Theorizing History: Separate Spheres, the Public/Private Binary and a New Analytic for Family Law History
2012 ANZLHS EJournal, Refereed Paper 2
34 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2015
Date Written: 2012
There is an extensive scholarship on separate spheres, the public/private binary, and family history that reveals a nuanced understanding of the interconnections and constructedness of these metaphors and rubrics traditionally used in family law history. In exploring the current understandings and limitations of these subjects as analytics for doing my own history of English family law, I turn to Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo’s critique that we limit our subjects and reinforce power differentials when we use a lens of difference in our scholarship. I first explore the lessons learned about the enduring nature of separate spheres and the power imbalances of the public/private binary in terms of their implications for family law, and try to bring these diverse areas of scholarship together to reflect on the narrow project of family law history. Then I propose a new approach that focuses on the paths not taken, the reforms that were blocked, as providing one way to get around some of the limitations of separate spheres and reveal the stark relations of power in modern constructions of the family and the state.
Keywords: family history, public/private binary, separate spheres, English family law
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