I wish I had more lectures (Marxist Feminism! and What is culture?)

(I started writing this after lectures Wednesday night).

Lectures in postgrad feel so much shorter than lectures did in undergrad.  Maybe it’s because they’re only once per week, so everything is condensed.  It could also be that everyone seems more committed to and interested in the materials/topics.  People seem less afraid to say really smart things as well, because hey we’ve all done a lot of studying already, we’ve got foundational knowledge in some field(s) and we’re older.  The part about being older is twofold: You’re expected to “have more wisdom” as you get older so it’s more acceptable to sound wisdom-ful, and we’re closer in age to our lecturers, thus diminishing the power difference.  Whatever it is, I leave lectures both feeling fulfilled and wanting more.

For TG this week, we read part of Engels’ The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and State.  It may seem slightly misplaced: Why are we reading this old text written by an old white man to learn about gender and sexuality theory??  The answer:  Marxist Feminism!  (But actually because Judith Butler said it is a crucial feminist text, and her word is (feminist) scripture).  I had heard the term “Marxist Feminism” thrown around throughout undergrad, and even saw silly memes about it, but I never fully understood what it meant.  I knew it had to do with “material conditions” and Marx’s economic theory had something to do with it, but it was all pretty vague to me.  All throughout my lecture on Wednesday it went “CLICK. Thaaat’s what it is.” And the theory makes so much sense!  All of Engels’ points are quite logical and do well to describe the conditions.  His evidence wasn’t perfect, but the theory was good.

Here are some of his points that were the most interesting to me:
-If we accept that gender relations came into being due to economic, material conditions, as Engels shows,  then changing our material conditions should enable us to overcome gender inequalities.  Engels thought this would come about through technology.  Obviously, he was wrong.
-The heterosexual, monogamous family is a historical construction.  It came about because of specific conditions in a historical era, and is not a permanent structure resulting from the human condition.  When the family and thus heterosexuality are understood as temporary, it follows that gender is also a construction.  Moreover, when the “naturalness” of the monogamous family is removed, you throw out along with it many assumptions about how people’s sex lives should be.
>I guess a radical queer response to the American conservatives “Save the Modern Family” values would be to “Deconstruct and Re-conceptualize the Modern Family.”
-Engels thought reproductive work- birthing and raising children- needs to be valued as much as productive labor, and that this is key to women’s liberation.  Reproductive labor should be recognized as a public activity and something that benefits every person.
-Engels thought that only once people’s material conditions were equal, and no person was dependent on the other, could we fully, genuinely love.  Awww what a romantic ❤

CHR was equally awesome.  First we brainstormed what we think culture is.  A few themes emerged from our brainstorm: 1) Many words overlapped with what we think of human rights, 2)Culture has a significant temporal aspect- past, present, and future aspects, 3) Culture is often defined against “others,” defined by what it is not, and yet defined by those outside it.
In the last 30-40 years, culture as a concept has become full of contradictions within the field of anthropology.  Is it bound and distinct, or is it universal?  Often it is described as both.  Is relative vs. universal even a coherent question to ask regarding culture?  Culture is unsettled, changing, yet often conceived as a settled thing.  Culture, rights, and law have become more and more intertwined, and more and more within a global context.  Is there an “international” culture?  There’s international law, and law and culture are quite similar in how they are conceived.  For example, both require a general, broad definition while they are meant to address things that are very specific.  (I know this is kind of vague, but I’m still trying to grasp it myself).
Human rights has been an ever expanding topic, especially with regards to international law and a “globalised culture.”  Rights discourse creates culture because it requires cultures to be defined explicitly and described as a discrete thing.  It’s interesting to think about the implications of this.
My professor posed a question at the end of class that I now want to pose to you (and please do respond in the comments with your pondering responses): What is the difference between culture and community?

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