Sunday, April 1, 2012

CFP: Feminists Face the State: A Berkeley Symposium on Politics, State Power and Gender

CFP: Feminists Face the State:
A Berkeley Symposium on Politics, State Power and Gender
November 7, 2012
9 am – 5 pm

How does state power organize, and is organized by, gender? This conference will build a sustained dialogue around the intersection of gender, politics and the state. It aims to recuperate the notion of “facing” the state as a form of active, feminist critique vis-à-vis state power. By “facing the state,” we hope to both explore the different gendered forms of power implicated in the multifaceted nature of the state as well as “face” – as feminists – the intractable and deeply ambiguous relationship between the state and the project of feminism. In doing so, this conference will serve as a forum to collaboratively build approaches that critically think beyond existing state-related structures and practices and reimagine the possible.

With this line of inquiry in mind, we call for papers that provide feminist analyses of the state and/or analyze the relationship between the state and feminism. Possible topics might include: What does a comparison of the welfare, neoliberal and security state paradigms reveal about the state as a gendered institution as well as the possibilities for feminist critique? In what ways does the state act as a privileged institution for gendering social structure and practice, or does it merely reproduce, and perhaps amplify, the gendered fall-out of the market and other social institutions? What might a “feminist” state look like – is it an oxymoron? To what extent does focusing on “masculinity” provide a useful – or limiting – framework for understanding the state? How might we “face” the state from an intersectional perspective? How is feminist critique expanded by looking beyond the modern Western capitalist state to other state formations across time and place?

This all-day symposium will take place on November 7th, 2012 (appropriately the day after the U.S. Presidential Elections), and it is funded by the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley.

This symposium is organized by Abigail Andrews, Nazanin Shahrokni and Jennifer Carlson. If you are interested in participating, please contact Jennifer Carlson, at by Monday, April 30th, with a 200-word abstract.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Berkeley Sociology of Gender Reviews Not Under My Roof by Amy Schalet

Amy Schalet’s new book, Not Under My Roof: Parent, Teens and the Culture of Sex, compares cultural attitudes toward adolescent sexuality across the U.S. and the Netherlands. Schalet begins her story with a puzzle: both countries experienced a sexual revolution in the 1960s that led to important changes in societal beliefs about sexuality. In the Netherlands, these changes resulted in a widespread normalization of adolescent sexuality, leading to greater openness in the sexual education curriculum and greater parental acceptance of teenagers’ sexual relationships. However, in the U.S., Schalet shows that adolescent sexuality has become dramatized, with parents and teachers viewing it as a site of danger, antagonism and conflict. In place of the Dutch discourses of young love, personal responsibility, and trust in children’s judgment, American ways of speaking about teenage sex emphasize hormonal upheavals, lust, and lack of control.

Schalet explains these differences by way of two distinct types of individualism: adversarial individualism, which characterizes the U.S., and interdependent individualism, which characterizes the Netherlands. Provocatively, she notes that these two strains of individualism pose distinct gender problems: under adversarial individualism, gender conflicts become exacerbated, while under interdependent individualism, gender conflicts are obscured, leaving girls with limited cultural resources to navigate their own experiences of vulnerability. Nevertheless, while Schalet cautions that the Dutch system is not without its drawbacks, she concludes that American sex education and health care are not adequately supporting and protecting teenagers, and the Dutch case offers an important contrast for imagining how different teenage sexuality could be.

Drawing on rich interview data she conducted throughout the 1990s and 2000, Schalet’s work highlights the areas of clearest distinction between the two countries as well as moments of contradiction within countries (and even within parents’ accounts of their own beliefs and practices). Not Under My Roof moves between micro- and macro-levels of investigation to understand both the history and the present-day reproduction of each country’s discourses about adolescent sexuality. Some chapters focus on within-family values and negotiations over adolescent sexuality, as in the case of parents’ rationalizations for whether or not they will allow children’s boyfriends and girlfriends to sleep over. In other chapters, Schalet widens her gaze to look at historical trajectories leading to these divergent views and values, as well as contemporary policies and cultural norms that shape parents’ and children’s understandings.

Sociologists looking to use Schalet’s work to inform their own scholarship will find that she has opened a series of fruitful conceptual questions regarding culture and politics: How do cultural attitudes surrounding individualism shape how power unfolds at both micro- and macro-levels? Under what contexts are these attitudes liable to shift? As she suggests, her framework should prove useful in exploring other examples of social regulation – punishment and deviance, for example – and their variation across different historical periods and cultural contexts. Future research may extend Schalet’s approach by focusing on how different strains of individualism conceal, exacerbate or mediate gender, race and other lines of difference in regulatory contexts beyond teenage sexuality.

For scholars looking to use this book in the classroom, Schalet’s writing style is clear and engaging, and she has written this book with both academics and the wider public in mind. This book is particularly ideal for encouraging introductory students to “think difference differently,” as gender scholars are apt to say. One of the central—and most challenging—aims of introductory classes is to help students begin to critically examine their taken-for-granted expectations about society and to realize that “it could be otherwise.” Schalet’s book is well situated for this task: it takes on a topic, adolescent sexuality, that will be personally familiar to most undergraduates, and it illustrates the profoundly different discourses that have arisen around it in the Netherlands and the U.S.

- Kate Mason, Jennifer Carlson and Jessica Cobb, UC Berkeley

Purchase this book at University of Chicago Press.

Follow Amy Schalet and her book on her website,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Welcome to Berkeley Sociology of Gender

Hi Everyone -

Welcome to the (humble) launch of our blog for Berkeley Sociology of Gender. In the months to come, we hope to have a diverse array of content: book reviews, popular culture commentary, and topics of interest to graduate students in sociology of gender. Would you like to contribute? Please contact us, and we'd be happy to feature your blogs!

In the meantime, please follow us!


Jenny Carlson, Jessica Cobb & Kate Mason