androgyne as hermeneutic key to read Payne's visual images. The figure of the gender-bender or gender inbetweener, has indeed become the face of the nineties - not only in the mass media with public figures like Kate Moss, Grace Jones, David Bowie, kd lang, Michael Jackson and Madonna, but androgyny has also made its presence felt in recent academic debates on gender and identity. In this paper we want to discuss the deconstructed androgyne as possible trans-gender construction which could show the way towards living in differences, rather than aspiring to go beyond differences. I presented my paper dealing with the changing attitudes towards gender identity in recent academic debates and used the art of Cape Town artist Tracy Payne as visual example to establish my argument. The title of my paper is: "No more I love You's": Gender moving into the androgynous twilight zone. Tracy Payne's is well-known for the gender indecisive figures which she portrays. It is not easy to detect the gender of her figures: Is this a man dressed as a woman or a half-woman? One is never sure with Payne's gender (in) betweeners or androgynes. Her work illustrates the "land of No more I love you's", as my title suggests, where easy and fixed descriptions of gender identities have almost become an impossibilty. Therefore it is suggested that traditional concepts of love and gender identities have changed drastically over the past two decades. These days we are dealing with gender rufesniks, gynandroids, homeovestites, cyber queers, guerilla grrls, neuters, post-op and pre-op transsexuals and obviously as the title refers to androgynes.

In ninety five Annie Lennox, androgynous diva of the pop world, topped the charts with a Freeman & Hughes song entitled No more I love you's. Perhaps you are familiar with the track. On this track Lennox sings about the demons and monsters visiting her room at night. She also tells us and I quote:

The language is leaving me,

No more I love you's,

The language is leaving me in silence,

Changes are shifting outside the world.

It is exactly with the "leaving of the language" and the "changes shifting outside the world" that we want to associate the gender (in)betweener or androgyne of the nineties. Gender has indeed began to move beyond language, in the sense that it is becoming more and more difficult to grasp gender-identity in language. We can only refer to gender identities by re-inventing them, excessively over-describing them, chanting their meaning as if in a ritual. Gender configurations are defying easy and fixed definitions and are moving into the twilight zone of the great IN-BETWEEN. That space to which the Gnostics referred to as the intermediate region or boundary, the horos. The realm of paradox that is everywhere and no-`where.'

For the purposes of this paper we want to situate this imaginary boundary between the "real" and the "unreal" within the techno-info culture that we live in. Donna Haraway (1991:149) in Simians, cyborgs and women: The re-invention of nature states that: "The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion." Also Richard Chuang (Quinn 1993:106) adds: "We've narrowed the gap betweeen fantasy and reality [...] The border is no longer real." In other words fantasy has become reality. The gender bender is such a fantasy figure who has become "real".

The twilight zone as it will be applied in this paper, links up with the realm of the paradox, the place where fantasy and reality overlaps. In general the twilight refer to the light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon in the morning or usualy in the evening. Twilight therefore refers to a faint light but it could also make reference to a state of imperfect knowledge or understanding. In other words a figurative place where understanding is not complete and final, due to the half-lit and half-dark quality of the faintly illuminated twilight hour. Twilight also took on a specfic meaning in the Norse mythology, where the "twilight of the gods" suggested the battle between the gods and the giants during which they destroyed each other. We want to argue that it is exaclty in this twilight of the gods, this great show-down of genders, where the ambiguous gender (in)betweener makes her grand appearance. In Lennox's land of No more I love you's the gender (in)betweener appears from the shadows.

The gender (in)betweener, has indeed become the face of the nineties - not only in the mass media with popular figures like Kate Moss, Ru Paul, Grace Jones, David Bowie, kd lang, Michael Jackson and Madonna, but androgyny has also made its presence felt in recent academic debates on gender and identity.

In this paper we want to discuss the postmodern androgyne as a trans-gender construction which could suggest the way towards living in differences, rather than aspiring to go beyond differences.

When Plato introduced the figure of the androgyne in his Symposium 350 bC. did he have the gender inbetweener in mind? We think not. The androgyne introduced by Aristophanes in Plato's (1994:16-7) Symposium differs from the androgynous figure confronting us on the eve of the twentieth first century. Aristophanes describes three androgynous beings in his speech. The first a combination of male and male, the second a combination of male and female and lastly the female-female combination. We are also immediatedly made aware of the implicit hierarchy that exists between the three androgynous beings. It is not hard to guess which androgynous combination Plato favoured. Obviously it was the male-male combination, which also links up with the ancient Greek way of life where the love between men, and especially the love between an older and younger man, was treated with higher value than the love between men and women, and obviously of far greater importance than the love between two mere women. Plato's androgyne was ideally the harmonious combination of two similar beings, namely men.

Platonian androgyny was also a state to which only men could aspire. But whereas Plato's androgyne is the ideal transcendent male-male combination aspiring towards enternal beauty and harmony, the androgyne of the late twentieth century is a disturbing and decadent figure. The `postmodern' androgyne or gender (in)betweener is a disharmonious, marginalized and discontented constellation. She does not exclude binary oppositions, but embodies them all simultaneously, with disasterous and exciting effects, as you will see.

Maybe a few pointers are necessary at this stage to explain the term androgyny. Androgyny is a gender related term, in other words one can not detect androgyny in the biological and sexual body of a person. Therefore an androgyne is not necessarily a hermaphrodite, or as recently defined, an `intersexual', who contains the genital, hormonal or chromosomal configurations of both sexes, in one body. Neither is the `postmodern' androgyne a bisexual per se. In other words androgyny does not refer to a person's sexual preferences. We can however refer to the androgyne as being part of that "other bisexuality" as Hélène Cixious does. Cixious's use of the term "other bisexuality" refers to the expansion of the patriarchal dualistic thinking and the opening up of binary differences in favour of multiple differences. Cixious' "other bisexual" rejoices in differences and encourages differences, not binary differences such as man and woman, but multiple differences such as the differences amongst woman and woman, man and man, man and woman.

Neither will the postmodern androgyne be a transsexual automatically, meaning that the androgyne will not necessarily have the urge to undergo reconstructive surgery, both physically and psychologically, to become the opposite sex. But Baudrillard's use of the term "transsexual" will link up with our postmodern concept of androgyny. Baudrillard (1993:20) in The transparency of evil: Essays on extreme phenomena explains transsexuality as:

But whether the operation in question is surgical or semio-urgical, whether it involves organs or signs, we are in any case concerned with the replacement of parts, and since today the body is fated to become a prosthesis, it is logical enough that our model of sexuality should have become transsexuality [...] We are all transsexuals, just as we are biological mutants in potentia. This is not a biological issue, however: we are all transsexuals symbolically .

Androgyny is therefore an imaginary gender, the juggling of symbols and signs. The wearing of different gender masks as Virginia Woolf refers to her own androgynous persona. But in opposition with Baudrillard we will not subscribe to a No content gender or No meaning gender consisting of interchangeable semiotica only. We would rather plead for the postponement of final gender meaning and content. The extension of the play with gender signs advocating an openess towards the "other." This "other" may include the following gender categories: pre-op gender refuseniks (due to the lack of funds or psychological paternalism gender refuseniks are non-ops), obsessive homeovestites (a person who obsessively wears the clothing of zir own sex), closet drag queens (gay men who wears women's clothing excessively), transgender heterosexuals (generaly referring to a pre-op transsexual who has no desire to have the Sex Reassignment Surgery), digital queers, cyber grrls, gynandroids (synonym for androgyne), neuters (person who is both spiritualy and biologically genderless).

Note that androgyny also differs from the neuter's genderless state. The androgyne is not genderless. The androgyne combines both masculinity and femininity in their gender identification whereas the neuter is neither masculine nor feminine. The best example of the neuter in recent literature is the character Sparrow in Emma Bull's novel Bone Dance, who sometimes acts androgynous to cover up its neuter state but is as "genderless as a baby doll" (Bull:101).

However, we are warned by several theorists not to take the concept of androgyny too literally. Marry Anne Warren (Vetterling-Braggin 1982:183) in "Is androgyny the answer to stereotyping?" confirms the psychological nature of androgyny, which should not be taken literally. She interprets androgyny as a metaphor of the impossible. Camille Paglia (1990:21) also describes androgyny as a contemplative mode rather than an active lifestyle.

Androgyny is an imaginary and evasive gender quality, escaping definition and the grasp of language. Going beyond language into that twilight zone of the imagination where almost anything is possible, the great IN-BETWEEN. The Hermetic zone between final and fixed identities such as MAN and WOMAN. The postmodern androgyne is in cahoots with the messenger of the gods, Hermes the trickster. Like Hermes who is forever on the road en route, the androgynous (in)betweener is forever on the way between MAN and WOMAN. Meeting at the crossroads and always meeting the OTHER, albeit man or woman, gay or straight, as if for the first time.

Gender-identity has moved from fixed entities towards a continuum of possibilities pendulating between extreme masculinity and extreme femininity. The figure of the gender (in)betweener as she rears her paradoxical face in Cape Town artist Tracy Payne's visual images, will now take centre stage in our discussion. Payne tackles the issue of gender dissolvement or fusion by depicting gender indecisive (in)betweeners hovering in the twilight zones of gender identity. Her regeneration of the ancient myth of androgyny dresses (or rather undresses) the ambigious figure in a late twentieth century postcolonial and trans-gender guise.

The gender qualities of Tracy Payne's visual images form part of the contemporary debate on shifting borders of gender identity constructions. We propose to use a deconstructed version of the androgyne as hermeneutic key to read Payne's visual images. We are however not convinced that Payne's androgyne will reveal herself to us completely and we suspect that her face will remain half-lit and half in the dark, hiding somewhere in the twilightzone of interpretation, evading our grasp.

Before referring to the actual art works we want to comment on Payne's own androgynous method of working. Payne admits to "losing" her own sex while creating. She becomes androgynous. Virginia Woolf (Weil 1992:146) in her A Room of one's own (1929) also subscribed to the androgynous state in order to be creative: "It is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex." Payne also states that in many instances she leaves the genitals of her figures until the final touches, which indicates that the figures remain "sexless" themselves while created. Their sex is added afterwards as an after thought. In other words their sexual identity is postponed during Payne's creative process.

The first work under discussion is entitled The Opiate, 1993, pastel on paper with steel frame. Payne confronts us with a vicious image of Madonna, the Grand Madame of gender confusion. The woman who gave us Erotica and In Bed with Madonna, whilst revealing her body parts but not revealing anything of herself. The woman who has taken her sexuality in her own hands and moulded it like clay. The goddess of pop who has crossed the bridge between subject and object and in the process constructed another image of women's sexuality.

Payne's version of Madonna shows her as an opiate, a narcotic, hypnotic drug for the masses. In the background we see sheep, some fornicating. We interpret Payne's visual reference to sheep as referring to the guilable masses. The androgynous qualities of Madonna resides in her aggressive image (remember that aggression was traditionally accepted as a masculine quality), the almost phallic breasts with sharp ends signalling danger. Madonna has become the femme fatale of the 90's, except that she has constructed herself and is not the projection of male fantasies as was the case with the femme fatale of the late ninetienth century (Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1894). Madonna is very much her own creature and she obeys one god only and that is the capitalistic free market. She is the whore of capitalism. The high priestess of the sacred temple of Consumerism.

Payne's Madonna is depicted in a landscape with a blood red sky in the background. Accoring to Payne the sky is "almost sci-fi. A Wim Wenders sky" (Vrye Weekblad 1993:27). This apocalyptic sky creates the perfect setting for the postmodern gender (in)betweener to appear in. This is indeed in R.E.M.'s words "the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." Meaning the end of gender constructions as it was perceived. However, the blood streaming from Madonna's golden bodice down her legs turns her into a sacrificial image. A gender-bender boldly going where no one has gone before, into the twilight zone of gender identity.

In the next work Judith and Holofernes, 1993, pastel on paper with chevron wood frame, Payne focuses on the popular theme of the decapitation of Holofernes/John the Baptist by Judith/Salome. The theme of the decapitation of John the Baptist and Holofernes by a woman became tremendously popular during the late nineteenth century. Women were regularly depicted as castrators, waiting quitely in the wings for that one glorious moment of so-called empowerment (Gustave Klimt, Judith, 1901 and Salome).

In Payne's nineties version we see Judith as "a red-lipped Amazonian construction worker" (ADA 13:75) holding the head of Holofernes (which she borrowed from Caravaggio, David with the head of Goliath, 1605-6) and a phallic axe in the other hand. Marina Warner (1985:153) in Monuments and Maidens mentions the fact that Freud often referred to the phallic symbolism of weapons e.g. ploughs, hammers, rifles, daggers and obviously Payne's axe. Warner speculates whether these phallic females represent a collective castration complex of a whole culture that has lasted over a thousand years. Payne's depiction of the phallic female shifts the castration theory further. Her Judith is not a male version of castration fear, this is a woman depicting a phallic female as a warning to men. Hanging from Judith's waist is a belt with her instruments of torture, reminding one of the Indian goddess Kali, who victoriously wore the heads of her male victims around her waist.

Judith is armed to the teeth so to speak. We want to link the open mouth displaying an aggressive set of teeth with the theme of the vagina dentata. Camille Paglia (1990:13) in Sexual Personae differs from our viewpoint and she interprets the femme fatale as an extrapolation of biological realities in women that remain constant. She refers to the North American Indian myth of the toothed vagina (vagina dentata) as a gruesomely direct translation of female power and male fear. Metaphorically every vagina has secret teeth, according to Paglia, because the male will apparently exist as less after he has entered. His energy will be subsumed by this all devouring female mouth.

Griselda Pollock (1988:128) in Vision and Difference agrees that the mouth as ruby wound functioned in the Pre-Raphaelites specifically as a displaced sign of female genitals (Dante Rossetti, Venus Verticordia, 1864-8). The Swedish artist Edvard Munch (Bade 1979:25) addressed the woman in his Madonna (1895-1902) as follows: "Your lips, crimson red like your ripening fruit, glide from each other as if in pain [...]A corpse's smile." Therefore it will not be too extraordinary to relate Payne's Judith with the genre of the vagina dentata or the man eating woman.

This Judith is definitely the defiant embodiment of the femme fatale in the nineties. She voluptuosly exposes her breasts with spread legs. She provokes and alienates simultaneouly. During a telephonic conversation, Payne indicated that she interprets the femme fatale as the destroyer of evil, the leveler of unequal powers. Judith can therefore be interpreted as the settler of uneven scores.

However, Payne's alliance with the theme of the femme fatale is not unfamiliar in the nineties. In fact if you turn your radio on today you will probably hear a song by the group Space entitled Female species in which Space informs us that "Frankenstein and Dracula have nothing on you, Jekel and Hyde will stand behind in the qeue, the female species is more deadly than the male."

In the background once again we are confronted with a redish sky to which Payne herself refers as the "breaking of a new dawn." We can relate this statement directly to the breaking of the new dawn between the genders as well, the shifting of gender identities and perhaps in Lennox's lyrics the shifting of changes outside this world.

The next two works entitled Sebastian, 1994, pastel on paper, and Lemon, 1994, pastel on paper, will be treated as a diptic or as the brother and sister images of the postmodern androgyne. In other words the flip sides of one and the same coin. It is interesting to note that the incestuous relationship between a brother and sister, was a popular theme in the depiction of the androgyne during the late nineteenth century. According to this interpretation the brother obviously represented the masculine aspects of the androgyne and the sister became the appropriated femininity of the combination. We will interpret Sebastian and Lemon as brother and sister androgynes, the one with male genitals, the other with female genitals, but they are one and the same person. Sebastian and Lemon become the embodiment of the gender (in) betweener with her broad variety of masks.

In Sebastian we get a sneek view of a very private and intimate scene. The viewer is invited into Sebastian's bathroom, where Sebastian is chained to his own perversions. Payne's Sebastian is depicted in the traditional western pose of St Sebastian tied to a tree and pierced with arrows (Mantegna,St.Sebastian, ) (Michelangelo, Dying Slave, 1503-4). Payne's Sebastian holds his left arm seductively behind his back while the other hand-cuffed arm suggestively turns to his chest. The masochistic implications of the hand-cuffs are obvious. Sebastian is a cross-dresser or tranvestite dressed only in a black lace bra with the strap seductively plunging from his shoulder. A biological male dressed in female underwear. Confusing all definitions. Ironically Payne has depicted him with a halo, perhaps hinting at his "holy" state of gender-bending. Payne's Sebastian has indeed become a martyr for symbolical transsexuality.

Like St Theresa (Bernini, Ecstacy of St. Theresa,1674), swooning in erotic ecstasy, before the angel pierced her heart with an arrow of love, Payne's Sebastian is caught in erotic swooning and seductively throws back his head in ecstasy. Note that this thrown back head was a typical posture of the androgynous femme fatale of the late nineteenth century. Although she seemed to give herself in total erotic rapture, she remained sterile. The femme fatale did not conceive even if she abandonded herself to the most passionate erotic interaction. In this sense she operated as a "male", because "a femme fatale with children is unimaginable" (Hess&Nochiln 1972:195).

Whereas Sebastian is depicted in the private sphere his sister image Lemon is deserted on the public highway. She is exposed in her nakedness - out there for everybody to see. She is injured and her left hand is bandaged. To the left gunshots are visible. We are made aware of the fact that something terrible just happened. There are blood stains on her breastless chest and blood is also dripping from her mouth. She is wearing a red jacket which supports the theme of painful exposure. In her right hand she is holding a lemon substituting a female breast. The lemon becomes the sting of her self-destructive and self-imposed shame (Albrecht Dürer, Self-portrait, 1500). The bitterness of the twilight zone. She seems like an abused creature on the verge of breakdown after a radical experience. The facial expression is delirious but we are also made aware of the tinge of ecstatic perversion hiding under the abused exterior.

This is the gender (in)betweener stumbling onto the high way to no`where'. She is an upsetting and confrontational figure. A `gender-outlaw' who refuses definition. Alarming and ecstatic. She challenges the harmonious Platonian construction of androgyny by not fitting into easy descriptions and definitions. Combining masculinity and femininity in a disturbing way. The battered wife of our imaginations. We know Lemon intimately, the victim of rigid gender configurations. Our sister androgyne going no-`where' fast.

Finally in this brief discussion of Payne's oevre we want to conclude by focussing on the latest work done by Payne entitled Coastal Resort, 1996, pastel. In this work we accidentily stumble accross the dead body of the feminine archetype. Lemon has mummified and turned into a mannequin doll. Payne herself indicates that this is the remains of "the fallen art object." Traditionally the term mannequin refers to artists' lay figure which served as a model of the human body and anatomy. The fallen mannequin in Payne's depiction is dis-membered, bruised and deceased. We see a dark spot on the forehead indicating the death shot. The "object of beauty' is lying in ruins, amongst the garbage and left-overs. Consumed and abandoned. Seduced and abused. The footprints of her aggressors are visible in the sand next to her very "shallow" grave. Surrounding her like last memorial.

The cigarette has been put out. The sparklers now only hints at a more festive time. The ashes in the lefthand corner are but traces of a bygone celebration. Sadly Rigor mortis has set in and the non-looking eyes of the mannequin are staring into oblivion, into no-`where.' The lips are contorted into a corpse's smile. Half-open, half-closed. Death has not brought victory and glory. This is the land of No more I love you's where changes are shifting outside the world and we are left in silence, because the language is leaving us.

University of South Africa

PO Box 392

Pretoria 0003

Tamara de Lempicka: The body Propped and Unpropped

Laura Claridge

United States Naval Academy, English Department

The body as an object of practical attention is nowhere more revered than in the military, where the potential conflict between life (defending one's bodily possession) and death (giving up one's body for the sake of another body) is the raison d'etre for the military's existence. Almost totally untheorized, the body is covertly fetishized by the institution taxed with defending its existence, especially the male body, since traditionally the male is the primary line of defense against potential invaders.

Thus the philosophical and moral complications of gender politics have tended to center in the military upon the limitations of the sexualized bodies of male and female--the strengths and weaknesses the differences project into military agendas. Yet sometimes at odds with the clearly pragmatic is the larger social awareness urged upon the military by a more gender-conscious American culture at large. The resultant earnest attempts by the military, exemplified by my experience as a civilian professor of literature at the U.S. Naval Academy, to eradicate "sexist" behavior, suffer from the often arrogantly undertheorized directives aimed at solving the "problem."

My paper will illustrate the clash of ill-informed good intention with subtly problematized feminist theory, using the mysterious censorship of poster reproductions of the art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka as my tool. Displayed outside my office door, these reproductions suddenly disappeared one day, a victim of attempts to police sexist nudity upon military grounds. The resultant class and gender discordance that the conflict revealed reminds us of the need to dust off by now moldy stereotypes of what sexism is, and to reevaluate how the body can either prop or dislodge limiting definitions of the potency of the sexual distinction between male and female.

210 Domer Avenue, Takoma park

MD 20912 USA

Orgasms, needs, fun and romance:

Dr Delvin's sex advice for women

Lindy Wilbraham

Psychology Department, Rhodes University


Contextual comments:

My paper represented an attempt to extend ideas which were explored in my Master's dissertation on advice columns. In that piece of analytic work, I examined how psychological discourses in the advice genre have colluded in the medicalized control / normalization of "monogamous sexual relationships" and also in what constitutes an "attractive body" (and its uses) for women. In the current paper on David Delvin's sexological advice column, I used a Foucauldian discourse analytic approach because it provided an opportunity to explore the double edged sword that characterises power-knowledge relations, i.e. legitimizing and optimizing sexual experience, while simultaneously constraining what may be legitimately or optimally experienced. These kinds of contradictions tap into an ongoing uneasiness I have about the usefulness of such discourse analytic endeavours, for while they expose a version of the operations and effects of power, they make ameliorative intervention a very slippery terrain. Thus, my work ahead involves finding ways in which this critical (ideological) dimension can be insinuated into popular debates about sexuality and sexuality education, both to subvert/pervert the monolithic medicalized sense of ownership of the body (on a grand scale), and to inspire swarms of mini-resistances to it (on individual bodies, and our relations with other bodies).


This paper produces a feminist-Foucauldian reading of the operations and effects of Dr David Delvin's sex advice column (for women), in Femina magazine. A Foucauldian reading of the advice genre draws on notions of confession, surveillance and subjectivity within institutionalized bodies of knowledge, e.g. medical, sexological, psychoanalytic. My argument explores several critical themes. First, through access to medicalized norms, it examines how Delvin's advice is reproduced as "truthful", and thus, difficult to resist. Second, sexual liberation ideology is interrogated to expose an "orgasmic imperative" which has patriarchal and/or heterosexist over/undertones. Third, intersections between medicalized medicalized information and techniques, and psychological discourses which require "talking about it", are examined. I conclude with considerations of the class-, race- and gender-based assumptions about sexualities of "others" such advice reproduces.

Biographical note:

I am a lecturer in Social Psychology and Research Methodology, in the Psychology Department, at the University of Durban-Westville. I have an M.A. (Research Psych.) from U.C.T., and have published widely on the operations and effects of advice columns in South African magazines. Research interests include identity politics, the media, discourse, feminism, women's health, education, and power and empowerment within a broad "community psychology" framework. In more lucid (and rare leisure) moments, I fantasize about doing a Ph.D. in the area of somatization...

Psychology Dept

Rhodes University



2nd Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "The Body Politic"
critical methods society - -