This review essay illustrates how changes in the conception of gender define the historical production of feminist ethnography in four distinct periods. In the first period (1880–1920), biological sex was seen to determine social roles, and gender was not seen as separable from sex, though it was beginning to emerge as an analytical category. The second period (1920–1960) marks the separation of sex from gender as sex was increasingly seen as indeterminative of gender roles. In the third period (1960–1980), the distinction between sex and gender was elaborated into the notion of a sex/gender system—the idea that different societies organized brute biological facts into particular gender regimes. By the contemporary period (1980–1996), critiques of “gender essentialism” (the reification of “woman” as a biological or universal category) suggest that the analytical separation between sex and gender is miscast because “sex” is itself a social category.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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