We are requesting paper proposals for 2 more presenters for our panel on female-headed households at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, DC, Nov. 19-23, 2003. The panel will present an international perspective on the issue of female-headed households. So far papers address the situation of female-headed household in Peru, South Africa, and among Central American immigrants in the United States.
Our panel abstract follows: The Rise of the Female-headed Household: Feminization of Poverty or Gender Rebellion?
The last decades, the number of female-headed households has risen enormously. Especially the growing occurrence of single mother households can be seen as a fundamental transformation of family life that is taking place at a global scale. Within the feminization of poverty discourse female household headship is strongly linked to globalization processes such as the global impoverishment of women, neo-liberalism, structural adjustments programs and international migration. As Sylvia Chant (1997) in her extensive analyses on women-headed households states: female-headed households are not only frequently seen as the automatic result of poverty, but they are also considered to add greater hardship to situations of deprivation. With this perspective, the feminization of poverty discourse overstresses the importance of the male breadwinner and women's dependency on male income. It negates women's agency, autonomy and moments of control. Are single mothers, under all circumstances, passive victims of global processes? Without denying the economic hardship many single mothers have to endure this session intends to counterbalance the feminization of poverty discourse. It will do so by relating global processes to local practices and by highlighting single mothers' diversions, agency and social networks. The papers will theoretically and empirically explore experiences of female heads of households in advanced economies as well as in so-called countries of the south. One of the leading questions is whether or not single motherhood can be interpreted in a broader way than as the result of poverty and leading to the further impoverishment of women (and children for that matter). Can the formation of female-headed household be seen as a form of gender resistance and rebellion? May international migration and women's increased economic activities serve women's goal to liberate themselves from oppressive males who are insecure economic providers and domestic abusers? Can social networks offer single mothers sufficient support to compensate for lacking male incomes? Global processes may indeed mean new constraints and limitations for women, but can they simultaneously offer opportunities and possibilities to redefine family life and gender relations towards enhanced female control, autonomy and feelings of self-esteem?
Please, submit your title and abstract (maximum 250 words) electronically to the panel organizers by February 28, 2003.
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