September 17, 2009

Author: Raewyn Connell

Edition: Second revised

Publisher: Polity

Pages: 200

Price: £45.00 and £14.99

ISBN: 9780745645674 and 5681

Raewyn Connell's textbook on gender is qualified on its title page by the words "In World Perspective", a qualification that is both apt and substantiated in the text. There are various introductions to the study of gender, but few have the breadth of this work or the obvious concern with a range of cultures. It is hugely difficult for a Western writer to situate themselves in relation to the rest of the world in a way that neither diminishes nor disempowers that "otherness", but this is what Connell has achieved here.

It is also often difficult to write about gender, and gender studies, without using both terms as "modernised" versions of women's studies. Again, Connell manages to avoid this, using an evident sympathy and engagement with the human - with the female or male person as a social person and as someone with a particular biology, however defined and acquired - but also with various other forms of social identity. One of the many strengths of this text is that Connell focuses on the material world in which gender relations are articulated and expressed: this is an account of gender that articulates its social implications. A further strength of her book is the way in which her range of material is not only transcultural but also transhistorical; she reminds us that concern with gender and gender difference is not an invention of the West in the late 20th century.

Gender thus succeeds in a number of ways: it informs about the range of material on gender and it does this through drawing on a number of academic disciplines. Connell also allows theoretical diversity and distinctions between the general and the particular; this allows a recognition of the various vicious exploitations of capitalism without ignoring the distinct forms these can take and the ways in which these forms are gendered. To read this book is to encounter both a model of how we might think of gender in global terms yet at the same time retain an awareness of the homogenising dangers of doing precisely that. The very readable sophistication of Connell's book allows us both to absorb the considerable information that this text imparts while at the same time maintaining a sense of the wider issues (for example, of gender as a form of social power) that she is suggesting.

Who is it for? Anyone interested in gender; useful across disciplines and academic level.

Presentation: Lucid, clearly presented information.

Would you recommend it? With great enthusiasm; a delight to read.

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