Sex, Gender, Politics
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not
make it under self- selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing
already, given and transmitted from the past.
—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852
Text, Time, and Space
Texts are produced in particular historical moments and with speciﬁc hori-
zons of possibility. They are part of a repertoire of conversations, questions,
assumptions, political environments, available data, and theoretical resources.
These discursive conglomerates shift over time—sometimes by slow incre-
ments, and sometimes with dramatic jolts. When new formations become the
familiar terrain, it becomes diﬃcult to recall the previous landscape with its
distinctive assemblage of what could be thought and what seemed signiﬁcant.
Durable texts ﬁnd new meanings in new historical contexts and evolving pre-
occupations. But as texts are read in new circumstances, the issues that formed
them are often forgotten, as the edges of the old landscape are eroded by time.
When we go to the library to ﬁnd out about something, we encounter a
huge heap of literature all at once. This creates a tendency to treat a large body
of texts as if they all exist on the same temporal plane.1 But the various layers
of accretion were produced at speciﬁc moments and under speciﬁc conditions.
It is important to understand texts in their times. This allows us to think about
the temporal aspects of their relationships to one another, and to distinguish