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The framing of discussion and debates around the broad inter-relationship of gender, sexuality and commodity culture has elicited a wide range of contributions from writers that offer fresh scholarly research and open up important new ground for feminist thinking and reflection. Agenda extends its thanks to the guest editors of the issue, Desiree Lewis and Mary Hames.
As Lewis and Hames write in the introduction to the issue, the contradictory impulses of commodity culture have seemed in the 21st Century to on the one hand “usher in limitless opportunities for individual and collective transformation through the acquisition of ‘things’ of resources, technology and information”. On the other “it has both entrenched and exacerbated long established power relations of race, gender and sexuality”.
Writers in this issue reflect upon the manner global commodity capitalism in contemporary South Africa mediates the conditions and practises of embodiment of gender, with race and class and how sexuality is often entangled with gender as a construct.
It has been seen in earlier feminist writing in Agenda that culture as an open site of contestation offers multiple vantage points from which to understand the cultural scripts which inscribe gender roles which are actively (re)negotiated and performed.
The deep lines of unequal access to resources along race, class and gender lines under global capitalism reminds us of how in the South women are frequently positioned as recipients of ‘development’, and as productive and reproductive labour. In this regard, highlighting women’s commoditisation in global capitalist sport, the recent issue ‘FIFA World Cup: Gender, Politics & Sport’ has for example to foreground the ways in which the World Cup as an elite and masculinised event, subordinated women to the male gaze as objects of men’s pleasure, effectively peripheralising women. Women’s bodies’ centrality to the capitalist registers of commerce and exchange is well traversed ground by feminist scholars and activists. However, as has been argued previously in Agenda it is not only the practises of representation and inscription of gendered bodies but also the surveillance and policing of what bodies may do and may not do that is a feminist concern.
Agenda sees this issue as providing an important opportunity to take forward the threads of feminist debates in that earlier issues have raised by seeking new theoretical directions and possibilities for thinking about gender, sexuality and commodity culture post-apartheid South Africa.
Within the rubric of gender, sexuality and capitalism, contributions have fallen into the broad categories of the media, photography and the internet, body politics, commodification of women’s political office, identity formation and masculinity in the context of clothing, alcohol and sport, and sexuality and identities.
Contributors to the issue include established scholars with long histories of research and writing (Carole Boyce Davies, Kopano Ratele, Jeanne Prinsloo), and relatively new entrants to publishing in teh field of anthropology (Sakhumzi Mfecane, Kharnita Mohamed) gender studies (Clare Craighead) and electonic media (Tanja Bosch)and newer writers (Nicolette Ferreira, Michelle Mordaunt-Bexiga, Sivuyisiwe Ntombi Wonci). The voice of feminist activism is also in the foreground (Chrystal Ordeson, Mary Hames, Stefanie Roehrs). Also complimenting the scholarly contributions are film and book reviews (Nadia Sanger, Desiree Lewis). Finally, the artistic work of the photographer Ingrid Masondo contributes an important visual dimension to the understandings and feminist debates in the issues and we have featured one of her images on the cover.