Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sara L. Crawley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Benford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margarethe Kusenbach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian Connolly, Ph.D.


feminism, social movements, gender, sexuality, intersectionality, US South


At the height of their popularity in the 1990s, there were 140 feminist bookstores in the US and Canada (Onosaka 2006). Today, in 2017, there are thirteen left. Feminist bookstores began opening in the 1970s promoting ideas about lesbian separatism, woman only spaces, and nurturing a feminist community. Although many functioned as for-profit stores, many also operated community centers and non-profit organizations. Feminist bookstores provide an excellent site for scholars view decades of social movement organizing merging theory, practice, activism, and academics. As a social movement organization, feminist bookstores as are the quintessential node of academia and activism. Of the thirteen bookstores left, only two are located in the US South: Charis Books and More is in Atlanta, GA and Iris Books is in Gainesville, FL. During my yearlong ethnography, I gathered archival data, field notes and ethnographic data, interview data, and oral histories This is the first comprehensive ethnography of feminist bookstores which looks at the ways feminist theories are used by social movement organizations to create, maintain, and alter collective identities and to reach feminist movement goals. Through my study of these two bookstore owners, workers, and boards, I illuminate the social organization of feminist social movement organizations in the South. In chapter two, I show how the bookstores see the existence of a tangible space to allow for contestation about collective identities and “home work” as a successful social movement outcome. In chapter three, I find that participants believe that southern identity, which is steeped in understands of the past, have created a need for the bookstore’s longevities and for progressive communities. In chapter four, I demonstrate that due to the unique positioning of the histories of racism and slavery in the South, these feminist organizations believe a central problem of feminism is to actively name and confront racism within both the South and feminism. In the fifth chapter, using two gender disputes a decade a part, I argue that the narrative of gender progress understood as inclusion of queer issues as well as transgender and gender variant identities touted by many scholars (Whittier 1995; Jagose 1996; Armstrong and Crage 2006) inaccurately represents the intricacies within practices of feminism. When it comes to feminist identities, politics, and civil rights discourses, our current political climate has illustrated that there is not room for linear narratives of progress—within movements or individual identities. Focusing on the combination of histories and demographics, with an emphasis on race and queerness, this project analyzes how the US South provides a complex space to understand the challenges of intersectional and white feminist communities and social movements.