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This special issue of the JIWS seeks to examine the topic of gendered constructions of space(s). How does space structure our understanding of gender? How does it participate in cultural constructions of race, class, and sexuality? What are the political and economic dimensions of the spaces that we construct and that construct us?
Despite the many seminal studies of the role of space in the fields of architecture, geography, history, and cultural theory, the role of space in the field of women's studies remains underappreciated. In this issue we wanted to explore the role(s) that space plays in shaping and maintaining identities and power relations. Far from being neutral or self-evident, we take space to be a site and a means of cultural power, informed by a set of historically and culturally specific notions that are loaded in gender and class terms.
Like discourse, space is always political. Space can discipline by restricting access, and empower by giving presence. Spatial organization is a historical and cultural product of meshing and clashing discourses of the body, sexuality, and morality. Instead of being "neutral," our notions of space are informed by a set of gender, class, and race terms. Therefore, the everyday spaces of our homes, offices, streets, and cities not only reflect existing social relations and identities but also actively produce and re-produce them.
Each essay in this issue shows in its own way that space needs to be recognized as a central component of power that is socially constituted through material relations. Combined, the authors adopt a space framework for critical, rhetorical, and cultural scholarship, and thus lead us to see the many social meanings of space as it structures the operation of gender.
This issue is entitled "Volumes," because we felt there must be a lot to say about space and gender in an era of outsourcing and global economies; rapidly changing social mores; and the radical miniaturization of everyday objects. Indeed, we received 188 submissions--a testimony to the popularity and value of the topic. The essays we are pleased to present here range widely in style, subject matter, and geographical loci, as befitting our sense that there is much to say. They are linked by their analysis of the adroit means by which social actors manipulate space for their own ends while being undeniably shaped by it; they are linked further by their commitment to the insights that spatial analysis is uniquely capable of providing.