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Latin American Women*

  • Tessa Cubitt


The initial interest in womens studies arose in the sixties from a desire to rectify the fact that women, whether as actors or subjects, had been ignored in the evolution of knowledge. It soon became clear, however, that this had been more than a fault of omission for, because of lack of information, women had often been misunderstood and misrepresented. Several modernisation studies, for example, have concentrated on interviewing men and yet produced generalisations about levels of modernisation for the population as a whole. Joseph Kahi in The Measurement of Modernism made numerous statements about modernisation in Brazil and Mexico and its relationship to institutions in society, but his 1,300 interviews were all with men.1 The few studies which do include women show that they lag behind men in educational achievement and social mobility.2 This suggests that had Kahi included women in his samples his results might have been rather different.



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1 Kahl, Joseph, The Measurement of Modernism. A Study of Values in Brazil and Mexico (University of Texas Press, London, 1968).

2 See, for example, Nash, June, ‘A critique of social science roles in Latin America’, in Nash, J. and Safa, H. (eds.), Sex and Class in Latin America (Praeger, New York, 1976).

3 Kahl, Joseph, op. cit.

4 Roberts and Sinclair, op. cit., p. 1.

5 Lewis, Oscar, ‘The Culture of Poverty’, Scientific American, October 1966.

6 See page 178 of this article.

7 Henderson and Henderson, op. cit., p. 3.

8 See, for example, Eisenstadt, S. N., ‘Modernization, Growth and Diversity’, América Latina, 9, No. 1 (1966), pp. 3458.

9 Good examples of this are Saflioti, Heleieth I. B., Women in Class Society (Monthly Review Press, London, 1978) and Norma Chinchilla, ‘Industrialization, Monopoly Capitalism and Women's Work in Guatemala’, in Women and National Development: The Complexities of Change, loc. cit.

10 Ibid., p. 273.

11 For a discussion of this, see Youssef, Nadia Haggag, Women and Work in Developing Societies (Greenwood Press, 1974).

13 Chinchilla, Norma, op. cit., p. 55.

14 See for example the discussion of modes of production in Long, Norman, An Introduction to the Sociology of Rural Development (London, Tavistock, 1977).

15 Mandel, Ernest, Late Capitalism (New Left Books, London, 1975).

16 Heleieth I. B. Saffioti, op. cit.

17 This point is well argued in West, Jackie, ‘Women, Sex and Class’, Kuhn, and Wolpe, (eds.), Feminism and Materialism (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).

18 A very good discussion of this is Deere, Carmen Diana, ‘Rural Women's Subsistence Production in the Capitalist Periphery’, Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1976).

19 I would agree with the criticisms of the concept ‘informal sector’ as put forward by Moser, Caroline in ‘Informal Sector or Petty Commodity Production: Dualism or Dependence in Urban Development?World Development, Vol. 6, No. 9/10(1978) but, for want of a better term to replace it, I use it here.

20 Jelin, Elizabeth, ‘Migration and Labour Force Participation of Latin American Women. The Domestic Servants of the Cities’, in Women and National Development loc. cit.

21 This argument is well detailed in Beechey, Veronica, ‘Some notes on female wage labour in capitalist production’, Capital and Class, No. 3 (1977).

* The author wishes to thank Caroline Ramazanoglu for her valuable comments on the theoretical discussion in the article.

Latin American Women*

  • Tessa Cubitt


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