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Straker, G. (2012). The Racialization of the Mind in Intimate Spaces: The “Nanny” and the Failure of Recognition. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 13(4):240-252.

(2012). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 13(4):240-252

The Racialization of the Mind in Intimate Spaces: The “Nanny” and the Failure of Recognition

Gillian Straker, Ph.D.

Jessica Benjamin's (1988) notion that relations of dominance and submission reflect an original difficulty between child and caretaker is reviewed. The need for caretakers to be affected by the child's robust attempts to control them while at the same time neither retaliating nor capitulating is affirmed as is the idea that gender relations can compromise this endeavor. This article then takes further Benjamin's focus on gender relations in the family to include an exploration of the role of siblings. The article then moves to expand Benjamin's focus on gender relations in society to include race relations. The intersection of race and gender relations in apartheid South Africa is explored with special reference to the “nanny.” Within this context I question Benjamin's placing of an ethical obligation on the oppressed to establish themselves as subjects and explore the complexity of this issue. However, I validate Benjamin's fine analysis of the factors that may inhibit some oppressors’ attempts to be subjects in the face of the oppressed; these factors include a bypassing of shame and attempts to short-circuit the anger of the oppressed.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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