Engendering household artifacts

Nancy Bowles (nrb6@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Thu, 14 Apr 1994 00:52:03 -0400

I am currently perusing the historical archaeological literature
concerned with gender and have many questions which I would like to bring
to a discussion:

I will start with this one...

How does space get gendered, or how do we detect gendered space on the
Yentsch in her study of two 19th c. New York households uses a
structuralist analysis (women=nature=earthern ware=private VERSUS
man=culture=porcelaine=public) to posit the idea that women and men had
different sorts of ritualized foodways. Hers emphasized the "sanctity"
of the home and his emphasized the "monumentality" of public life.

I am concerned with these Straussian dichotimies. How do we understand
change over time within these rubrics. Couldn't class be an equally
defing feature in the earthenware versus porcelain debate?

is the kitchen a female space? or can we think of it as a "processing"
sphere first and foremost? Do women associates themselves with the
objects of process rather than the objects of public display? But, then
what about the female construction in the 19th century US?
Isn't this the time period of the old saying, "a woman desires to be
desired, while a man simply desires." Aren't women central to male
public display? and if so, are their really male and female spheres, or
does one depend upon the other for its own legitimation?

lots of ideas here, hope to bring about some discussion.

Nancy Bowles
columbia university
department of anthropology
ny, ny 10025