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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

1-6-05

Contacts:

Warren Blumenfeld, curriculum and instruction, (515) 294-5931

Cathy Curtis, College of Human Sciences Communications, (515) 294-8175

Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986

ISU education professor traces importance of scholar to gender debate in new book

AMES, Iowa -- A new book co-edited by an Iowa State University education professor looks at the essence of gender by focusing on the work of Judith Butler, a professor of comparative literature and rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley.

Warren Blumenfeld, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and a member of the advisory board for Iowa State's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services, said Butler's research has had a significant impact on areas of feminist and queer studies for the past 25 years.

"Butler asserts in her research that females and males learn how to be women and men through the stylized repetition of acts -- girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks, for example -- and not on the naturalness or essence of gender," Blumenfeld said. "Butler encourages progressive thought to challenge preconceived notions of identity."

In the book, "Butler Matters: Judith Butler's Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies," Blumenfeld and his co-editor, Margaret SC6nser Breen, find that sexual identity and racial roles assigned by society are basic to an understanding of gender and race.

Blumenfeld said he and Breen became aware of the impact of Butler's work when they were editors of the "International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies."

In seven years at the journal's helm, the two reviewed manuscripts from academic fields as diverse as archeology, literary criticism, feminist studies, film criticism and politics. Many authors cited Butler's work.

That revelation led to a special double issue of the journal devoted to the interdisciplinary nature Butler's work.

The book is an expansion of the special journal issue plus three new essays Blumenfeld and Breen solicited for the book. Also included is an update of an interview they conducted with Butler in 1999. The expanded interview includes Butler's thoughts on the social construction of "race," and examines the impact of the post 9/11 era on Butler's work.

The book provides a discussion of post-structural theory (the study of social and societal issues) and examines the importance of history in understanding race and gender issues and politics, Blumenfeld said.

Blumenfeld has published four other books, all dealing with gay, lesbian, homophobia, diversity and social justice issues. He is currently working on two other books, one on cyber-bullying and the second investigating religious oppression and Christian privilege in the United States.

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Quote

"Butler asserts in her research that females and males learn how to be women and men through the stylized repetition of acts -- girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks, for example -- and not on the naturalness or essence of gender.

Warren Blumenfeld