Politics, at Least Term Paper

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[. . .] (49-51) Class and gender, Scott suggests, are intertwined, and one, specific historical conception of class impacts similar historically specific conceptions of gender.

Much of Scott's focus is on 19th century and early 20th century history, with a strong emphasis on European, specifically French history, however. French women played a far more critical role both in the revolution, the political developments of the mid-19th century period of that country, and the way that the industrial revolution did and did not impact the history of France. (101-102; 208-209) However, by drawing so much of her data and her own historiography from a very particular place in history and time, Scott raises questions about her own analysis that are only touched upon, or go unanswered altogether.

Is the sweeping analysis she brings about the futile nature of finding a feminist historiography itself rooted in the particularity of her own academic spheres of interest and study? Would a historian with a similar project, of creating a more coherent sense of feminist historiography, reach similar conclusions, if that historian focused on, perhaps, women in 19th century China or African-American slaves of the antebellum period in the American South?

Scott would respond that her point is that historiography is by its very nature a discipline of particularity. Every field of specialization pertaining to a particular country and to a particular era of history has its own particular lens and scope of bias, its own set of 'tools' that are often not used outside of that discipline. Although she does not accept their work and words uncritically, Scott is clearly very influenced by the deconstructionist school of history, the psychoanalytic views of Sigmund Freud, and the writings of Michel Foucalt. Even as she writes against such authors and attempts to inject a more gender-conscious approach to their works, she shows how their influence has permeated the particular historical school of academia she is located in. (38-39; 85-86)

How can the discipline of history, so particular in its nature, form a specific historically analytic method that encompasses women's histories from various languages, eras, races, geographies, and classes? Scott shows that one cannot write women as a category existing outside of these boundaries. For a historian to trace a linear narrative between women of different backgrounds from place to place is to deny the uniqueness of these various women's narratives. Scott suggests that the nature of history is to understand the specificity of every construction of women from era to era, for instance. By showing the ways these constructions differ, a historian may gain a sense of how the history of women has impacted the history of the world, and also of how women have not been included within all of the gains experienced by a relatively small proportion of the population, a population that is often of a specific race, class, and gender. But 'women' as a construct is not a preexisting category, but because it has been treated as such in so many ways, it forms a valid tool for historiography.

Scott's insistence upon a valid historiography places her analysis squarely within the historical discipline of study yet also within literary and academic psychoanalytic theory popular within France. She wishes to have a political impact with her work as well as an academic influence. But she wishes her work, above all, to have a sense of academic rigor that a popular author, with an eye on the often polarizing (and often more simplistic) discourse of the purely political might not. Because she writes within academia, and a very particular form of academic at that, still the question remains -- can drawing such broad connections be useful in the current political landscape we live in, when attempting to make a point to serve feminist political goals? How can the impact of race and national origin, so important in the United States today, for instance, in analyzing gender both politically and academically, be understood intelligently and yet serve feminist political ends? Scott's focus gives scant treatment to this subject; it is not part of her book's project. Yet her book is thought-provoking and wide enough in its scope as it is, not providing answers about how to construct a valid form of far-reaching feminist historiography but still an important feminist document.

Works Cited

Scott, Joan Wallach. Gender and the Politics… [END OF PREVIEW]

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