"Frustrated by the fact that most texts on women treated 'the man's world' as the given and then simply asked where and how women fitted in," Stephanie Coontz writes, "I decided to undertake a survey of American gender roles: that was the starting point of the present book" — The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families 1600–1900, published by Verso in 1988.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-65. via Wikimedia Commons.
As the focus of her research shifted from "woman's private sphere" to the family as a larger arena in which the public and private intersect, Coontz became more attentive to the diversity of household arrangements across time and space. "Stimulated by the burgeoning research into family history," she writes, "I began to look at the family as a culture's way of coordinating personal reproduction with social reproduction — as the socially sanctioned place where male and female reproductive activities condition and are conditioned by the other activities into which human beings enter as they perpetuate a particular kind of society, or try to construct a new one."
Continued from part I.
Detail from Francis William Edmonds' The New Bonnet (1858).
The Limits of Structural and Demographic Analysis
Although it is important to compare demographic trends and household structures and seek their economic correlates, such procedures yield only limited information about the history of families. Olga Linares points out: “Qualitative changes in the meaning of interpersonal obligations may be as important in distinguishing among household types as more easily measured changes in size and form.” Indeed, as Barrington Moore Jr has commented, tabulating structural differences “necessarily involves ignoring all differences except the one being measured.” Changes in social relations and patterns are not “reducible to any quantitative differences; they are incommensurable. Yet it is precisely such differences that matter most to human beings.”47
Panteón Municipal La Chaveña, Ciudad Juárez. Photo by Molly Molloy.
On October 31, El Diario de Juárez said the municipal cemeteries were dying. On the Friday before Dia de los Muertos, I walked in the oldest cemetery — La Chaveña. It’s 179 years old. More than 75,000 people in the Paso del Norte have come to rest here. Graves are chiseled into hard ground in the western hills of Juárez and only cactus, ocotillo and bits of spiky brown grass adorn the stones. Someone planted a palo verde sapling in a cement-lined water holder on a newer grave. This tree grows in the driest land of the Chihuahuan desert.
August is Women in Translation Month! Publishers and booksellers are backing a campaign started by women translators to celebrate the work of the few women writers who make it into English translation—depressing figures show that only around a quarter of English translations are female-authored books.
The campaign originally started as an effort to highlight translated fiction, but Verso's #WITMonth reading list celebrates our publications by women who are leading thinkers and writers in non-fiction fields, ranging from journalism in Turkey and Mexico, to psychoanalysis, feminism, political theory and literary and film studies!
(Anabel Hernández, awarded the 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom for her courageous investigative journalism about Mexico's drug cartels and corruption.)
In a radical new reading of Samuel Beckett, Pascale Casanova argues that Beckett's reputation rests on a pervasive misreading of his oeuvre, which neglects entirely the literary revolution he instigated. Reintroducing the historical into the heart of this body of work, Casanova provides an arresting portrait of Beckett as radically subversive—doing for writing what Kandinsky did for art—and in the process presents the key to some of the most profound enigmas of Beckett's writing.
Discovery of the World: A Political Awakening in the Shadow of Mussolini by Luciana Castellina. Translated by Patrick Camiller
Luciana Castellina is one of Italy's most prominent left intellectuals and a cofounder of the newspaper il manifesto. In this coming-of-age memoir, based on her diaries, she recounts her political awakening as a teenage girl in Fascist Italy—where she used to play tennis with Mussolini's daughter—and the subsequent downfall of the regime. Discovery of the World is about war, anti-Semitism, anti-fascism, resistance, the belief in social justice, the craving for experience, travel, political rallies, cinema, French intellectuals and FIAT workers, international diplomacy and friendship. All this is built on an intricate web made of reason and affection, of rational questioning and ironic self-narration as well as of profound nostalgia, disappointment and discovery.
A passionate memoir of the author’s discovery of her grandmother’s true identity. Growing up in the small town of Maden in Turkey, Fethiye Çetin knew her grandmother as a happy and respected Muslim housewife called Seher. Only decades later did she discover the truth. Her grandmother’s name was not Seher but Heranus. She was born a Christian Armenian. Most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915. A Turkish gendarme had stolen her from her mother and adopted her. Çetin’s family history tied her directly to the terrible origins of modern Turkey and the organized denial of its Ottoman past as the shared home of many faiths and ways of life. A deeply affecting memoir, My Grandmother is also a step towards another kind of Turkey, one that is finally at peace with its past.
To celebrate the release of My First Life, the story of Hugo Chávez’s early years told in his own words, we present a reading list of titles on Latin America. From a tour of Latin American architecture to a graphic biography of Che Guevara to writings from Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution, to the definitive history of the drug cartels, we have plenty to help you brush up on Latin American history and contemporary politics as we head into the new school year!
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