“Gender systems pervade and regulate human lives—in law courts and operating rooms, ballparks and poker clubs, hair-dressing salons and kitchens, classrooms and playgroups. . . . Exactly how gender works varies from culture to culture, and from historical period to historical period, but gender is very rarely not at work. Nor does gender operate in isolation. It is linked to other social structures and sources of identity.”
So write women’s studies pioneer Catharine R. Stimpson and anthropologist Gilbert Herdt in their introduction to Critical Terms for the Study of Gender, laying out the wide-ranging nature of this interdisciplinary and rapidly changing field. The sixth in the series of “Critical Terms” books, this volume provides an indispensable introduction to the study of gender through an exploration of key terms that are a part of everyday discourse in this vital subject.
Following Stimpson and Herdt’s careful account of the evolution of gender studies and its relation to women’s and sexuality studies, the twenty-one essays here cast an appropriately broad net, spanning the study of gender and sexuality across the humanities and social sciences. Written by a distinguished group of scholars, each essay presents students with a history of a given term—from bodies to utopia—and explains the conceptual baggage it carries and the kinds of critical work it can be made to do. The contributors offer incisive discussions of topics ranging from desire, identity, justice, and kinship to love, race, and religion that suggest new directions for the understanding of gender studies. The result is an essential reference addressed to students studying gender in very different disciplinary contexts.
In the first systematic documentation of New Guinea rituals of manhood, Gilbert Herdt places the homosexual customs of the Sambia in their ecological and ideological contexts while exploring what they mean to the individuals who practice them. Raising a host of issues concerning gender identity, hostility between the sexes, and the relationships between myth, culture, and personal experience, Herdt provides a vivid and convincing portrait of how Sambia men experience their sexual development.
Few cultures have received as much attention in the study of erotic desire, sexuality, and gender as the Sambia of Papua New Guinea. Here, for the first time, is a collection of groundbreaking essays and a new introduction on the Sambia's sexual culture by the renowned anthropologist Gilbert Herdt.
Over the course of 20 years, Herdt made 13 field trips to live with the Sambia in order to understand sexuality and ritual in the context of warfare and gender segregation. Herdt's essays examine Sambia fetish and fantasy, ritual nose-bleeding, the role of homoerotic insemination, the role of the father and mother in the process of identity formation, and the creation of a "third sex" in nature and culture. He also discusses the representation of homosexuality in cross-cultural literature on premodern societies, arguing that scholars have long viewed desires through the tropes of negative western models. Herdt asks us to reconsider the realities and subjective experiences of desires in their own context, and to rethink how the homoerotic is expressed in radically divergent sexual cultures.