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Gender and Culture

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4799-9
192 pages
June 2010, Polity
Gender and Culture (0745647995) cover image
The idea that respect for cultural diversity conflicts with gender equality is now a staple of both public and academic debate. Yet discussion of these tensions is marred by exaggerated talk of cultural difference, leading to ethnic reductionism, cultural stereotyping, and a hierarchy of traditional and modern. In this volume, Anne Phillips firmly rejects the notion that ‘culture’ might justify the oppression of women, but also queries the stereotypical binaries that have represented people from ethnocultural minorities as peculiarly resistant to gender equality.

The questions addressed include the relationship between universalism and cultural relativism, how to distinguish valid generalisation from either gender or cultural essentialism, and how to recognise women as agents rather than captives of culture. The discussions are illuminated by reference to legal cases and policy interventions, with a particular focus on forced marriage and cultural defence.
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Acknowledgements vi

1 Introduction 1

2 Multiculturalism, universalism and the claims of democracy 16

3 Dilemmas of gender and culture: the judge, the democrat and the political activist 38

4 What is ‘culture’? 57

5 What’s wrong with essentialism? 69

6 When culture means gender: issues of cultural defence in the English courts 83

7 Free to decide for oneself 107

8 Consent, autonomy and coercion: forced marriage, public policy and the courts 124

Notes 142

Bibliography 157

Index 165

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Anne Phillips is Professor of Political and Gender Theory AT London School of Economics and Political Science.
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• A wide-ranging volume from a leading figure in gender studies
• Phillips examines the relationship between universalism and cultural relativism, how to distinguish valid generalisation from either gender or cultural essentialism, and how to recognise women as agents rather than captives of culture
• The text is illuminated by legal cases and policy interventions, with a particular focus on forced marriage and cultural defence
• This will appeal to all students interested in the meaning of culture and its relationship to the study of gender
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"[Phillips] draws attention to a whole new set of questions about the relationship between gender and culture and provides directions for future research in this area."
Political Studies Review

"Anne Phillips's work demonstrates the exhilaration and importance of sustained critique. This insightful work is the latest contribution in her deft and decisive critiques of multiculturalism. It lays out the moral, philosophical and practical grounds at stake in tackling the intractable Gordian knot of gender and culture. It raises all our hopes and forces us to rethink the most settled of positions."
Henrietta Moore, London School of Economics

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