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Title: An empirical challenge to the ideological role of the symbolic : a content of images of the gendered dichotomy
Author: Barnes, Caroline
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 8559
Awarding Body: Bath Spa University
Current Institution: Bath Spa University
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis offers a critique of the strong programme of postmodernism/feminism and its associate semiotic analyses. Their utilisation of Lacanian notions of the Symbolic, structured by the Phallus, leads this model, and its cultural examinations, to define woman as 'lack', which renders identity a Symbolic effect. I suggest that if the Symbolic determines the form representation can make, and if these representations go on to constitute gendered subjects dichotomously, then sexual dichotomisation should unambiguously structure representation. However, I contest this and support it with evidence from a content analysis I conducted, which analysed 500 fashion images. I offer a methodological defence regarding the use of content analysis, arguing that if meaning is understood as operating conventionally, it is sufficiently stable to quantify (Goffman: 1979). The defence is based upon the contention that meaning, which serves an ideology, cannot be also polysemic and elliptical. My results show that the cultural representations are free of a whole range of variables that are supposed to secure a dichotomously determined and subordinated femininity. Moreover, the data showed that there was no longer a marked gender difference between codes used; in fact, an increasing homogeneity between the images of men and women was recorded. Thus, images of men are equally commodified. Culture cannot therefore be said to secure gender identity. My results show that representation does, however, reproduce the discourse of the dimorphic body. Thus, in the light of this, I offer a tentative means of bringing the body into the social without the body reassuming its place as the primary determinant of the social. I do this by offering a model of the body that seeks to emphasise the interrelatedness of the body to society, and to sex and gender in particular. I offer the model of family resemblances as a means to escape the dualistic tendency of sex/gender because it is not dependent upon a unitary based classification scheme.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available