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Q&A: Prue Hyman on ‘Hopes Dashed?’

Q & A | BWB Texts
For Scoop Review of Books, Alison McCulloch interviewed Prue Hyman about her new book, part of the BWB Texts series, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality


bwb7760_text_cover_hopesdashed_highresSRB: Can you start by giving me a brief biography, with respect to your background in gender inequality issues?

Prue: I taught feminist economics and economics generally, but specialising in feminist economics, where I could, at Victoria University for many years. I worked for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for two years on secondment. That, obviously gave me a background in feminist economics and on a couple of sabbaticals, I worked with people who were working in the field and just gradually read and wrote about it myself.

SRB:    So how did this book come about now?

Prue:    Bridget Williams did a book edited by Max Rashbrooke, called “Inequality” (click here for the SRB review) and it had very little gender stuff in it to my surprise, because it’s still one of the major aspects of inequality. And she got me to have a look at the small amount there was in there, and I said it was all right as far as it went, but it wasn’t detailed enough. Bridget Williams published my earlier book in 1994, “Women in Economics: A New Zealand Feminist Perspective,” and we agreed I’d do an update essentially for the Texts series.

SRB:    Early in the book, you briefly mention the state of feminism today and have some positive things to say, including about the commitment of many younger women and the diverse issues they’re active in, including rape culture, body image, unionism, anti-racism and more. But I wonder, given your focus on gender inequality, do you distinguish among the kinds of feminism? In particular, between, for example, so-called “choice feminism” or “neoliberal feminism”, which is perhaps less focused on women as an oppressed class than on women’s individual identities and choices?

Prue:    To me “choice feminism” or “neoliberal feminism” is almost a contradiction in terms. I think it’s an abuse of the term feminism and I think it’s unfortunate that some modern women who get prominence, that that’s all they mean by feminism, because to me, feminism is about women as a class, and not only about women as a class — I must use a broad term, but it can’t be a feminism of the type I’m writing about and keen on without also dealing with the intersections, i.e. race and class and disability and all the rest. At times, I think, ‘well, I’m less concerned with all women than I used to be.’ It’s really the women who are most disadvantaged by other facets that I care about most. Read more »

Pacific Slavers

The Stolen Island: Searching for ‘Ata

by Scott Hamilton (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)

Reviewed by Michael Horowitz

stolen_island_coverLocated even further south than temperate Noumea, Tonga’s tiny island of ‘Ata might have become the jewel of the kingdom’s burgeoning tourist industry. Imagine a Tongan resort that would not only be mild in winter, but pleasant in summer.

Alas, it was not to be. As Scott Hamilton poignantly describes in his concise account, Stolen Island, an Australian whaler anchored offshore in June 1863 … tricked nearly half the island’s over 300 inhabitants to come aboard to trade … then locked the exits and delivered them to a slave ship bound for Peru. Shortly after their arrival in port, the Peruvian government enforced its abolition of slavery and ordered all captured islanders, including Tahitians and Tongans, repatriated. Yet the prisoners were again betrayed: this time by being labelled a medical threat by the captain of the returning vessel and dumped on remote Cocos island, where all but 38 perished. Finally in November, a Peruvian warship brought survivors to the seaside village of Paita, where the descendants of some ‘Atans may possibly carry on today.

Read more »

Rescue Missions

Three Cities: Seeking hope in the Anthropocene
by Rod Oram (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by John Lang

BWB7760_Text_Three Cities_hi Res_0We’ve all heard of Beijing, London and Chicago—the three cities Rod Oram scaffolds his latest environmental insights upon—but we’ve not all heard of the Anthropocene; at least not yet. If the term is still slippery, you have an excuse, but not for much longer.

The BWB text, Three Cities: Seeking Hope in the Anthropocene takes readers for a whirlwind trip around the globe searching for the stirrings of something resembling hope, but unsurprisingly, not hope itself.

The Anthropocene epoch, superficially synonymous with climate change, but more accurately associated with the breadth of change being carved out on the natural world by humans, has only just begun, says the Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA). A mere month ago, the WGA voted in favour of formally recommending (to the International Geological Congress) that the Anthropocene qualifies to succeed the 11,700 year-old Holocene epoch.

Oram’s text begins where it should, in Beijing, where the perils of climate change and its hopeful solutions are reacting with such unpredictability, even the most ardent experts can’t foresee the results.

China has admirably, if indignantly, taken to the problem of climate change of late, yet the oxymoron that is ‘sustainable’ and ‘development’ (sustainable development) has never been better embodied than within its borders. Bringing 300 million people out of poverty has had its drawbacks. Armed with a (coal) burning desire to spearhead the international energy transition, mostly born of necessity but with a likely pinch of pride, China plays out the ‘great contradiction’. Others can only gasp, or applaud. In 2015 alone, hundreds of new coal-fired power plants—the antithesis to combatting climate change—were commissioned; at the same time, over one hundred billion dollars was invested in renewable electricity. Read more »

Shaking More Than the Earth

Christchurch Ruptures
by Katie Pickles (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan

BWB7760_Text_Cover_Christchurch Ruptures_High ResProfessor Pickles, head of history at Canterbury University, has written about the earthquakes from a new angle, arguing they have “fractured pathways to remembering the past”. Her approach to history is thematic and sociological, not chronological. The book looks at Christchurch’s history and the impact of the earthquakes through five themes: landscape, people, heritage, culture and politics. “The earthquakes have exposed major components in the history of Christchurch such as the dominant Anglican tradition and Englishness, the denial of a Maori past, and the environmental pitfalls of building on a swamp.”

The disruption to the landscape is all too obvious, with many buildings demolished by the earthquake and subsequently in the recovery phase. The break from the colonial past is symbolised in the destruction of statues of Canterbury’s founders. Pickles argues that traditions need to be looked at afresh and not just clung to or restored. While the earthquakes have brought the city’s colonial past back into focus, many heritage buildings had been knocked down before the earthquakes.

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Written from Memory

Creeks and Kitchens: A childhood memoir
by Maurice Gee (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

Gee_CoverOur family always went camping for Christmas, because my father was a teacher and we escaped the city for the entire summer holidays. There was always a creek to set the red Christmas jelly in a billy held firm by stones and boulders; my dam-buiding skills were put to festive use. Our creeks usually had willows to camp under and the shade aided seeing the ‘bullies in the creek and helping them move house into empy Wattie’s fruit salad tins. I never did see a naked man washing himself in a pool, as did Maurice Gee, but I did see a young couple standing in the water kissing and felt very strange and dizzy – I think their standing in “my” creek felt like a violation, along with something I, aged seven, didn’t understand.

My mother’s kitchen was tiny, and not very welcoming. With two doors in a tiny room that was a throughway between the wash-house/loo and living area, there was no chair or table, just a little stool she sat on by the open door of the oven early winter mornings with her first cup of tea. Gee and I share the view of our mothers as the essential touchstones of our departures and returns, but his kitchen sounds more like the hub of the house, with its “black stove and drying rack, its brown lino, its worn mat and wooden table, the Philco radio on the mantelpiece.”

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