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Women Matter / «Femmes Matière»

French and Francophone Women and the Material World


Edited By Maggie Allison and Imogen Long

This volume is based on papers given at the biennial Women in French conference held in Leeds in May 2011. Drawing on a range of interconnecting disciplines and forms of cultural production, it explores the relationship between French and Francophone women and the material world. Bringing together researchers from the United Kingdom, France and other Francophone countries, the book reflects the engagement of women researchers with contemporary debates.
The first section focuses on the female body, examining dance and the performing arts but also the material objectification suffered by rape victims in France. The next highlights the contradictions of the im/materiality of the body, the act of writing and the text, in terms of dichotomies, permeable identities and fluid boundaries. The third section turns its attention to the practicalities of ‘the material’ in relation to women’s engagement with the economy – the gendering of domestic work, women’s discourse, the precariousness of women’s employment and the alienating impersonality of consumer spaces. The concluding section considers the relationship of the female body to the material object, whether subverting, co-opting or indeed absorbing it. In the final chapters of the book the tactile and the visual converge in explorations of ‘the material’ in cinematic representations of the female body.


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PART 3 Money Matters: Women’s Role, Public and Private


This section, dealing with more tangible manifestations of materiality, draws together four chapters addressing women’s relation to the economy in a range of fora and formats, be it the value of domestic work (Windebank), media debate on the value of money/cost of living (Perry), or paid (women’s) work in a predominantly female workspace (Allison), complemented by a final chapter foregrounding the impact on women of impersonal/inhuman shopping spaces (Humphrey). Jan Windebank’s piece takes a Bourdieusian approach to the role of domestic labour within the household economy, focusing on the ‘gendered cultural capital’ which this represents in mate- rial terms, whereas Sheila Perry’s chapter provides insights into French and Francophone women’s economic acumen as illustrated by their discourse performance in televised pre-2007 French presidential election debates; moving on from televised exchanges to workplace dialogue, Maggie Allison’s contribution, in analysing Otero’s documentary, highlights several levels of materiality and gender relations at play as (mostly) women factory workers in a lingerie business fight to keep ‘their’ company af loat. Completing this section Claire Humphrey’s chapter addresses the interplay of the real, the material and the virtual: her exploration of Czajka’s film explores the ef fect of real-life but impersonal consumer spaces and their alienating inf luence, draining the individual and evacuating the material self. Jan Windebank Domestic Labour: Maintaining the Material Space of the Home and Gender Identity in France The gender division of domestic labour is a subject that has attracted immense interest and debate over the years, domestic labour normally being...

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