race, gender and class are not distinct realms of experience, existing in splendid isolation from each other; nor can they be simply yoked together retrospectively like armatures of Lego. Rather, they come into existence in and through relation to each other -- if in contradictory and conflictual ways.
Others have argued before her that the Victorians connected race, class, and gender in ways that promoted imperialism abroad and classism at home -- see, for example, Anthony Wohl's decade-old materials on these subjects in the Victorian Web -- but McClintock argues that these connections prove crucial to the development of Western modernity. "Imperialism," she explains,
is not something that happened elsewhere -- a disagreeable fact of history external to Western identity. Rather, imperialism and the invention of race were fundamental aspects of Western, industrial modernity. The invention of race in the urban metropoles. . . became central not only to the self-definition of the middle class but also to the policing of the "dangerous classes": the working class, the Irish, Jews, prostitutes, feminists, gays and lesbians, criminals, the militant crowd and so on. At the same time, the cult of domesticity was not simply a trivial and fleeting irrelevance, belonging properly in the private, "natural" realm of the family. Rather, I argue that the cult of domesticity was a crucial, if concealed, dimension of male as well as female identities -- shifting and unstable as these were. [Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context, N. Y.: Routledge, 1995, 5.]
Last modified: 8 April, 2002