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Gender and Race Studies

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New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming

Ten years after the groundbreaking From Barbie to Mortal Kombat highlighted the ways gender stereotyping and related social and economic issues permeate digital game play, the number of women and girl gamers has risen considerably. Despite this, gender disparities remain in gaming. Women may be warriors in World of Warcraft, but they are also scantily clad "booth babes" whose sex appeal is used to promote games at trade shows. Player-generated content has revolutionized gaming, but few games marketed to girls allow "modding" (game modifications made by players). Gender equity, the contributors to Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat argue, requires more than increasing the overall numbers of female players.

Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat brings together new media theorists, game designers, educators, psychologists, and industry professionals, including some of the contributors to the earlier volume, to look at how gender intersects with the broader contexts of digital games today: gaming, game industry and design, and serious games. The contributors discuss the rise of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and the experience of girl and women players in gaming communities; the still male-dominated gaming industry and the need for different perspectives in game design; and gender concerns related to emerging serious games (games meant not only to entertain but also to educate, persuade, or change behavior). In today's game-packed digital landscape, there is an even greater need for games that offer motivating, challenging, and enriching contexts for play to a more diverse population of players.

Contributors: Cornelia Brunner, Shannon Campe, Justine Cassell, Mia Consalvo, Jill Denner, Mary Flanagan, Janine Fron, Tracy Fullerton, Elisabeth Hayes, Carrie Heeter, Kristin Hughes, Mizuko Ito, Henry Jenkins, Yasmin B. Kafai, Caitlin Kelleher, Brenda Laurel, Nicole Lazzaro, Holin Lin, Jacki Morie, Helen Nissenbaum, Celia Pearce, Caroline Pelletier, Jennifer Y. Sun, T. L. Taylor, Brian Winn, Nick Yee.

Interviews with: Nichol Bradford, Brenda Braithwaite, Megan Gaiser, Sheri Graner Ray, Morgan Romine.

Work by black artists today is almost uniformly understood in terms of its "blackness," with audiences often expecting or requiring it to "represent" the race. In How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness, Darby English shows how severely such expectations limit the scope of our knowledge about this work and how different it looks when approached on its own terms. Refusing to grant racial blackness—his metaphorical "total darkness"—primacy over his subjects' other concerns and contexts, he brings to light problems and possibilities that arise when questions of artistic priority and freedom come into contact, or even conflict, with those of cultural obligation. English examines the integrative and interdisciplinary strategies of five contemporary artists—Kara Walker, Fred Wilson, Isaac Julien, Glenn Ligon, and William Pope.L—stressing the ways in which this work at once reflects and alters our view of its informing context: the advent of postmodernity in late twentieth-century American art and culture.

The necessity for "black art" comes both from antiblack racism and resistances to it, from both segregation and efforts to imagine an autonomous domain of black culture. Yet to judge by the work of many contemporary practitioners, English writes, black art is increasingly less able—and black artists less willing—to maintain its standing as a realm apart. Through close examinations of Walker's controversial silhouettes' insubordinate reply to pictorial tradition, Wilson's and Julien's distinct approaches to institutional critique, Ligon's text paintings' struggle with modernisms, and Pope.L's vexing performance interventions, English grounds his contention that to understand this work is to displace race from its central location in our interpretation and to grant right of way to the work's historical, cultural, and aesthetic specificity.

I'd find it amusing if, in a few centuries, the only thing that our descendents condescend to retain of our artistic production, the only thing in which they'll see worlds to admire, to penetrate, the only thing that they'll show off as precious in immense museums after having flushed down the toilet all our acknowledged masterpieces, the only thing that will give them nostalgia and love for us will be our porn.
—from Diary of an Innocent

Exiled from the prestigious French literary circles that had adored him in the 1970s, novelist Tony Duvert's life ended in anonymity. In 2008, nineteen years after his last book was published, Duvert's lifeless body was discovered in the small village of Thoré-la-Rochette, where he had been living a life of total seclusion.

Now for the first time, Duvert's most highly crafted novel is available in English. Poetic, brutally frank, and outright shocking, Diary of an Innocent recounts the risky experiences of a sexual adventurer among a tribe of adolescent boys in an imaginary setting that suggests North Africa. More reverie than narrative, Duvert's Diary presents a cascading series of portraits of the narrator's adolescent sexual partners and their culture, and ends with a fanciful yet rigorous construction of a reverse world in which marginal sexualities have become the norm.

Written with gusto and infused with a luminous bitterness, this novel is more unsettling to readers today than it was to its first audience when published in French in 1976. In his openly declared war on society, Duvert presents a worldview that offers no easy moral code and no false narrative solution of redemption. And yet no reader will remain untouched by the book's dazzling language, stinging wit, devotion to matters of the heart, and terse condemnation of today's society.

Native Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

Black-, Asian-, and White-Owned Businesses in the United States

Thirteen million people in the United States--roughly one in ten workers--own a business. And yet rates of business ownership among African Americans are much lower and have been so throughout the twentieth century. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, businesses owned by African Americans tend to have lower sales, fewer employees and smaller payrolls, lower profits, and higher closure rates. In contrast, Asian American-owned businesses tend to be more successful. In Race and Entrepreneurial Success, minority entrepreneurship authorities Robert Fairlie and Alicia Robb examine racial disparities in business performance. Drawing on the rarely used, restricted-access Characteristics of Business Owners (CBO) dataset compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, Fairlie and Robb examine in particular why Asian-owned firms perform well in comparison to white-owned businesses and black-owned firms typically do not. They also explore the broader question of why some entrepreneurs are successful and others are not.. After providing new comprehensive estimates of recent trends in minority business ownership and performance, the authors examine the importance of human capital, financial capital, and family business background in successful business ownership. They find that a high level of startup capital is the most important factor contributing to the success of Asian-owned businesses, and that the lack of startup money for black businesses (attributable to the fact that nearly half of all black families have less than $6,000 in total wealth) contributes to their relative lack of success. In addition, higher education levels among Asian business owners explain much of their success relative to both white- and African American-owned businesses. Finally, Fairlie and Robb find that black entrepreneurs have fewer opportunities than white entrepreneurs to acquire valuable pre-business work experience through working in family businesses.

Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference

The post–civil rights era perspective of many scientists and scholars was that race was nothing more than a social construction. Recently, however, the relevance of race as a social, legal, and medical category has been reinvigorated by science, especially by discoveries in genetics. Although in 2000 the Human Genome Project reported that humans shared 99.9 percent of their genetic code, scientists soon began to argue that the degree of variation was actually greater than this, and that this variation maps naturally onto conventional categories of race. In the context of this rejuvenated biology of race, the contributors to What’s the Use of Race? investigate whether race can be a category of analysis without reinforcing it as a basis for discrimination. Can policies that aim to alleviate inequality inadvertently increase it by reifying race differences? The essays focus on contemporary questions at the cutting edge of genetics and governance, examining them from the perspectives of law, science, and medicine. The book follows the use of race in three domains of governance: ruling, knowing, and caring. Contributors first examine the use of race and genetics in the courtroom, law enforcement, and scientific oversight; then explore the ways that race becomes, implicitly or explicitly, part of the genomic science that attempts to address human diversity; and finally investigate how race is used to understand and act on inequities in health and disease. Answering these questions is essential for setting policies for biology and citizenship in the twenty-first century.

Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, medical writers and philosophers began to devote increasing attention to what they called "women's secrets," by which they meant female sexuality and generation. At the same time, Italian physicians and surgeons began to open human bodies in order to study their functions and the illnesses that afflicted them, culminating in the great illustrated anatomical treatise of Andreas Vesalius in 1543. Katharine Park traces these two closely related developments through a series of case studies of women whose bodies were dissected after their deaths: an abbess, a lactating virgin, several patrician wives and mothers, and an executed criminal. Drawing on a variety of texts and images, she explores the history of women's bodies in Italy between the late thirteenth and the mid-sixteenth centuries in the context of family identity, religious observance, and women's health care.

Secrets of Women explodes the myth that medieval religious prohibitions hindered the practice of human dissection in medieval and Renaissance Italy, arguing that female bodies, real and imagined, played a central role in the history of anatomy during that time. The opened corpses of holy women revealed sacred objects, while the opened corpses of wives and mothers yielded crucial information about where babies came from and about the forces that shaped their vulnerable flesh. In the process, what male writers knew as the "secrets of women" came to symbolize the most difficult challenges posed by human bodies—challenges that dissection promised to overcome. Park's study of women's bodies and men's attempts to know them—and through these efforts to know their own—demonstrates the centrality of gender to the development of early modern anatomy.

Education, Race, and Computing

The number of African Americans and Latino/as receiving undergraduate and advanced degrees in computer science is disproportionately low, according to recent surveys. And relatively few African American and Latino/a high school students receive the kind of institutional encouragement, educational opportunities, and preparation needed for them to choose computer science as a field of study and profession. In Stuck in the Shallow End, Jane Margolis looks at the daily experiences of students and teachers in three Los Angeles public high schools: an overcrowded urban high school, a math and science magnet school, and a well-funded school in an affluent neighborhood. She finds an insidious “virtual segregation” that maintains inequality. Two of the three schools studied offer only low-level, how-to (keyboarding, cutting and pasting) introductory computing classes. The third and wealthiest school offers advanced courses, but very few students of color enroll in them. The race gap in computer science, Margolis finds, is one example of the way students of color are denied a wide range of occupational and educational futures. Margolis traces the interplay of school structures (such factors as course offerings and student-to-counselor ratios) and belief systems—including teachers’ assumptions about their students and students’ assumptions about themselves. Stuck in the Shallow End is a story of how inequality is reproduced in America—and how students and teachers, given the necessary tools, can change the system.

Days and Nights of an Anarchist Whore

They have to come back to us, because we know every detail of their orgasms, their little caprices, their little weaknesses and strengths. We know all of them. I mean, where do you expect them to go? They'll be disappointed anywhere else. Except for with us, because we know them like the back of our hand. As soon as they get in the door, it's like we'd made them ourselves. We know all the right things to say, all the gestures, there're no surprises.
—from The Little Black Book of Grisélidis Réal

The Little Black Book of Grisélidis Réal is the portrait of a true humanist who made a career out of compassion. Hailed as a virtuoso writer and a "revolutionary whore," Grisélidis Réal (1929–2005) chanced into prostitution at thirty-one after an upper-class upbringing in Switzerland. Serving clients from all walks of life, Réal applied the anarcho-Marxist dictum "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" to her profession, charging sliding-scale fees determined by her client's incomes and complexity of their sexual tastes. Réal went on to become a militant champion of sexual freedom and prostitutes' rights. She has described prostitution as "an art, and a humanist science," noting that "the only authentic prostitution is that mastered by great technical artists ... who practice this form of native craft with intelligence, respect, imagination, heart..."

This volume includes lengthy dialogues from 1979–1981 with Réal conducted by journalist and author Jean-Luc Hennig, in which she eloquently discusses the theoretical implications of sex-positive whoring and relates her experiences both inside and outside the profession: from her lengthy love affair with the "Berber" to such "psychological" and "special" clients as the "moldy rhinoceros." The "Little Black Book" that rounds out this book is drawn from the logs in which Réal kept track of her many clients, from "Pedro, hilarious fat Spaniard, devoted, simple, honest, fat peasant face, 70F" to "Pierre 8 (from Basel), blue eyes, fifties, slightly balding, cultivated, sweet-violent ... licks my finger after I remove it from his anus ... 100–400F." It is a journal that not only chronicles Réal's working life, but offers a clinically direct, investigative sociological analysis of the sexual subcultures of her time.

Native Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

"Alone in his forest dwelling, an ogre had spent years building machines to force his visitors to make love to one another: machines with pulleys, chains, clocks, collars, leather leggings, metal breastplates, oscillatory, pendular, or rotating dildos. One day, some adolescents who had lost their way, seven or eight brothers, entered the ogre's house..."
—From The Screwball Asses

"Our asshole is revolutionary."
—Guy Hocquenghem

"Workers of the world, masturbate!"
—Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire slogan

First published anonymously in Félix Guattari's Recherches in the notorious 1973 issue on homosexuality (seized and destroyed by the French government), The Screwball Asses remains a dramatic treatise on erotic desire. In this classic underground text, queer theorist and post-'68 provocateur Guy Hocquenghem takes on the militant delusions of the gay liberation movement. Hocquenghem, founder and leader of the Front Homosexuel d'Action Revolutionnaire, vivisects not only the stifled mores of bourgeois capitalism but the phallocratic concessions of so-called homophiles, and, ultimately, the very act of speaking desire (and non-desire). Rejecting any "pure theory" of homosexuality that claims its "otherness" as a morphology of revolution, he contends that the ruling classes have invented homosexuality as a sexual ghetto, splitting and mutilating desire in the process. It is only when non-desire and the desire of desire are enacted simultaneously through speech and body that homosexuality can finally be sublimated under the true act of "making love." There are thousands of sexes on earth, according to Hocquenghem, but only one sexual desire.

Available in English for the first time, The Screwball Asses is a revelatory disquisition, earning Hocquenghem his rightful place among the minoritarian elite of Gilles Deleuze, Jean Genet, and Tony Duvert.

Intervention series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

An autobiographical novel by turn naïve and cunning, funny and moving, this most recent work by Moroccan expatriate Abdellah Taïa is a major addition to the new French literature emerging from the North African Arabic diaspora. Salvation Army is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Taïa's life with complete disclosure—from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Salé, through a sexual awakening in Tangier charged by the young writer's attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood. In so doing, Salvation Army manages to burn through the author's first-person singularity to embody the complex mélange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture.

Recently hailed by his native country's press as "the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference," Taïa, through his calmly transgressive work, has "outed" himself as "the only gay man" in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime. The persistence of prejudices on all sides of the Mediterranean and Atlantic makes the translation of Taïa's work both a literary and political event. The arrival of Salvation Army (published in French in 2006) in English will be welcomed by an American audience already familiar with a growing cadre of talented Arab writers working in French (including Muhammad Dib, Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Abdelkebir Khatibi, and Kātib Yāsīn).

Native Agents series
Distributed for Semiotext(e)

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