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Engendering culture in psychology

Burman, Erica (2005) Engendering culture in psychology. Theory and psychology, 15 (4). pp. 527-548. ISSN 0959-3543

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Abstract

This paper explores the politics of gender circulating within the discourse of culture in psychology. Two complementary conceptualizations of culture are considered in relation to the politics of gender representation they either afford or disallow. Notions of dominant or mainstream culture typically portray gender as marginal or else as indicative of other markers of difference (whereby the over-visibility of gender reflects its tokenized, reified and homogenized status). Either way, both the centrality and intersectionality of gender and culture are overlooked in ways that bolster the liberal pluralism of multiculturalist discourse. Alternatively, discourses around culture that presume minority status currently function to indicate racialized difference. These not only reify cultural practices in ways that abstract and separate them from the contexts of their emergence and function and so feed into discourses of cultural pathologization, but they also privilege ‘race’ over gender and so, paradoxically, marginalize and even exclude some minority women’s positions, interests and experiences. Within both discourses of culture, the contemporary romanticization and abstraction surrounding notions of ‘community’ is shown to marginalize gender-specific issues posed by the position of minoritization. Drawing on conceptual-political problems posed by prevailing discourses of culture and gender in relation to domestic violence, some examples are offered to indicate how re-conceptualizing the relations between culture, ‘race’ and gender can challenge and change theory, policy and practice.

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