Sex matters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Feminists increasingly recognize that "sex," as a reference to embodied male-female difference, is no less socially constructed than gender. Like all signifiers, the meaning of these terms is produced through contingent and particular historical processes; yet histories of how sex was made are rare. This essay draws on extensive, multidisciplinary research-focused through a lens of early (archaic) state making-to render a partial and provisional genealogy of sex. The schematic history begins with early human social formations and the "agricultural revolution" that marked a shift from food gathering to food producing. It then reviews the defining characteristics-in particular, the invention of writing-and attendant inequalities of early/archaic state-formation (urbanization; the "rise of civilization). The centralization of Greek city-states has particular, indeed profound, relevance for what is conventionally called the "western tradition. The essay then directs attention to the Athenian polis, not only because it exemplifies features of early states, but because modern interpretations of classical texts and Athenian practices uniquelyshaped European political theory/practice; in particular, by naturalizing hierarchies of gender, sexuality, ethnicity/race, class and national difference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-409
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2014


  • "the family"
  • Athenian polis
  • Heteropatriarchy
  • citizenship
  • early states
  • invention of writing
  • state making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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