Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture

By Suzette Heald; Ariane Deluz | Go to book overview

13

Symbolic homosexuality and cultural theory

The unconscious meaning of sister exchange among the Gimi of Highland New Guinea

Gillian Gillison

In an article first published in France in 1965, Devereux complained that the circulation of women in marriage—the phenomenon Lévi-Strauss described as generating The Elementary Structures of Kinship—hardly explained the origin of kinship in human society. To understand matrimonial exchanges and the ‘infrastructure of kinship systems’, Devereux said, it was necessary to pass from purely sociological discourse into the realm of psychoanalysis. The moment ‘certain general psychological and cultural facts’ are combined, he argued, the exchange of women in marriage expresses not merely the law of talion or a system of prestations mutuelles (Mauss, 1967), but ‘an obsessional tendency toward “bilanisme” …a compulsive quest for symmetry’ that is the hallmark of latent male homosexuality (Devereux, 1978:204). It is always men who exchange women in marriage—never the converse—according to Devereux because men’s homosexual fantasies lie at the heart of kinship systems. ‘Kinship is not rooted in heterosexual but in homosexual drives’, he said (ibid.: 209). The institution of marriage repels ‘the threatening specter of latent homosexuality’ by allowing men to achieve their goal in symbolic form, disguising homosexuality ‘as a heterosexual act’. ‘Marriage is sacred, that is: dangerous, precisely because it permits what is forbidden; it consecrates a sacrilege’ (ibid.: 211).

Devereux realised that his ‘addendum’ to Lévi-Strauss’ theory, which turned the deep structure of kinship into an avoidance—and thus a covert expression—of male homosexuality, was a ‘singular’ idea, and he states at the beginning and end of his article that he hesitated for years to publish it (ibid.: 180, 212). But he sounds disingenuous, or anxious to please his mentor, when he insists that his ‘analysis is perfectly compatible with Lévi-Strauss’ structural analysis’ and that ‘those who might try to oppose his theory of kinship and mine, or inversely, will labor in vain’ (1978:211-12). Certainly, Lévi-Strauss’ demonstration that marriage regulations ‘do not concern the relationship between men and women but between the

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Anthropology and Psychoanalysis: An Encounter through Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Complementarity 27
  • 2 - Interpreting the Implicit 29
  • Bibliography 39
  • 3 - Incestuous Fantasy and Kinship among the Guro 40
  • Bibliography 53
  • 4 - Islam, Symbolic Hegemony and the Problem of Bodily Expression 54
  • Bibliography 69
  • 5 - Trauma and Ego-Syntonic Response 70
  • Part II - The Analysis of Dreams 97
  • 6 - Dream Imagery Becomes Social Experience 99
  • Bibliography 112
  • 7 - Psychoanalysis, Unconscious Phantasy and Interpretation 114
  • Part III - The Lacanian Perspective 129
  • 8 - Gendered Persons 131
  • Notes 149
  • 9 - Lacanian Ethnopsychoanalysis 153
  • Bibliography 161
  • 10 - Lacan and Anthropology 163
  • Part IV - Working Models 169
  • 11 - Indulgent Fathers and Collective Male Violence 171
  • 12 - Every Man a Hero 184
  • Bibliography 208
  • 13 - Symbolic Homosexuality and Cultural Theory 210
  • Note 223
  • 14 - Psychoanalysis as Content 225
  • Index 239
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