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Feminist International Relations: An Unfinished Journey by Christine Sylvester Review by: Marysia Zalewski Contemporary Sociology, Vol.

33, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 29-31 Published by: American Sociological Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3593590 . Accessed: 14/05/2012 08:17
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Inequalities

29

Hispanic and Asian populations, blacks will here in the United States that are disconnectlose any special claim they might have on the ed from the colonial or slave histories in their "nationalconsciousness" by virtue of being native countries. Thus the larger issues of the oldest or main minority group. She sug- globalization and North/Southpolitical struggests that blacks might once again get gles and their possible impact on interracial "passed over"-the first time was during ear- and ethnic coalition-building in the United lier European migrations-in their struggle States, are not considered by the authors. for full participationin U.S. society. Derrick This is an important omission, as it distorts Bell argues that there is little empirical sup- the balance of forces affecting politics in the port or logic for thinking that U.S. society is United States, as well as global debates willing or capable of living up to its color- already influencing race and ethnic identities blind ideals. He argues that the juryis still out in this country. For example, in terms of on whether Hispanics and Asians will be pressure on U.S. institutionsto recognize the enticed into a romance of "quasi-whitestaof ethnic and racialdiversity,certus" or if they will join in coalitions with significance tainly the rising economic and political blacks to fight "the economic and social importance of developing countries (China, rejection"suffered by both. Joe Feagin and is as important a factor as Hernan Vera maintain that white economic Mexico, Nigeria) trends inside the United States. elites exploit racial minorities, while white demographic The coalitions that blacks, Hispanics, and politicianswhip up white's fear of impending other groups pursue in the future could be minority takeover of the United States. They transnational as well as internally (in the provocatively argue that the United States will either be forced by unstoppable demo- U.S.) cross-ethnic. The New Politics of Race pulls together graphic change to redistributeresources and power, or the United States will turn into a interesting data and begins to open up repressive and unstable regime resembling important questions about the changing the former South Africa. In stark contrast, meaning of race and ethnicity in the United other authors speak blissfully of a future States, but I hope it is only the beginning of where groups work out their differences a more far-reachingexploration. cooperatively and march in unison toward a America. These tensions happy multicultural An Relations: International are not worked out or directly engaged any- Feminist where in the book. UnfinishedJourney, by Christine Sylvester. The New Politics of Race seems to sugCambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge gest-and I wish that the point was posed University Press, 2002. 350 pp. $65.00 cloth. more sharply throughout the chapters-that ISBN: 0-521-79177-4. $25.00 paper. ISBN:0blacks are at a critical crossroads politically. 521-79627-X. They can continue on the same path of electMARYSIA ZALEWSKI ing increasinglyisolated and ineffective black officials in majorityblack districts (Denton), Queens University-Belfast,UK uk supporting band-aid social welfare programs m.zalewski@queens-belfast.ac. that merely drain away the "revolutionary Feminists of varying persuasions are con(Bell), or they potential in their deprivations" can forge new kinds of coalitions with stantly reminded of the paradoxes of their Asians, Latinos, and white groups cognizant endeavors. While working toward destabilizof their declining power. Unfortunately, none ing the epistemological and ontological masof the chapters discussing politics suggest ter-narrativesof our discipline or field of what kinds of organizations in white, black, study, we are simultaneously drawn toward Asian, or Hispanic communities might be the traditional measures of legitimacy and especially interested in cross-racialalliances, authority. Christine Sylvester's expedition or why. Nor did the chapters make much of through nearly two decades of feminist work the national backgroundsof immigrantscom- in and on InternationalRelations, primarily ing into the United States.Black demands are through re-citings of her own previously seen as historicallybased, but immigrantsare published work, intriguingly performs this only viewed as having immediate demands dilemma.
Contemporary Sociology33, 1

30 Inequalities The book begins with an overview of the methodological conundrums the academic field of International Relations has tussled with since the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sylvester imposingly charts her way through theoretical turf wars, expertly mapping debates around realism and neoliberal institutionalism, the British inspired interparacritical theory and debate, digm postmodernism, through to the current turn to culture and constructivism.Weaving questions about gender into her discussion, she reminds the reader that her main focus is on feminist work in International Relations,indiher intention to act as a guide to an cating alternative (feminist) trail through the field. To begin this task, Sylvesterselects three single authored books written by three U.S. feminists:Jean Bethke Elshtain's1987 book, Women and War, Cynthia Enloe's 1989, Bananas, Beaches, and Bases, and J. Ann Tickner's 1992, Gender and International Relations. Veering away from the conventional course of International Relations, Sylvester returnsto these "indisputable classics"(p. 18) to remind the reader how Elshtain, Enloe, and Ticknerhave enabled clearersightings of gender in International Relations. (The book's three main sections are titled and "Sightings," "Sitings," "Citings"-enticingto ways in which we see, don't ly gesturing see, or might see gender). Sylvester tells a story about each book, a narrativethat places each writer in terms of their private lives, their personal links with and to the discipline of International Relations, their distinctive approaches to the questions of feminism and gender and InternationalRelations, and their theoretical place within feminism. Elshtain and Enloe's sexual identities are flagged; Tickner is positioned as the wife of a "'big man' of IR" (p. 40). Sylvester describes Elshtainas offering a "methodologically innovative feminist ethnography of war" (p. 23); Enloe focuses her attention, not on InternationalRelations,but ratherthe "world IR purports to study" (p. 29); whereas Tickner concentrates "almost exclusively on AmericanIR"(p. 43). Elshtainis identified as the most postmodern of the three, with Enloe positioned as a standpoint feminist, although she "can sound like a constructivist sometimes" (p. 32); Tickner is also signposted as seeming "comfortablewith standpoint femiSociology33, 1 Contemporary

nism"(p. 42). All three scholars are honored for their contributionto-or creation of-the canon of feminist International Relations,and all are reproached for their shortcomings. In Elshtain'scase, this involves not always maintaining her own standards of openness and balance (p. 29); Enloe's tendency toward anecdotes and exuberant generalizations rather than more systematic research, concerns Sylvester (p. 35); while Tickner's "slim text"(p. 42) elides the opportunityto engage robustly enough with complex feminist debates (p. 47). The rest of the book, indeed the vast bulk of it (12 out of 14 chapters), is devoted to Sylvester'spreviously published essays, each prefaced by a short genealogical positioning that, taken together, impart to the reader a vivid sense of Sylvester'sown personal and intellectual travels. To be sure, many, if not most or all of these chapters are inspiring, innovative, challenging, even touching on the brilliant.I particularly value the essay on "Handmaids Tales of Washington Power: the Abject and the Real Kennedy White House" (Chapter 3). Interweaving "feminist theory" and "international relations theory,"Sylvester narrates a unique tale of the practices of power in Kennedy's administration.It is one of Sylvester's trademarks to combine the seemingly incompatible, to great effect. One of her most recent ventures in this regard involves a cross-fertilizationbetween (high) art and InternationalRelations("Feministarts of InternationalRelations,"Chapter 13). The other chapters in the book cover a wide range of Sylvester'swork since 1987 to the present. This is an interestingbook, indeed a valuable book. Sylvester's feminist voyage Relationshas produced through International some extraordinarily good work. Yet, I think the readermight reflect on the choice of texts to foreground Sylvester'swork. It is not that I think Elshtain, Enloe, and Tickner do not deserve a place in the canon of feminist InternationalRelations, they surely do. But I question the genuflection to U.S. produced work alongside the acceptance of the conventional markerof the universitypublishing establishment-the single authored book. I am not saying Sylvester is wrong to do this, but it does indicate that the conservativehierarchy bequeathed by the discipline of InternationalRelations has enticed Sylvester

Intimate Relationships, toward performingthe dilemma I referredto in the opening paragraph,namely conforming to the traditionallegitimizing demands of the university in the midst of trying to undo them. Also, I was somewhat disappointed that the classic works of Elshtain,Enloe, and Tickner were infrequentlyreturned to in the rest of the book, prompting a question as to the purpose of their initial inclusion.

Family, and Life Course 31

INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS,
FAMILY,AND LIFE

COURSE
Hanging out in the VirtualPub: Masculinities and RelationshipsOnline, by Lori Kendall Press, 2002. Berkeley:Universityof California 301 pp. $50.00 cloth. ISBN: 0-520-23036-1. $19.95 paper. ISBN:0-520-23038-8. DAVIDHALLE University of California-LosAngeles dhalle@ucla.edu Hanging out in the VirtualPub explores an online forum to which the author gives the pseudonym "BlueSky." More specifically, BlueSky is a "mud,"a term that originally stood for "Multi-UserDungeon," and that evokes this type of forum'sorigin in computer games such as Dungeons and Dragons (firstwritten in 1979 by two Essex University students). Muds are chat rooms that allow participantsto create programmed "objects," such as their own simulated figures, and personal spaces, such as rooms, chairs, and so on, where the simulated figures can "hang or out," go to the "bathroom," be dispatched to the "cellar"via trap doors. The forum is managed, overall, by two or three regulars, "wizards." book's tavern metaphortitle is The intended to convey the sense of friendliness, joshing, and give and take that pervades this Internetchat space. These playful motifs should not obscure the fact that BlueSky is, at base, an extremely sensible forum that is very useful to its participants. It is, above all, an association of highly educated computer programmerswho

log on during work, offer mutual advice about work related issues, and who also joke, chat, and enjoy themselves with playful 3-D identities, especially during the "dead time" while their programs are compiling. Some BlueSky participantshave known each other for years via this forum; some meet socially offline, date, and even marry. Most members are in their twenties or thirties.The members gain status in the group via such reasonable methods as being able to give the best programming advice on work-related issues and using their programmingskill for playful and creative purposes such as inventing new online objects (e.g., a "lom lever" that allows certain participantsto expel others from a room). In the course of this engagingly written, well-researched, and illuminatingcase study, Kendall examines almost the entire gamut of theories about the nature of online interaction. How does the "virtual space,"where the group of people interact through BlueSky, differ from other physical spaces that we inhabit; does online interaction facilitate the development of multiple selves and fractured identities (a postmodern world); and overall, how different are the interactions of cyberspace from those of offline life? Kendall's main conclusion is that online interactions are much more like those offline than is sometimes thought. For example, gender norms exert a powerful force-Kendall refers to the "hegemonic (mostly heterosexual) masculinity"of BlueSky: the ratio of men to women participants is 3 to 1, and there is much talk about blow jobs and so on. Although the potential exists for participants to adopt personae and to play roles that are very different from their offline personae, is such "masquerading" not usual. Further, participantsare almost all middle-class in the sense that their occupations tend to be professional, managerial, or technical. And despite an egalitarian ideology and much genuine equality, Michels' iron law of oligarchy holds here, too, since the "wizards" not only built the organization'sskeleton, but can erase anyone else's characterthey wish (which never actually happened at BlueSky, but that was used to threaten one participant who constantly insulted everyone else). Kendall'sstudy convincingly supports her conclusion that online identity performances leave hierachies untouched and do not chal33, Contemporary Sociology 1