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Power, knowledge and embodiment in communities of sex/gender practice

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Goldsmiths Research Online


This article takes up my previous work [Paechter, Carrie (2003). Learning masculinities and femininities: Power/knowledge and legitimate peripheral participation. Women's Studies International Forum, 26, 541–552.; Paechter, Carrie (2003). Masculinities and femininities as communities of practice. Women's Studies International Forum, 26, 69–77.; Paechter, Carrie (2003). Masculinities, femininities and physical education: Bodily practices as reified markers of community membership. In Carol Vincent (Ed.), Social justice, education and identity (pp. 137–152). London: RoutledgeFalmer.; forthcoming], which looks at how masculinities and femininities can be regarded as local communities of practice [Lave, Jean & Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.; Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.], and considers the importance of power/knowledge for this conceptualisation. After introducing both the idea of masculinities and femininities as communities of practice, and the Foucaultian conception of power on which the article is based, I focus on three key aspects of power/knowledge relations within and between communities of practice: how full participants are able to act as definers of reality and therefore of identity; how Panoptic mechanisms operate within communities of gendered practice; and the importance of knowledge forms to power relations within and boundary maintenance between communities.

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