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So 50 books this year seems a little improbable. But I will try for it anyway, because that is how I roll. These are two books I read for my classes, but I count them because I can and because I read them cover to cover. I actually recommend them as well, oddly enough, so I might as well mention them. I'll post some short thoughts and excerpts from the back of the books. They are in no way light reads, but I didn't expect them to be.

Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity was written by Judith Butler and was published in 1990, though my edition was published in 1999 with a new preface by Butler. If you're at all interested in feminism, gender studies or performance, this book is necessary. I was required to read it for my Communication and Gender graduate seminar, and it's clear that this work is foundational and also very radical. I have to add that my entire class had difficulty with this book, and Butler sort of intends for this to be a complex text. She pretty much states that in one of her two prefaces, but she has a reason for it.

From the back cover: Thrilling and provocative, the book you hold in your hands is perhaps the essential work of contemporary feminist thought. Its intellectual reference points include Foucault and Freud, Wittig, Kristeva and Irigaray. Indeed, few other academic works have roused passions as much. One of the most talked-about scholarly works of the past fifty years, Judith Butler's Gender Trouble is as celebrated as it is controversial.

Butler argues that traditional feminism is wrong to look to a natural, 'essential' notion of the female, or indeed of sex or gender. She starts by questioning the category 'woman': who does it include, and who decides who it includes? And she continues in this vein; 'the masculine' and 'the feminine' are not biologically fixed but culturally presupposed. Best known however, yet also most often misinterpreted, is Butler's concept of gender as a reiterated social performance rather than the expression of a prior reality.

Genre : Nonfiction, Women's Studies, Feminist Theory, Literary Theory, History and Criticism (thank you, Amazon).
Length : 203 pages, plus 29 pages of preface and not counting the 31 pages of notes.
Rating : 4/5 = Pretty darn good.

Critical Ethnography: Method, Ethics, and Performance was written by D. Soyini Madison and was published in 2005. I had to read this for my graduate seminar in critical ethnography. The title is fairly self-explanatory: it's a guide to working your way through conducting a critical ethnography, complete with made-up case studies that help you see how one would go about all the steps and deal with problems and questions of ethics along the way.

From the back cover: This book presents a fresh new look at critical ethnography by emphasizing the significance of ethics and performance in the art and politics of fieldwork. The productive links between theory and method are celebrated in this text. Theoretical concepts range from queer theory, feminist theory, and critical race theory to Marxism and phenomenology. The methodological techniques range from designing and asking in-depth interview questions to building and developing rapport and coding and interpreting data. The various theories and methods culminate in three fictional ethnographic case studies that "enact" the interdependence between theory and method and the significance of social theory, ethics, and performance.

Genre : Nonfiction, Communication, Textbook, Social Sciences, Anthropology, Methodology, Cultural (thank you, Amazon).
Length : 219 pages, not counting the index and references.
Rating : 3/5 = Worth the read.

Currently reading : The 20s by Frederick J. Hoffman, Gifts From the Heart by Randy Fujishin, A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes, and Writing the New Ethnography by H. L. Goodall, Jr.



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