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Multiple readings: The interventionary deployment of essentialism within a feminist poststructural framework

Keddie, Amanda

Year: 2002

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Abstract: Through a description of the methodology informing a study into the potency of boys' peer culture in shaping dominant masculinities, this paper describes the strategic and interventionary deployment of essentialist theories of 'identity' construction within an anti-essentialist framework. Through a feminist poststructural engagement with multiple narrative positions (Prain 1997; Lather 1992) or readings the study's methodology embraced the essentialist theory of group socialisation as useful in organising the study's data and providing a framework to begin analysis and interpretation. Additionally, this unified lens was effective in foregrounding what seemed to be a fixed line of power unifying the boys' dominant and collective masculinities. The anti-essentialist or feminist poststructural reading, on the other hand, exposed the seeming unity of these dominant understandings as multifaceted, contradictory and unstable. Rather than conceiving of the essentialist reading as a foundational premise within the objectivist/relativist binary from which other positions might be 'objectively' judged (Cherryholmes 1988), however, the study's feminist poststructural methodology deployed essentialism within Derrida's construction of difference (in Adams St. Pierre 2000) In this regard, the essentialist reading was positioned as one among many contextual, partial and historically contingent truths.

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