The title of Rena Lederman's essay prepares us for a treatment of gender constructs as products of an essentially political process. In concentrating on"the relationship between gender constructions and the behavior of men and women in everyday life"she presents a developing picture of gender relationships among the Mendi(a group from the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea)in which the order of things is clearly not only changing but contested.
She contrasts her approach, "political,...sensitive to structural contradictions and to diverse local voices,"with an earlier, structural analysis of Highland New Guinea sociality:one that viewed clans as central and men as simply dominant over women.
Lederman analyses an exchange relationship among the Mendi in which both men and women play active roles. These twem relationships are pervasive in Mendi social life; participation in them partly constitutes adult "personhood"for both men and women. Women are excluded only from participation in clan transactions, whose purpose is to acquire wealth for display in corporate clan-sponsored ceremonies.
Lederman's analysis replaces a clan-dominated view with one in which twem relationships(in which both men and women participate)and clanship(represented as an exclusively"male"relationship)are partially complementary and partially at odds. The ensuing ambiguity defines an arena for argument among social actors concerning the constitution of their social order.