The Specter of Sex

Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States

By Sally L. Kitch

Subjects: Gender Studies, Women's Studies, African American Studies, Indigenous Studies
Paperback : 9781438427546, 323 pages, August 2009
Hardcover : 9781438427539, 323 pages, August 2009

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Table of contents

Introduction: The “Purloined Letter” of Gendered Race

Part I: Roots
As the Twig is Bent

1. “Women are a Huge Natural Calamity”: The Roots of Western Gender Ideology
2. The First Races in Society: Gendered Roots of Race Formation
3. Gendered Racial Institutions: World Slavery and Nationhood
Conclusion: From Gender to Race
Part II: Bodies
Whose Too, Too Solid Flesh?

4. The American “Body Shop”: Gendered Racial Formation in the Colonies and New Republic
5. Enslaved Bodies and Gendered Race
6. Sexual Projection and Race: Science, Politics, and Lust
Conclusion: Embodying Race
Part III: Blood
“Off Women Com Owre Manhed”

7. Defining, Measuring, and Ranking Racial Blood: The Ungendered Surface
8. Hardly Gender Neutral
9. Gendered Anti-Miscegenation: Laws and Their Interpretation
10. Preserving White Racial Blood: Rape Accusations and Motherhood
Conclusion: Miscegenation as Racial Reconciliation?
Part IV: Citizenship
“My Folks Fought for This Country”

11. What is Citizenship?: Gender and Race
12. Engendering Citizenship: Dependency and Sex
13. “No Can Do” Men and Their Others: Dependency and Inappropriate Gender
14. Mixed Race, Suspect Gender: Both White and . . . Whatever
Conclusion: Homosexual Citizenship: A Gendered Racial Oxymoron
Part V: Implications
Patterns for a New Bridge

15. Implications for Feminist Theories of Racial Difference and Antisubordination Politics
16. Gender Implications for Theories of Racial Formation
Conclusion: Interdependence

Genealogy of the formation of race and gender hierarchies in the U.S.


Top Three Finalist for the 2010 John Hope Franklin Publication Prize presented by the American Studies Association

Theories of intersectionality have fundamentally transformed how feminists and critical race scholars understand the relationship between race and gender, but are often limited in their focus on contemporary experiences of interlocking oppressions. In The Specter of Sex, Sally L. Kitch explores the "backstory" of intersectionality theory—the historical formation of the racial and gendered hierarchies that continue to structure U.S. culture today. Kitch uses a genealogical approach to explore how a world already divided by gender ideology became one simultaneously obsessed with judgmental ideas about race, starting in Europe and the English colonies in the late seventeenth century. Through an examination of religious, political, and scientific narratives, public policies and testimonies, laws, court cases, and newspaper accounts, The Specter of Sex provides a rare comparative study of the racial formation of five groups—American Indians, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and European whites—and reveals gendered patterns that have served white racial dominance and repeated themselves with variations over a two-hundred-year period.

Sally L. Kitch is Dean's Distinguished Professor of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University. Her books include Higher Ground: From Utopianism to Realism in American Feminist Thought and Theory.


"Grounding her analysis on wide-ranging secondary works, [Kitch] presents a concise vision of U.S. gender and racial interactions, particularly valuable for feminist studies courses." — Journal of American History

"…[a] compelling and analytically rich book … this is a book that needed to be written, and is useful for any historical appreciation of racial and gendered ideology and inequalities in the US and intersectionality literature more broadly … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"This gracefully written synthesis of existing historical scholarship advances a position that both asserts distinction between 'race' and 'gender' as categories and privileges the gendered process of racial formation as key to understanding power and hierarchy in the United States. It is perfect for the classroom and will serve as a guide for theorists who need grounding in history. Compelling and provocative, this book will become a classic." — Eileen Boris, coeditor of The Practice of U.S. Women's History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues