Anna Krylova, Duke University
Since the 1980s, the defining category of gender history – i.e. gender – has been firmly linked by scholars to the notion of historical variability and instability. And, yet, the field has also generated a critique that, in striking contrast to the definitional matrix of gender as “variable,” “fluid,” changing,” “contradictory,” and “subversive,” posits its work in academic literature of the 1990s and 2000s as “fixing,” “reinscribing,” and “reifying” of the very heteronormative binary it was supposed to deconstruct. The question that Professor Krylova derives from this ongoing controversy is how a pioneering discipline formed around pioneering presumptions of instability of cultural form and deconstructive methods of reading could reify (or appear to) the cultural terms under its critical analysis. In her talk, she undertakes a history of the gender category – its definitional and interpretive parameters – and investigates its constitutive interpretive limitations through examples from 20th Century Russia.