Rachel Corr is professor of anthropology at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University.Jacqueline H. Fewkes is professor of anthropology at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University.
Resulting from a 2018 panel held for the American Anthropological Association, this collection presents seven case studies from different geographical loci spanning five continents. The editors and contributors (trained as cultural anthropologists or archaeologists) have gleaned information from public domains to shed light on the private lives of women who lived or worked in diverse settings (homes, factories, plantations, or markets). The authors employ methods primarily from ethnohistory (and sometimes ethnology and archaeology) to assess such sources as public records, personal journals, correspondence, public performances, material culture, and the built environment, extracting information about the blurred dichotomy of public/private lives. Although the women subjects came from varied backgrounds (including enslaved persons, textile mill workers, tea processors, and British colonialists in South Asia), by focusing on the concept of agency, these studies document the private/public connections across colonial and capitalist contexts, such as the slave trade diaspora and cultural/ethnic heritages. Exposing elitism, sexism, racism, and inequality, the contributions illustrate how friendships and marriages transcended ethnic, class, economic, and religious boundaries. These thoughtful essays inform readers about potentially flawed assumptions of a presumed public/private divide and the relationships between personal and civic ideologies. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
Through a series of intimate histories of people and things, this volume challenges both the reality and the conceptual utility of the public-private divide. The authors argue persuasively that intimate, interpersonal relationships are not only relevant to understanding broader cultural and historical patterns—in many ways, they shape those patterns. (This book) would makea valuable addition to anthropology and history classes.
This refreshing and very readable collection of essays adroitly edited by Rachel Corr and Jacqueline H. Fewkes is something of a magic carpet ride as seven anthropologists address our bittersweet longing to be transported to places where real people in past times cooked, crafted, labored, litigated, loved, and often suffered. The teasing out of emotional dimensions of sexist, racist, violent, and other intimate arrangements is accomplished through creative application of ethnography, discourse analysis, ethnohistory, and archaeology to case studies of “the particular” carried out in the Andes, Chicago, the Gambia, Ghana, Ireland, South Asia, and Taiwan. New questions are raised regarding women’s agency; global black consciousness; friendships and marriages that cut across ethnic, class, and religious lines; flawed assumptions about a presumed public/private divide; and the dialectical relationship between the personal and the political. The volume beautifully demonstrates that by concentrating on the realm of the intimate it is possible to achieve not only a better degree of empathy with people living in cultures and historical periods removed from the present in space and time, but also greater historical accuracy regarding the intersectional, transcultural and interdependent dimensions of colonialism, conviviality, cosmopolitanism, and capitalism.