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Picturing the Past: Gender in National Geographic Reconstructions of Prehistoric Life

  • Julie Solometo (a1) and Joshua Moss (a2)

Abstract

Artistic reconstructions of ancient life are powerful blends of archaeological interpretation and imagination. Like other narratives about the past, they can project contemporary gender roles and relations on ancient peoples, and can reinforce or transform ideas about gender in the present. This article examines the construction of gender ideologies in National Geographic illustrations of prehistoric life. Our analysis of 204 pictorial reconstructions from 1936 to 2007 reveals that women and women’s work are significantly underrepresented and undervalued, while exhibiting evidence of temporal change in response to societal factors and editorial influences. A vigorous archaeology of gender has had little impact on the magazine’s imagined past; in some respects, the ancient women depicted in the last twenty years are just as scarce, passive, and subordinate as they were in the postwar “backlash” of the 1950s.

Resumen

Las reconstrucciones artísticas de la vida en la antigüedad son combinaciones poderosas de interpretación arqueológica e imaginación. Tal cual otras narrativas de la historia, estas pueden proyectar roles genéricos contemporáneos así como el relacionamiento de la gente en la antigiiédad, también pueden afirmar o transformar ideas acerca de la gente en cuanto a sus roles genéricos en el presente. Este articulo examina la formación de ideologías genéricas en las ilustraciones de la vida prehistórica aportadas por la revista National Geographic. Nuestro análisis en base a 204 dibujos reconstruidos desde el año 1936 al año 2007 revela que las mujeres así como el trabajo de las mujeres son significativamente desvalorados y reprimidos mientras que hay evidencia de manifestaciones de cambios temporales en respuesta a factores sociales e influencias de edición. Una vigorosa arqueología genérica en la revista ha tenido un pequeño impacto en la imaginación del pasado en algunos aspectos, las mujeres representadas en la antigüedad en los últimos veinte años son escasas, pasivas y subordinadas a las reacciones en contra de posguerra en los años cincuenta.

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Picturing the Past: Gender in National Geographic Reconstructions of Prehistoric Life

  • Julie Solometo (a1) and Joshua Moss (a2)

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