Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview
13.
See the discussions and examples in Weston 1991 and Blackwood 1986.
14.
See Stoltenberg 1989 for an interesting analysis of the variation in what counts as the "facts" of male sexual arousal.
15.
Whether, for example, there is something qualitatively different about the act of orgasm that would make the exchange of orgasmic fluids more meaningful, more highly charged, or more significant than the exchange of any other substance should, I suggest, be treated as an open, empirical question.
16.
For elaboration on some important differences between Western and Melanesian gender categories, see Strathern 1988:98-132 and Meigs 1990. This article does not attempt an analysis of Western epistemology or of what many philosophers and historians have identified as a Western intolerance of ambiguity at the level of conceptual categories (see Foucault 1990a [ 1978]; Jay 1981; Lloyd 1984). For an interesting example of what may be at stake in Western gender and sexuality boundary transgression see Foucault's introduction to the journals of Herculine Barbin, and the journals themselves ( Foucault, ed. 1980); see also Butler 1990:93-106 on Foucault's analysis.
17.
See Meigs 1984 and Counts 1985 on the exchange of foods and body substances; Weiner 1976, 1992 on exchange in the Massim; and Strathern 1971 and Strathern 1988 on the exchange of pigs.
18.
Adopting a perspective that analyzes substances as media of exchange suggests alternative ways of theorizing the references to women's "debilitating" and "contaminating" influences so common in the literature on boys initiations. In particular it suggests a need to study more thoroughly local constructs of how femininity is culturally produced, with particular attention to the role of substances identified as feminine. The ways in which the notion of "female pollution" has been deployed in Melanesian ethnography, especially in the writings on "ritualized homosexuality," frequently obstructs analysis of the meanings of feminine substances by failing to distinguish the notion that feminine substances threaten masculinity from the notion that such substances symbolize femininity--where, in a cultural context in which substances signify and produce gender differences, men's contact with feminine substances would undermine the symbolic bases, and thus the cultural construction, of masculinity itself.
19.
I thank the anonymous American Ethnologist reviewer who highlighted this implication and suggested I pursue it.
20.
It is from such a perspective, for example, that questions about how Sambia men "witch" from homosexual to heterosexual motivation gain the appearance of relevance or appropriateness (see Herdt 1981).
21.
This in turn should propel the much-needed anthropological investigations into how heterosexual desires and practices are made culturally normative, meaningful, or appropriate, and should also generate critical examination of the organizing axes of homosexuality and heterosexuality themselves.

References

Adam Barry D. 1986. Age, Structure and Sexuality. Journal of Homosexuality 11: 19-33.

Allen Michael R. 1984. "Homosexuality, Male Power, and Political Organization in North Vanuatu: A Comparative Analysis". In Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia. Gilbert H. Herdt , ed. Pp. 83-126. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Blackwood Evelyn 1986. "Breaking the Mirror: The Construction of Lesbianism and the Anthropological Discourse on Homosexuality". In The Many Faces of Homosexuality:Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior

-155-

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