Decentering agency in feminist theory: Recuperating the family as a social project

Amy Borovoy, Kristen Ghodsee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Ethnographic investigations demonstrate that there are many cultures in which women relinquish rights for broader social goods and protections, which are equally acceptable, if not more desirable, to women. These include Western European social democracies, Eastern European post socialist nations, and the East Asian industrialized nations. Exploring these gender politics provides a powerful window into how the liberal emphasis on "choice" captures only one narrow aspect of what is at stake for women in issues such as feminist debates about domesticity and the politics of abortion and family planning. In this article we draw on Japan and Bulgaria as our case studies, and we historicize the brand of social feminism that we are discussing, locating it in the mission to incorporate women into national agendas during the interwar period in many locations throughout the industrialized world as well as in the diverse mandates of early socialist feminism in the United States. We argue that "social feminism" can help sharpen the critiques of liberal feminism mobilized by anthropologists under the banner of "cultural relativism.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-165
Number of pages13
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Development
  • Law
  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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