Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Feminist Anthropology
Of interest to: Students
Primary Theme: Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Class
The past fifty years have seen enormous shifts in the relationship between expert knowledge and gender. Such transformations reveal profound insights as to whose knowledge matters and in what ways it can be put to use. Where the state once wielded almost singular influence as a source of expertise about gender — for example, linking the heteronormative family to economic development — expanding sources of knowledge and increased access to it suggests transformative possibilities. However, rather than disappear, the gendered body persists as a locus of anxieties about globalization and nation-building projects. It is against this background of a proliferation of sources of expertise on the one hand, and the continuing centrality of the gendered body on the other, that this panel finds its moorings.
This panel presents an opportunity to expand on the critical feminist vocabulary on expertise and gender in the context of the transformed role of the state in an era of neoliberalism. A rich corpus of ethnographic research about feminist, queer and transgender topics attends to the results of more diffuse (and less state-based) forms of expertise about gender, sexuality and kinship globally. Yet, at the same time that these transformations have taken place, in many parts of the world the state has ceded many of its functions to private interests. This process of neoliberalism — while varying in form — has given rise to a proliferation of sources of expert knowledge about the correct performance of the self, with profoundly ambivalent results around the world.
By describing the role that expert knowledge about gender continues to play in the midst of economic transformations globally, this panel hopes to present a lens on broader processes of social change. It does so by placing case studies in conversation with feminist theoretical perspectives on the body and the production of new disciplinary norms. This panel finds its urgency both in the way that expert knowledge continues to be held as both valid and necessary and the new meanings that it takes on at the nexus of private-state interest. The panel attends to the way in which expert knowledge shapes the subject in formation by affirming, rather than disavowing, the cross-cutting nature of human experience. In this way, there is a renewed need to engage feminist theoretical approaches to the role of expert knowledge in dialogue with questions of gender, class, race, age, sexuality and nation.
The panel will explore the following questions in dialogue with ethnographic material:
— How are proliferating sources of expertise about gender practised and embodied?
— In what ways do individuals contest or rely on state authority in order to assert gendered forms of agency?
— What do everyday practices reveal about the production and contestation of expert knowledge about gender?