This article is a theoretically based ethnography of the gender practices of two state institutions. Feminist scholarship on the state has tended to conceptualize the state as a macro-level structure, embodied in social policies, provisions, and abstract principles. By conceptualizing the state at the institutional level, I widen the scope of feminist state theory to include the micro apparatuses of state power. In my case studies, I depict the dynamics of two institutional gender regimes and the distinct patterns of control and contestation that characterize them. These ethnographic data capture how women's relations to men, children, and welfare programs are constructed and reconstructed by state actors and female clients who regulate and resist each other. From these data I demonstrate that the state is not a uniform structure that acts to impose a singular set of gender expectations on women. Rather, I propose that feminist theorists begin to conceptualize the state as a network of differentiated institutions, layered with conflicting and competing messages about gender.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science