Like many AHR Forums, this one began as three potentially related articles converged in their publication timeline and coalesced in their concerns. Although they attend to very different times, themes, and places—early modern republican Venice, Victorian working-class Britain, and the interwar ethno-nationalist wreckage of the Ottoman Empire—each of the following articles richly documents female experience at the intersection of public and private spheres. The working title of the forum was at one time “Gender and Interior Lives,” but upon rereading its components when the completed essays came together, we changed it to “Gendered Bodies, Mediated Lives.” For, as Jocelyn Olcott reminds us in her comment on the essays, the interiority of historical subjects can be approached only through the heavily mediated sources available to the historian. Since women’s voices, particularly those that speak to emotions, affect, and private calculation, are all too often suppressed or neglected in many historical sources, in this instance the forum should also be regarded as a methodological tour of approaches to recovering the history of working-class women’s lives as sexual, domestic, and national subjects through a creative use of evidence. To that end, Joanne Ferraro’s article scours the records of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venetian morals court, the Bestemmia, for evidence of the economic calculus that underlay women’s complex decisions to engage in sex work in a city once known as “the brothel of Europe.” Though filtered through the proceedings of a court dedicated to suppressing vice, the evidence here shows how Venetian prostitution represented far more than a market in female bodies. Instead, Ferraro argues, some women saw participation in the sex trade as a means to improve their economic position within the domestic household and the city’s labor market. In the second article in the forum, Emma Griffin systematically reads Victorian memoirs and autobiographies to chart the variable emotions associated with nineteenth-century British working-class motherhood. In doing so, she discovers a wide range of emotional registers, many of which depart from transhistorical (and bourgeois) expectations of “motherliness.” Finally, Rebecca Jinks uses the reports and photographs generated by female relief workers in post–World War I Anatolia to measure the shifting humanitarian sensibilities following the mass displacements and national exterminations of the conflict. In particular, she explores how relief workers attempted to “read” the worthiness of the “captive” Armenian women they sought to rescue and recuperate from the tattoos on their faces. No doubt, as separate pieces these articles will speak to specialists in their respective fields. But our hope, effectively modeled by Olcott in her closing remarks, is that these widely disparate topics can be read fruitfully together, offering new ways of thinking about how to approach the history of emotions, affect, and intimacy that will cast needed light on the full dimensions of women’s lived experience across time and space. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical Association. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail email@example.com.
The American Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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