I am interested in power, identity, culture, structure and individual agency. These interests translate into questions such as "How do people perceive the options available to them in their lives, and how do they choose among these options?" "How do people integrate new things, be they technologi...
I am interested in power, identity, culture, structure and individual agency. These interests translate into questions such as "How do people perceive the options available to them in their lives, and how do they choose among these options?" "How do people integrate new things, be they technologies, ideas, or resources, into their lives?" "How do people pursue their own goals, while coping with the constraints of the social structures they live in?" "What stories do people make up to account for their own lives, the lives of other people around them, and the changing times they live in?". And in particular, "What does gender have to do with this?"
In concrete terms, the way that I've chosen to explore these questions is through studying the organization of fertility, sexuality, and human reproduction. Human reproduction is crucially significant in all societies for two reasons:
1: because of its intrinsic biological importance as the way that societies and groups within societies maintain their existence over time; and
2: because sexuality and fertility are so laden with symbolic meaning, in cultural productions such as myths, art and ideology and also in individuals' sense of identity.
Through studying how fertility and sexuality are controlled and managed in any time and place we can learn a lot about gender, identity and power are constructed in that time and place, and we can learn about the sorts of structures which constrain women's and men's choices in life. Fertility, sexuality and reproduction, in other words, from a lens through which we can view some of the most interesting of all social processes. Having reproduction as an empirical focus also enables me to be involved in diverse specializations in sociology and the social sciences, including demography, social history, gender studies, cultural studies and policy studies.
My research to date has consisted of qualitative fieldwork and historical work in southern and eastern Africa, although I am also very interested in the organization of gender and reproduction in other parts of the world, especially present-day North America.