Books

Contested Terrain: Reflections with Afghan Women Leaders 

2014
 
Contested Terrain: Reflections With Afghan Women Leaders.  University of Illinois Press, 2014.
 
  
In November 2005, nine Afghan women leaders gathered at the Mershon Center at Ohio State University to present their views of what was happening to their country and, more importantly, what needed to be done to save it. In Contested Terrain, Sally L. Kitch constructs a compelling narrative that illuminates the lives and opinions of two of those women: Judge Marzia Basel, founder of the Afghan Women Judges Association, and Jamila Afghani, founder and director of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Center.
 
Contending with the complex dynamics of a society both undergoing and resisting change, Basel and Afghani speak candidly--and critically--of international intervention, the oppression of women, patriarchal Afghan culture, and the climate among Afghan women that limits change. As relayed by Kitch, the personal histories and commentaries of these courageous women draw the reader into a complex world in which immense possibility alternates and vies with utter hopelessness. The narrative provides an oft-ignored perspective on the personal and professional lives of Afghanistan's women.
 
Strongly rooted in feminist theory and supported by interdisciplinary historical and geopolitical analysis, Contested Terrain sheds new light on the struggle against the power forces that affect Afghan women's education, health, political participation, liveliehoods, and quality of life. The book also suggests how a new dialogue might be started in which women from across geopolitical boundaries might find common cause for change and rewrite their collective stories. 
"Kitch writes beautifully and in a very engaging manner that draws the reader into the story she is telling. Jamila and Marzia come across as thoughtful and compelling women of great integrity who have devoted themselves to women's rights and national progress."
- Valentine Moghadam, author of Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement
 
"Presents insights into the lives of...urban, educated Afghan women in a way that other books and articles available do not...Kitch's reflections and conclusions are unique and valuable to the conversation about Afghanistan, gender, international intervention, and development."
- Anne Brodsky, author of With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women in Afghanistan

The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States 

2009 
 
The Specter of Sex: Gendered Formation of Racial Formations in the United States. SUNY Press, 2009.
 
John Hope Franklin Prize, Top 2 Finalist, American Studies Association, 2010
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 "back story" 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. 
"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

Higher Ground: From Utopianism to Realism in Feminist Theory and Thought 

2000
 
Higher Ground: From Utopianism to Realism in Feminist Thought and Theory. University of Chicago Press, 2000. 
Many feminist love a utopia--the idea of restarting humanity from scratch or transforming human nature in order to achieve a perscribed future based on feminist visions. Some scholars even argue that feminist utopian fiction can be used as a template for creating such a future. However, Sally L. Kitch argues that automatically linking feminist thought and theory with utopianism is a mistake.
 
Drawing on the history of utopian thought, as well as on her own research on utopian communities, Kitch defines utopian thinking, explores the pitfalls of pursuing social change based on utopian ideas, and argues for a "higher ground"--a contrasting approach she calls realism. Replacing utopianism with realism helps eliminate such self-defeating notions in feminist theory as false generalization, idealization, and unnecessary dichotomies. Realistic thought, however, allows feminist theory to respond to changing circumstances, acknowledge sameness as well as difference, value the past and the present, and respect ideological give-and-take.
 
An important critique of feminist thought, Higher Ground concludes with a clear, exciting vision for a feminist future without utopia. 
"Beautifully written in an elegant and spare style, Sally Kitch's new book is a powerful and important intervention into the characterization and criticism of American feminist thought. With her visionary interdisciplinary tone and authoritative use of rich and pertinent multidisciplinary sources, Kitch speaks to a wide range of readers without sacrificing the depth of her argument."
- Judith Allen, author of Rose Scott: Vision and Revision in Feminism 

Women and Careers: Issues and Challenges

1994
 
Women and Careers: Issues and Challenges, co-editor with Carol Konek. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications, 1994 
Women face unique, gender-based issues solely because of their sex: sex and salary discimination, child care, dual-career problems, maternity, and many more. Comprehensive and research-based, Women and Careers is an extensive study on the issues career women face. The authors first conducted a major survey, followed by a series of in-depth interviews, to discover how women themselves (rather than scholars and researchers) actually feel about the key issues surrounding their experiences in the workplace. The treatment stresses the positive message that women can succeed in the workplace despite having to overcome many obstacles, with a tone not of "poor me" but of "let's get it done." Konek and Kitch used both quantitative and qualitative research methods to discover what a large cross section of working women are really thinking and experiencing in the workplace.
 
The first volume of its kind, Women and Careers is a must for scholars, students, and professionals in management and organization studies, gender studies, and the sociology of work and gender. 

This Strange Society of Women: Reading the Letters and Lives of the Woman's Commonwealth

1993
 
The Strange Society of Women: Reading the Letters and Lives of the Woman's Commonwealth. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1993.
 
Winner, Hele Hooven Santmyer Prize, 1991
Sally Kitch's study tells the story of an unusual, all-female urban utopian community founded in the late nineteenth century in Belton, Texas. The Woman's Commonwealth combined an ideology of celibacy with traditional business practices to achieve women's economic independence.
 
Based on a large collection of personal letters exchanged among the group's twenty to twenty-five members, primarily mothers and their daughters, the book functions on several levels. First, it chronicles the history and beliefs of the community, its business enterprises-successful hotels and boardinghouses-and the personalities and relationships of its members. Second, Kitch considers the role of the letters themselves in the formation, maintenance, and ultimate dissolution of the group. Whereas most studies of women's letters have focused primarily on their role as historical documents, this book explores the symbolic or literary characteristics of the correspondence and applies narrative theory to its interpretation. Finally, Kitch assesses the community from various feminist theoretical perspectives and considers the Commonwealth's significance to modern feminism.
For readers interested in feminism, American history and religion, utopian studies, cross-generational relationships, and for those who study letters or diaries as keys to understanding history and society, This Strange Society of Women offers a new way of examining early feminist communities and their importance to the history of American women. 
 
 

Chaste Liberation: Celibacy and Female Cultural Status

1989
 
Chaste Liberation: Celibacy and Female Cultural Status. Urbana: Illinois UP, 1989.
 
Winner of the National Women's Studies Association Book Award, 1987 
Sex is not a simple concept. It acquires meaning and importance from the culture surrounding it. In America, sexual intercourse has been viewed as an opportunity for the union of male and female. Symbolically, however, it opposes the sexes and supports female subordination.
 
Chaste Liberation offers an innovative discussion of the symbolism of sexuality and gender. Focusing on the issue of celibacy, Sally Kitch explores the cultures of three post-Civil War utopian communities and their relation to female status in American society. From her examination of the Shakers, Koreshans, and Sanctificationists, Kitch concludes that the adoption of celibacy promoted theoretical sexual equality and female social power in those religious groups. Kitch also explores the meaning of these celibate symbolic systems for feminism, particularly the relevance of celibacy to the issue of female subordination in today's society.
 
Using her symbolic analysis of utopian communities as a reference, Kitch reexamines several topics of immediate concern to feminist theory: the oversexualization of male/female relationships, female control of reproduction and sexuality, the value to feminism of gender difference as a concept, and the possibility of bridging the dichotomy between nature and culture. 
Articles and Book Chapters
  1. "How can Humanities Interventions Promote Progress in the Environmental Sciences?"
    "How can Humanities Interventions Promote Progress in the Environmental Sciences?"
    In Humanities, special issue on Humanities for the Environment. (In press). 2017
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  2. "Cautionary Notes on Sustainability Principles."
    "Cautionary Notes on Sustainability Principles."
    In Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities. Special issue: Green Humanities Lab (West Cluster, North American Observatory, HfE). (Accepted and forthcoming)
    1
  3. "Introduction: Urgency Necessitates Collaboration."
    "Introduction: Urgency Necessitates Collaboration."
    In Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities. Special issue: Green Humanities Lab (West Cluster, North American Observatory, HfE). (Accepted and forthcoming)
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  4. "Humanities for the Environment: A Manifesto for Research and Action."
    "Humanities for the Environment: A Manifesto for Research and Action."
    co-author with Poul Holm, Joni Adamson, et. al. Humanities. December 2015
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