Gender as Soft Assembly
Routledge – 2008 – 320 pages
Gender as Soft Assembly weaves together insights from different disciplinary domains to open up new vistas of clinical understanding of what it means to inhabit, to perform, and to be, gendered. Opposing the traditional notion of development as the linear unfolding of predictable stages, Adrienne Harris argues that children become gendered in multiply configured contexts. And she proffers new developmental models to capture the fluid, constructed, and creative experiences of becoming and being gendered. According to Harris, these models, and the images to which they give rise, articulate not only with contemporary relational psychoanalysis but also with recent research into the origins of mentalization and symbolization.
In urging us to think of gender as co-constructed in a variety of relational contexts, Harris enlarges her psychoanalytic sensibility with the insights of attachment theory, linguistics, queer theory, and feminist criticism. Nor is she inattentive to the impact of history and culture on gender meanings. Special consideration is given to chaos theory, which Harris positions at the cutting edge of developmental psychology and uses to generate new perspectives and new images for comprehending and working clinically with gender.
Introduction. Part I: Relational Developmental Theory. Multiple Selves, Multiple Codes. Timelines and Temporalities. Chaos Theory as a Theory of Development. Part II: Gender as Soft Assembly. Gender Narratives in Psychoanalysis. Tomboys' Stories. Gender as a Strange Attractor: Gender's Multidimensionality. Genders Emerge in Contexts. Part III: Developmental Theory and Research. Developmental Applications of Nonlinear Dynamic Systems Theory: Learning How to Mean. Dynamic Skills Theory: Relational Mourning as Shared Labor.
Adrienne Harris, Ph.D., is Clinical Associate Professor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and an Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and Studies in Gender and Sexuality.