Seeing Nature through Gender
Virginia J. Scharff, ed.
Environmental history has traditionally told the story of Man and Nature. Scholars have too frequently overlooked the ways in which their predominantly male subjects have themselves been shaped by gender. Seeing Nature through Gender here reintroduces gender as a meaningful category of analysis for environmental history, showing how womens actions, desires, and choices have shaped the world and seeing men as gendered actors as well.
In thirteen essays that show how gendered ideas have shaped the ways in which people have represented, experienced, and consumed their world, Virginia Scharff and her coauthors explore interactions between gender and environment in history. Ranging from colonial borderlands to transnational boundaries, from mountaintop to marketplace, they focus on historical representations of humans and nature, on questions about consumption, on environmental politics, and on the complex reciprocal relations among human bodies and changing landscapes. They also challenge the ecofeminist position by challenging the notion that men and women are essentially different creatures with biologically different destinies.
“A much needed and welcome addition to the field. . . . Scharff opens the volume with a powerful argument for the relevance of gender to studies of the environment, arguing that the connections are both cultural and material and ultimately unavoidable. . . . This volume indicates that conversations between environmental and gender history are likely to produce some ground-breaking work.”
—Oregon Historical Quarterly
“This anthology succeeds in demonstrating its underlying premise that humans know nature through gender.”
—Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and EnvironmentSee all reviews...
“An assortment of readable and provocative essays.”
—American Historical Review
“These essays are readable, teachable, intelligent, creative, funny, and, at times, disturbing in what they foretell for the future of nature inside and outside the human body. Together they form an indispensable work of environmental history.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“Provides an eclectic and enlightening perspective on a neglected aspect of environmental history. Although the essays range broadly, from the evolution of the heroic male firefighter image to the environmental ethics of lesbian land communities, they all explore the dynamic interface between gender constructs and the natural world. [This book] clearly demonstrates how integral gender has been in physical, mental, and spiritual interactions with nature through time. It has much to say to western historians.”
—Montana The Magazine of Western History
“This volume brings together some of the most innovative and exciting work in two burgeoning fields of history—gender history and environmental history. It promises to break ground and will, as a result, be widely read and cited.”
—Nancy Hewitt, editor of Talking Gender
“Until recently environmental history has been curiously immune to gendered analysis. This gathering of original essays should enhance that enterprise and in the process open up entirely new possibilities for the field.”
—Elliott West, author of The Contested Plains
“Signals a coming of age for both gender studies and environmental studies and the arrival of a mature scholarship that can bring these interdisciplinary gestures together. . . . Will be a touchstone for future work in these areas.”
—Frieda E. Knobloch, author of The Culture of WildernessSee fewer reviews...
Each article shows how a person or group of people in history have understood nature in gendered terms and acted accordingly—often with dire consequences for other people and organisms. Here are considerations of the ways we study sexuality among birds, of William Byrds masking sexual encounters in his account of an eighteenth-century expedition, of how the ecology of fire in a changing built environment has reshaped firefighters own gendered identities. Some are playful, as in a piece on the evolution of snow bunnies to shred betties. Others are dead serious, as in a chilling portrait of how endocrine disrupters are reinventing humans, animals, and water systems from the cellular level out.
Aiding and adding significantly to the enterprise of environmental history, Seeing Nature through Gender bridges gender history and environmental history in unexpected ways to show us how the natural world can remake the gendered patterns weve engraved on ourselves and on the planet.