Bordo, Susan, and . Anorexia Nervosa: Psychopathology as the Crystallization of Culture

1993, In her Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Diversifying Syllabi: Bordo claims that the recent increase in women with Anorexia is a symptom of the “central ills” of our culture. Bordo discusses three sources of this “cultural illness” which leads to anorexia: the dualist axis, the control axis, and the gender/power axis. She spends the bulk of the paper discussing each “axis” or problematic component of society which is reflected back to us in the increasing diagnosis of anorexia. These “psychopathogolgies” are expressions of the culture, she claims.

Comment: This text is most readily applicable in teaching feminist theory and social philosophy. However, it is also very useful in at least three other contexts: (1) as a critical approach to mind-body dualism, especially when teaching on Descartes or Plato's Phaedo; (2) in teaching on the ethics of mental illness and the anti-psychiatry movement, as an example of socially constructed disorders; and (3) more broadly in teaching on personal and collective moral responsibility.

Haslanberg, Sally, and . Resisting reality: Social Construction and Social Critique

2012, OUP USA.

Publisher’s Note: Contemporary theorists use the term “social construction” with the aim of exposing how what’s purportedly “natural” is often at least partly social and, more specifically, how this masking of the social is politically significant. In these previously published essays, Sally Haslanger draws on insights from feminist and critical race theory to explore and develop the idea that gender and race are positions within a structure of social relations. On this interpretation, the point of saying that gender and race are socially constructed is not to make a causal claim about the origins of our concepts of gender and race, or to take a stand in the nature/nurture debate, but to locate these categories within a realist social ontology. This is politically important, for by theorizing how gender and race fit within different structures of social relations we are better able to identify and combat forms of systematic injustice.
Although the central essays of the book focus on a critical social realism about gender and race, these accounts function as case studies for a broader critical social realism.

Comment: The book as a whole explores the interface between analytic philosophy and critical theory. As it is a collection of essays, particular chapters can easily be used separately, some serving as introductory, others as more advanced readings. It could be of interest for undergraduate or postgraduate courses in political philosophy, philosophy of language and philosophical methodology.

Haslanger, Sally, and . Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?

2000, Nous 34(1): 31-55.

Abstract: This paper proposes social constructionist accounts of gender and race. The focus of the inquiry–inquiry aiming to provide resources for feminist and antiracist projects–are the social positions of those marked for privilege or subordination by observed or imagined features assumed to be relevant to reproductive function, or geographical origins. I develop these ideas and propose that other gendered and racialized phenomena are usefully demarcated and explained by reference to these social positions. In doing so, I address the concern that attempts to define race or gender are misguided because they either assume a false commonality or marginalize some members of the group in question.

Comment: Seminal reading for modules on gender or race.