Friday, March 14, 2008

Abstract of the Week!

Actually it's a review in the journal Feminist Studies: "Class absences: cutting class in feminist studies. (research)":

Until the missing story of ourselves is told, nothing besides can suffice us/We shall go on quietly craving it/In the missing story of ourselves can be found all other missing stories. --Laura Riding Jackson

In "Disappearing Acts: The State and Violence against Women," Michelle Fine and Lois Weis compare the fate of poor women at the end of the twentieth century in the United States to the sleight of hand that erases women "on the edge" in traditional circus disappearing acts. Fine and Weis observe that similar to the awestruck, hoodwinked, and immobilized audiences under the big top, "we witness poor and working class women shoved into spaces too small for human form." These "state sponsored disappearing acts" remind Fine and Weis of the dangers of political invisibility and the cost of separating pleas for access to "economics and education from struggles against violence." (1)

As a multigenerationally poor woman and feminist, poverty-class scholar, I concur that class erasure is indeed present in U.S. media and in political, legislative, public, and policy rhetoric and analysis. I additionally argue that poverty-class erasure, cooptation, and misrepresentation are increasingly--and dangerously--practiced in academe, including in feminist and working-class studies of particular concern to us. The unique perspectives and experiences of the poverty class are neglected in feminist texts and teaching even when the goal of such projects is to study the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and other salient identity markers. Furthermore, those experiences of poverty are rendered invisible as they are folded into and subsumed under analysis of the experiences of the working class, even in feminist labor and working-class studies. As a result, poor women who are feminist poverty-class scholars are caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place. (2) Facing erasure on the one hand and cooptation, repression, and misrepresentation on the other, many of us (who have literally been homeless in life) become homeless again in academe. This sleight-of-hand erases the complexities of women's poverty as it prohibits full, first-hand, poverty-class analysis of the American condition, to the detriment of us all; certainly to the bane of assiduous feminist scholars committed to inclusive knowledge, honoring difference, and struggling for social justice.

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