Annotation: Mahler, Sarah J. and Patricia R. Pessar. (2001). Gendered Geographies of Power

Mahler, Sarah J. and Patricia R. Pessar. (2001). Gendered Geographies of Power: Analyzing Gender Across Transnational Spaces. Identities, 7(4):441-459

 The authors expand on Doreen Massey’s concept of “power geometry” to conceptualize gender as a process that “yields a praxis-oriented perspective wherein gender identities, relations and ideologies are fluid, not fixed” (442). The authors develop a three-step model called “gendered geographies of power” to study gender across transnational terrains. The model takes as its foundation the fact that people are situated in pre-constructed hierarchies not only of gender, but of class, sexuality, ethnicity, and nationality (446). In this analytical framework, “gender” is emphasized as that which organizes human actions (446). The first critical step is to distinguish the global from the transnational, and following Kearney’s definitions, they use the former to refer to processes that occur throughout the entire globe (e.g. capitalism). Transnationalism refers to the discussion of the “political, economic, social and cultural processes that extend beyond the borders of a particular state, include actors that are not states, but are shaped by the policies and institutional practices of states” (443). Second, the model also seeks to capture how gender ideologies and relations are reaffirmed or reconfigured within “geographic scales” — specifically, spatial and social scales. By “social location”, the authors refer to “the person’s positions within power hierarchies created through historical, political, economic, geographic, kinship-based, and other socially stratifying factors.” The third step concentrates on the “different types and degrees of agency that people exert given their social locations.” This agency is not only affected by extra-personal factors, but also by individual initiative or cognition, including the power of individual imagination. For instance, some people are not actively part of transnational activity, yet they may live their lives in a “transnational cognitive space” (447).


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