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Cultural Alternatives and a Feminist Anthropology
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  • Page extent: 200 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.255 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521375917 | ISBN-10: 0521375916)

The Chambri of Papua New Guinea are well known as being the 'Tchambuli' of Margaret Mead's influential work, Sex and Temperament, in which she described them as a people among whom, in contrast to Western society, women dominated over men. In this book, however, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz re-analyse Mead's data, and present original material of their own, to reveal that Mead misinterpreted the Chambri situation, and that in fact Chambri women neither dominate Chambri men, nor vice versa. They use this reformulated interpretation to discuss the relevance of the Chambri case for the understanding of gender relations in Western society today, showing that male dominance is not inevitable. At the same time, they also use their knowledge of cultural alternatives to clarify Western feminist objectives.


List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; Part I. Cultural Premises: 1. Entropy and the nature of indebtedness; 2. Names and personal identity; 3. The enactment of power; 4. The construction of society; Part II. Social Action: 5. Politics and the relationship between husbands and wives; 6. The mutual dependence of brothers and sisters; 7. Marriage and the confluence of interests; 8. The monetization of social relationships; Conclusion: the significance of cultural alternatives; Notes; References; Index.


'This complex, brilliant work succeeds in breaking out of that ethnographic straitjacket by remaining inconclusive and perplexed in what it reveals: as much an image of American intellectual quandaries as Chambri ones, and neither in isolation.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

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