CFP, Early American Studies: Beyond the Binaries

“The Publick Universal Friend”

Last week I received this call from Rachel Hope Cleves at the University of Victoria for a special issue of Early American Studies she’s editing on the subject of “Beyond the Binaries: Critical Approaches to Sex and Gender in Early America:”

Deadline for Proposal: 31 January 2013
            In a 1993 article in Sciences, biologist and historian Anne Fausto-Sterling provocatively argued that human sex could not be neatly divided into two simple categories, men and women. Instead, she recommended a five-part system of categorization, including men, women, merms, ferms, and herms. At the time of publication, Fausto-Sterling’s tongue-in-cheek proposal provoked more criticism than applause, but in the past two decades scholars in a wide range of disciplines, from neuroscience to gender studies, have added evidence to her assertion that binary sex categories are not a biological rule. With a few exceptions, however, historians of early America have been slow to question the binary of man and woman. In the uproar provoked by her proposal, few recall that Fausto-Sterling began her article not with a headline grabbed from the daily papers, but with an historical example dating to 1840s Connecticut.
            Now, recent work by historians including Elizabeth Reis, Clare Sears, and Peter Boag, indicates a growing attention to the instability of sex in early America. Their studies illuminate the existence and social knowledge of individuals whose bodies, gender identities, and desires defied neat divisions. Moreover, these works provoke questions about the coherence of the binary sex categories that historians assume as foundational. What did it mean to be a woman or a man in early America, if, as Reis points out, in 1764 a thirty-two year old woman named Deborah Lewis could change sex, becoming a man named Francis Lewis, and live for another six decades as an accepted patriarch within his community? How fixed were sex identities in early America? What possibilities existed for the expression of gender identities that stood at variance with embodied sex? What social practices created opportunities for the blending and rearrangement of sex identities? How did hierarchies of race and class destabilize or re-stabilize sex binaries? Should “men” and “women” be understood as variable rather than unitary categories?
          To encourage these questions, and others like them, Early American Studies invites proposals for essay submissions on the theme of “Beyond the Binaries: Critical Approaches to Sex and Gender in Early America” for a special issue to be published in fall 2014. Early American Studies is an interdisciplinary journal that welcomes contributions from the fields of history, art history, literary studies, religious studies, music, philosophy, and material culture studies among others. Possible topics might include (but are not limited to) bodies in doubt, female masculinity, racialized constructions of sex, religious gender crossing, and transgenderism in North America before 1860. Proposals of 300 words are due by January 31, 2013, and should be emailed to rcleves AT uvic DOT ca.  Authors whose proposals are accepted will submit completed drafts of their essays by July 15, 2013.
Early American Studies is now being edited by C. Dallett Hemphill of Ursinus College.  I recently was asked to review an article for them, and it appears that they are interested in moving submissions through peer review expeditiously, so if you’ve got something for them, go ahead and send it on in.

9 thoughts on “CFP, Early American Studies: Beyond the Binaries

  1. It’s a really great journal that’s been edited with distinction for a little over a decade now, and that will move on with a new burst of editorial energy and vision under Dallett Hemphill, so I would say, yeah, go for it.


  2. Thanks Ann for posting this. I am really excited to have the opportunity to put together a special issue devoted to thinking about sex and gender in early America beyond the binary. I welcome submissions on religion, migration, race and ethnicity, history of the body, and other subjects. If anyone has any questions they should feel free to email me at


  3. It makes me really angry that women go hungry and homeless and are pimped out for their SEX while money is given for grants and salaries for bullshit like this. Oh pardon me for speaking frankly and plainly.


  4. Actually, I’m quite sure that there is no grant money attached to this project whatsoever. Academics traditionally offer volunteer, not paid labor, when editing journals, and all authors are entirely unpaid for academic articles. So, please don’t lose sleep over the notion that anyone is further deprived or suffering as a result of one specially-edited edition of a journal.

    What crawled up your ass and died? (Oh, pardon me for speaking frankly and plainly!)


  5. and so are trans* people, in much higher proportions. But your faux social justice stance fails to mention them, though that would seem to be more relevant.


  6. Jon–don’t bother, but you’re right of course. River is just a troll who doesn’t probably care about feminist issues at all. (Otherwise, ze would be working for social justice at all times, rather than flaming random blogs and attacking little academic journals!)


  7. Tomorrow is the day we mark the death of 14 women slaughtered while the executioner shouted that FEMINISTS were responsible for his failures. ONE example. Millions of women have been raped, beaten, murdered, left to die ground up and fed to pigs in a farm in Vancouver, 400 missing and murdered aborginal women in recent history, women burned at the stake because they were the FEMALE SEX. Historiann shame on you.


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