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Record Type: Review   ID: 820

Texts, Facts, and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling

Smith, Dorothy E.

The author is a sociologist and a leading American feminist thinker. This is a collection of key unpublished and previously published essays, each in its way dealing with Smith's work on texts and social relations. In her Introduction, she writes that two lines of inquiry are incorporated in this book that have long engaged her. At one time she thought she was pursuing parallel paths, but she now views them "as aspects of one unfolding inquiry into contemporary history and society and, indeed, that the underground grubbing and molework that went into bringing them into coherent relation to one another was foundational to an ability to engage properly with either. These two lines of inquiry are, first, into what it means to explore the social from the site of women's experience and beginning therefore with an experiencing and embodied subject, and second, into the social organization of the objectified knowledges that are essential constituents of the relations of ruling of contemporary capitalism. The methods of inquiry developed and used in these chapters have emerged from conjoining these lines of inquiry" (p. 1).

The analyses of texts, presented in this book, investigate how texts, in their reading, are "active" in the actual organization of such relations. Textual analysis, as practiced here, explores the ubiquitous and generalizing organization of the ruling relations. Rather than superseding sociological investigations of formal organization, of the state, of mass media, or of other elements of the ruling apparatus, my intention is to rewrite their fundamental ontology. The actual practices ordering the daily relations that regulate contemporary advanced capitalist society, however conceptualized, can be subject to empirical inquiry, to ethnographic exploration, once texts are recognized as integral and "active" constituents. Uncovering texts as constituents of relations anchors research in the actual ways in which relations are organized and how they operate. The enterprise is indeed grandiose; it is that of transforming our understanding of the nature of power when power is textually mediated" (p. 224).

Publisher Information:London, England: Routledge, 1990. 247p. Bibl: 235-241; Chap. bibl: 225-234; 7 figs; Name index: 242-243; Subject index: 244-247; 1 table
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