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Women, Culture and Society: The Body, Work and Labor, Feminism & Hip-Hop, etc.: Institutions, Privilege, Marginalization

Defining Institutions

The concept of an institution is a very important one within Women's and Gender Studies. For part of what we do as scholars is to take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the reciprocal (yet complicated) relationships between individuals, groups and institutions, and how gender, race, and other aspects of our social locations affect such interactions. However, the definition of an institution tends to be especially difficult to conceptualize in introductory Women's Studies courses, because many of us have only been familiarized with a mainstream, more concrete idea of what they are. For example, many people, if asked what an institution is, may give you an example, such as a university or a hospital. It is important to note, however, that institutions are not simply defined as single entities, nor are they housed in individual geographic locations. Institutions transcend these concepts, and are made up a complex system of rules, relationships, norms and consequences, and they shape our lives in just about every way imaginable. Some examples of institutions, in this sense, are the media, local and international law, and even marriage. Below are a variety of definitions and angles (featuring various disciplines and points of view) on the concept of the institution, that will hopefully help you to better grasp the sometimes complicated concept.

Suggested Books and Films

Author Dan Savage Discussing the Institution of Marriage

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