Modern Western culture is saturated with images, imprinting visual standards of concepts such as beauty and femininity onto our collective consciousness. Blindness Through the Looking Glass examines how gender and femininity are performed and experienced in everyday life by women who do not rely on sight as their dominant mode of perception, identifying the multiple senses involved in the formation of gender identity within social interactions. Challenging visuality as the dominant mode to understand gender, social performance, and visual culture, the book offers an ethnographic investigation of blindness (and sight) as a human condition, putting both blindness and vision “on display” by discussing people’s auditory, tactile, and olfactory experiences as well as vision and sight, and by exploring ways that individuals perform blindness and “sightedness” in their everyday lives. Based on in-depth interviews with 40 blind women in Israel and anthropological fieldwork, the book investigates the social construction and daily experience of blindness in a range of domains. Uniquely, the book brings together blind symbolism with the everyday experiences of blind and sighted individuals, joining in mutual conversation the fields of disability studies, visual culture, anthropology of the senses, and gender studies.
“Refutes the simplistic division of sight and blindness as separate worlds of meanings . . . the firsthand narratives of blind women provide a mirror where sighted assumptions are revealed and made clear. The book offers alternative conceptualizations of gender, visual culture, the gaze, and the sensorium, as well as new perspectives on central concepts within qualitative research, such as the researcher’s gaze and research observation.”
—Elaine Gerber, Montclair State University
“I like this book, which investigates sight as well as blindness . . . a significant contribution to anthropology, disability studies, and women and gender studies, and likely to be required reading in courses in those fields. It is also just a great book to read—by anyone.”
—Rod Michalko, University of Toronto