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Anthropology Gender
by
Rebecca L. Upton

Introduction

Gender is a key concept in the discipline of anthropology. Sex and gender are defined differently in anthropology, the former as grounded in perceived biological differences and the latter as the cultural constructions observed, performed, and understood in any given society, often based on those perceived biological differences. Throughout the 20th century and the rise of sociocultural anthropology, the meaning and significance of gender to the discipline has shifted. In early ethnographic studies, gender was often synonymous with kinship or family, and a monograph might include just a single chapter on women or family issues. Despite early female pioneers in the field, it was not until the 1970s and 1980s and the real rise of feminist anthropology that gender as a distinct area of theoretical and methodological interest took hold within the discipline. Women were no longer seen as a category of culture and society outside of the realm of the everyday. While some focused on divisions between the domestic and the public, feminist anthropologists and those interested in the study of gender began to challenge the simple “add women and stir” model of ethnography and sought to bring attention to structural inequalities, the role of economic disparities, global dimensions to gender politics, the role of language, sexuality and masculinity studies, and health and human rights. Gradually the most recent works in gender and anthropology came to encompass a wide range of perspectives that challenge Western or monolithic assumptions about women and the experience of gender. For example, non-Western writing on gender illustrates how varied the experience of feminism can be in contemporary contexts where religious beliefs, development experiences, and the very role of language can influence understandings of gender. The study of women, men, and the intersections of gender across cultures has become a key aspect of any holistic study or methodological approach in anthropology today.

Early Ethnography

Many early monographs in anthropology were grounded in perspectives determined by the interests of largely male ethnographers. Studies of women or the concept of gender were generally included in chapters or notes on family and kinship. With the work of pioneers such as Ruth Benedict (Benedict 2006) and Margaret Mead (Mead 2001a, Mead 2001b), the study of gender in anthropology took a more central place. Particularly for Benedict, ethnographic studies of gender were grounded in culture and personality studies. For Mead, a student of Benedict, research dealt much more with biological versus cultural conditioning of individuals, particularly in the areas of male and female temperament and cultural constructions of male and female traits. Her work was one of the first to critique a universal assumption of biologically determined male or female traits or roles. As anthropology continued to broaden its scope and become a more comparative ethnological enterprise, studies grew that suggested that women and gender were topics not only worthy of study but also valuable for the new perspectives they yielded on the ubiquitous androcentric bias in the discipline and throughout early ethnography. Later ethnographies began to challenge the classic monographs and interpretations of gender and culture by situating women’s work at the center of anthropological study. Strathern 1990 and Weiner 1983 challenged the idea that only goods produced by men were imbued with cultural significance. Universal patriarchy and assumptions about women as gatherers and innate nurturers throughout history emerged in Sacks 1982 and Zihlman 1989. These studies are useful as they provided the foundation of later work in gender studies that more closely examined the ethnographic evidence, exploring and then returning to the question of whether female subordination was universal or largely a product of male observer bias and privilege. Challenges to early ethnography and the assumption that all women experienced gender similarly did emerge (and continue to) with the publication of Mohanty, et al. 1991, a collection that remains an essential starting point for the debates over the status of women in anthropology in non-Western contexts. As Western feminism grew and influenced anthropology, an equally essential aspect of the field has been the recognition of both differences between women (not simply between the sexes) and the necessity for recognition of different interpretations of gendered experience, not simply a homogenous one, which Mohanty’s book describes.

  • Benedict, Ruth. 2006. Patterns of culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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    Classic ethnography that emphasizes the role of culture in human behavior; a pioneer study in diversity, Benedict’s work is useful in considering those aspects of culture that have to do with psychological factors and gender development. Originally published in 1934.

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  • Mead, Margaret. 2001a. Coming of age in Samoa: A psychological study of primitive youth for Western civilisation. New York: Harper Perennial.

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    A controversial study that builds on Mead’s earlier work in New Guinea, this ethnography explores the cultural construction of sexuality, tackling behaviors such as masturbation as situated within particular cultural contexts. It has been a highly debated text but remains a central point of discussion in the emergence of the study of gender as social construction. Originally published in 1930.

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  • Mead, Margaret. 2001b. Sex and temperament in three primitive societies. New York: Harper Perennial.

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    This classic study of three cultures in New Guinea challenged the idea of fixed, sex-based masculine or feminine characteristics and set the stage for Mead’s lifelong study of the cultural construction of gender. Sets the stage for her later work Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1941), a comparative study of these cultural differences in the United States and cross-culturally. Originally published in 1928.

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  • Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, Ann Russo, and Lourdes Torres, eds. 1991. Third World women and the politics of feminism. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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    Includes essential articles that emerged from challenges by non-Western female scholars to a homogeneous and monolithic understanding of women cross-culturally. Mohanty’s article “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,” Feminist Review 30 (Fall 1988): 61–88 is a foundation for debate in the field over Eurocentric experiences of gender and liberation.

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  • Sacks, Karen. 1982. Sisters and wives: The past and future of sexual equality. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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    This edition challenged some of the earlier ethnography that characterized women’s roles as inherently tied to sex differences across cultures. With a focus on modes of production and power difference, it offers more complex ways of understanding the myriad roles that women play in societies across cultures and history.

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  • Strathern, Marilyn. 1990. The gender of the gift: Problems with women and problems with society in Melanesia. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    In this book and later works, Strathern explores the complex meaning of gifting in society. Using Melanesia as the basis of a rich ethnographic account, Strathern’s classic text proves essential to feminist and anthropological understanding of gender and exchange.

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  • Weiner, Annette. 1983. Women of value, men of renown: New perspectives in Trobriand exchange. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

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    One of the first ethnographers to re-examine the Trobrianders as discussed by Bronislaw Malinowski, Weiner suggests that women’s work was essential to Trobriand society, heralding a closer examination of women’s roles in society across the discipline.

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  • Zihlman, Adrienne. 1989. Woman the gatherer: The role of women in early hominid evolution. In Gender and anthropology: Critical reviews for teaching and research. Edited by Sandra Morgan, 21–40. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.

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    A very useful and important challenge to archaeology and evolutionary sciences that presupposed fixed gender roles. Zihlman’s work is essential to the development of the study of gender within archaeology and feminist anthropology.

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Foundational Collections

Several good edited volumes provide an overview of the differences between sex and gender and trace the history of the role and study of gender in anthropology. As anthropology emerged in the mid-20th century, so too did the debate over the question of woman as the “Other.” In Rosaldo and Lamphere 1974, the authors pose the question that would frame much of future work in gender and anthropology, as to why and how women have come to be seen as the “second sex” and to be subject to universal subordination across time and space. Jacobs 1971 highlights the work by anthropologists engaged with the study of women in cross-cultural contexts and includes the much-heralded piece by Sally Linton, “Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in Anthropology,” which was later included in Rayna Reiter’s collection Toward an Anthropology of Women (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975). In addition to the above-cited essays, the following collected editions formed the core of early feminist anthropological writing on gender and largely emphasized the great global variation of gender roles and expectations. The 1980s saw the rise of theoretical work on the debate over universal subordination of women and the concept of domestic versus public spheres of influence (Ortner and Whitehead 1981). Monographs and ethnographic evidence to support that debate and challenge previous assumptions grew during this period. Ortner 1997 in particular became a cornerstone in the field as the author considered again the question of whether women were universally seen as closer to nature and men closer to culture, thereby granting women less power and agency across cultures. During a postmodern era, the study of gender in anthropology took ever new turns and explored concepts of agency and resistance, and discourse on the significance of gendered voices emerged along with an emphasis on the role of men and masculinity (Di Leonardo 1991 and Lamphere, et al. 1997). Several key volumes focused on how to teach gender in anthropology (Morgen 1989 and Mascia-Lees and Black 1999) and provide great historical overviews of the development of the field of feminist anthropology.

  • Di Leonardo, Micaela, ed. 1991. Gender at the crossroads of knowledge: Feminist anthropology in the postmodern era. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    This volume includes a wide range of essays that cover primate studies, new reproductive technologies, and the global economy. Di Leonardo tackles some of the issues that emerged during the rise of feminist anthropology, including problems of reflexivity, agency, and power differences in contemporary anthropological study.

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  • Jacobs, Sue-Ellen, ed. 1971. Women in perspective: A guide for cross-cultural studies. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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    An early collection of work that demonstrated the need for the study of women, this volume includes Sally Linton’s classic chapter on “Woman the Gatherer,” a piece that demonstrated the pervasive male bias within anthropology.

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  • Lamphere, Louise, Helena Ragoné, and Patricia Zavella, eds. 1997. Situated lives: Gender and culture in everyday life. New York: Routledge.

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    Collection of chapters that address issues of gender identity, power, agency, and resistance across a range of sociocultural contexts. Chapters on the importance of masculinity studies are included, which provide useful comparative studies to earlier collected volumes.

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  • Mascia-Lees, Frances E., and Nancy Johnson Black. 1999. Gender and anthropology. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

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    This volume tackles central issues in the anthropological study of gender and sex. It highlights how cross-cultural work is necessary for unearthing assumptions about men and women in global contexts. It takes an inter- and multidisciplinary approach and is concise and readable.

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  • Morgen, Sandra, ed. 1989. Gender and anthropology: Critical reviews for research and teaching. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.

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    An excellent collected volume, this publication by the American Anthropological Association offers a thorough overview of the development of the study of gender in anthropology. It includes fundamental works by feminist anthropologists as well as extensive citations of scholarly works in the field.

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  • Ortner, Sherry. 1997. Making gender: The politics and erotics of culture. Boston: Beacon.

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    This collection of eight essays spans Ortner’s and others’ thinking on gender in anthropology over the past twenty-five years. Ortner’s famous 1972 essay comparing women to nature and men to culture is included (pp. 21–42) along with more contemporary essays from her broad range of work.

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  • Ortner, Sherry, and Harriet Whitehead. 1981. Sexual meanings: The cultural construction of gender and sexuality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Ortner and Whitehead’s collection of essays explores a range of cross-cultural beliefs, practices, and behaviors. This text reflects some of the essential debates and thinking about the roles of women cross-culturally in the realms of power and prestige, and the symbolism of the domestic versus private spheres.

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  • Rosaldo, Michelle Zimbalist, and Louise Lamphere, eds. 1974. Women, culture and society. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    An extremely important collection and a critical place from which to start to understand the emergence of the study of gender in anthropology. The authors all explore the issue of human sexual asymmetry and present evidence from a wide variety of social systems. One of the classic collections in the field, this book put forth the idea that women were social actors just as much as men.

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Journals

Several anthropological journals specifically publish gender-related research. Some specific journals are dedicated exclusively to gender studies in cross-cultural and ethnographic research. Some of the main journals in the discipline regularly address the status of gender studies in the field overall—for example, Catherine Lutz’s 1990 article “The Erasure of Women’s Writing in Socio-Cultural Anthropology,” in American Ethnologist (the journal of the American Ethnographic Society of the American Anthropological Association [AAA]), surveyed evidence of gender bias and publications by women in the discipline writ large. Many survey articles appear in American Anthropologist (the main journal of the AAA) as well as the Annual Review of Anthropology, which regularly commissions articles that provide thorough overviews and citations of gender issues in all subfields of the discipline. Ethnology includes comparative studies that examine how gender and other cultural phenomena vary across cultures and history. More specific journals that represent the flagships of the two fields of study include Signs and Voices, the official journal of the Association of Feminist Anthropology, a section of the AAA. Articles that touch on the role of gender and the field of gender in anthropology regularly appear in a range of general sociocultural, linguistic, and even archaeological journals. Very useful journals that incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives include Gender & Development, which is geared toward those working in applied areas of gender study, and Gender and Society, which is a primarily sociological forum but includes articles from multiple disciplines and cultural contexts. An important journal that includes a range of disciplinary perspectives and methods, with a central focus on gender and men, is the highly theoretical Men and Masculinities, a collection of research on masculinities and men, considered by this journal to be essential to the study of gender.

  • American Anthropologist.

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    This is the flagship journal of the AAA. Published quarterly, it covers the “four fields” of the discipline regularly. A central issue in many articles is the role of gender in societies as well as the occasional article on gender in the AAA and the status of women in the field of anthropology. Published since 1888.

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  • American Ethnologist.

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    American Ethnologist is the official, peer-reviewed, quarterly journal for a subsection of AAA, the American Ethnological Society. It publishes book reviews and articles and focuses on theoretical issues that are linked to ethnographic data. Many articles focus on the role of gender in ethnography. Published since 1974.

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  • Annual Review of Anthropology.

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    This journal, published since 1972, covers significant developments in the subfields of anthropology, including archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistics and communicative practices, regional studies and international anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology. Articles are solicited by invitation of the editorial board, and in-depth review articles regularly address issues of gender in all the subfields of anthropology.

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  • Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology.

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    This journal is peer-reviewed and published quarterly with an additional issue published in October by the University of Pittsburgh Department of Anthropology and the university’s library system. The journal publishes articles that are grounded in ethnographic data in the tradition of George P. Murdock, and as such offers good cross-cultural data on gender. First published in 1962.

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  • Gender & Development.

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    This international peer-reviewed journal publishes interdisciplinary articles, short opinion pieces, book reviews, and up-to-date resources sections. It is focused on linking theoretical and practical issues in gender and on development work with insights from global development initiatives and policies. Each issue is organized around a contemporary and academically cutting-edge theme. Gender & Development has been published three times a year by Oxfam and Taylor and Francis since 1993.

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  • Gender & Society.

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    This is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed and highly ranked journal that is published bi-monthly. It is the official journal of Sociologists for Women in Society and publishes work from a variety of social science disciplines and international perspectives. The journal emphasizes theory and research in original articles and reviews, and it takes as central the understanding that gender is a basic and organizing principle across cultures. First published in 1987.

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  • Men and Masculinities.

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    This peer-reviewed journal publishes original research that explores the roles and perceptions of men across cultures and societies. It emphasizes a range of methods and interdisciplinary research, grounded in the most contemporary theoretical scholarship on masculinity, gender studies, queer theory, and multiculturalism. First published in 1998.

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  • Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

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    This peer-reviewed quarterly journal publishes theoretical, empirical, and interdisciplinary articles that challenge thinking about gender around the globe. Articles and reviews aim to contribute new theoretical perspectives on gender. Reviews of feminist films for the classroom are also published. The journal is published by the University of Chicago press and is housed at Rutgers University, sponsored by the Department of Women’s & Gender Studies. Founded in 1975.

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  • Voices: A Publication of the Association for Feminist Anthropology.

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    This journal is an annual publication of the Association for Feminist Anthropology (AFA), a section of AAA. It is available and sent free to all AFA members. It publishes articles and reviews and occasional thematic issues, some of which focus specifically on teaching feminism, anthropology, and gender in the classroom. Begun in 1995.

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Methods and Reflexivity

From Golde’s early study in 1970 of women doing fieldwork (Golde 1986) to more contemporary essays that illustrate the influence of fieldworker identity on ethnography (cf. Behar 1994 for a quintessential example of how fieldworker, respondent, and gender identity can play a key role in the kind of text produced), ideas of authenticity and authority have been a basic part of the discipline yet remained largely undiscussed during its early years. For many feminist anthropologists, it has been a process of “pulling back the curtain” to expose the inner workings of anthropology and, in particular, to expose how researcher identity plays a significant if not fundamental role in crafting an ethnographic product (Wolf 1992). As anthropology became more self-reflexive and the number of postmodern critiques increased, studies of the importance of gender in the field and its influence on field methods gained significance, and the potential and yet inherent tensions between feminism and anthropology were exposed. Both Strathern 1987 and Moore 1994, for example, were written by key theorists who situated the tension of gendered identity and politics at the center of good and more-critical anthropology. Many anthropologists such as Behar and Gordon (Behar and Gordon 1996) collected work by women anthropologists in response to what appeared to be a real dearth of women’s voices in the discipline on the subject of fieldwork. Others have written seemingly more practical guides to the practice and to the experience of fieldwork from the viewpoint of women (Warren and Hackney 2000). The power of reflexivity and considerations of the actual implications of gender in the field continue to emerge in contemporary thinking about gender and anthropology. As described recently in Kulick 2008, the in-depth study of gender and sexuality has real and profound effects on both the personal and professional lives of researchers. Anthropologists’ criticism of fieldwork and recognition of the importance of the studies of sex and gender have been supported by women in the field (an interesting place to explore such topics is the AAA website discussion board, where interviews with prominent anthropologists are posted under the rubric “Inside the President’s Studio”; a recent one exemplifies more reflexivity by Strathern, and other examples can be found at that site).

  • Behar, Ruth. 1994. Translated woman: Crossing the border with Esperanza’s story. Boston: Beacon.

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    An ethnography of one woman in Mexico who is believed to be a witch, this quintessential ethnography illustrates the tensions inherent within anthropology and the difficulty of reflexivity for those in the field. Translated Woman remains a touchstone for those interested in exploring both the role of the anthropologist in the lives of their subjects and the debate over objectivity.

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  • Behar, Ruth, and Deborah Gordon, eds. 1996. Women writing culture. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    An important volume that stands in response to James Clifford’s book Writing Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), which largely presents male authors and perspectives on the field. This book, which contains chapters by key female and feminist anthropologists, includes the highly reflective piece by Behar on the difficulty of bringing the personal into the field and in writing, and an article by Abu-Lughod on how fertility status can affect perceptions of the fieldworker.

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  • Golde, Peggy. 1986. Women in the field: Anthropological experiences. 2d ed. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    One of the first volumes to explore the experience of the female anthropologist in the field, and to examine, via various examples, how widely cultural interpretations of women in the field can vary and influence research. This updated classic remains a very good introduction for anyone, woman or man, about to enter the field. Originally published in 1970.

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  • Inside the President’s Studio.

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    One of several interviews online at the AAA website with scholars in anthropology. Many of these discussions and interviews address pivotal moments in the field and highlight work by key gender researchers such as Strathern.

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  • Kulick, Don. 2008. Gender politics. In Special section: “Men doing the anthropology of women.” Edited by David Berliner and Douglas J. Falen. Men and Masculinities 11.2: 186–192.

    DOI: 10.1177/1097184X08315098Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article, by one of the key authors in the field of reflexivity and sexuality, discusses the role of sex in fieldwork and the academy. A critic of those who assume universality, the author poses important questions for the continued place of gender in anthropology in general. Presented at a panel session at the 2005 American Anthropological Association meetings, 30 November–4 December 2005, Washington, DC.

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  • Moore, Henrietta. 1994. A passion for difference: Essays in anthropology and gender. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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    The author situates the discourse on gender, sex, and feminism within the discipline of anthropology. A theoretical discussion about the debate in anthropology on universal kinds of subjects and, in particular, on the universality of the category of woman for anthropologists and feminists.

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  • Strathern, Marilyn. 1987. An awkward relationship: The case of feminism and anthropology. In Special issue: Reconstructing the Academy. Edited by J. F. O’Barr. Signs 12.2: 276–292.

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    A classic article that describes the conflict between the notion of anthropology as the study of the Other and the idea that women have long been considered the universal Other. In this key piece, the author demonstrates the theoretical and ethical dilemmas implied by the suggestion that one can be wholly objective and removed from one’s politics or gendered identity.

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  • Warren, Carol, and Jennifer Hackney, eds. 2000. Gender issues in ethnography. 2d ed. Qualitative Research Methods 9. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    This short book, which is part of the series on qualitative research methods, provides examples of the role of gender in ethnographic fieldwork. Though accessible and clear, the book draws on too much of the editors’ own experiences and challenges in the field.

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  • Wolf, Margery. 1992. A thrice told tale: Postmodernism, feminism and ethnographic responsibility. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    Short book that describes the same set of events from three different perspectives and methodological approaches. The supposed possession of a young woman in a Taiwanese village is presented via field notes, a short story, and a published article—three versions of the same event. Accessible book, useful for a class on methods and the challenges of anthropological authority, feminism, and identity.

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Colonialism

Far too often, anthropology in its early years was seen as working hand in hand with particular colonial perspectives and agendas. Just as Western assumptions about race, religion, and ethnicity influenced colonial beliefs, so too did theories about gender, roles, and stereotypes become practice, shaping attitudes about men and women in various colonial contexts. Feminist and other scholars, such as those contributing to the Etienne and Leacock 1980 collection, were therefore central in the destabilization of early ethnographic assumptions about gender. Examples of the study of gender and colonialism emerged across geographic regions; feminist critiques of colonialism in the African context, for example, have ranged from Comaroff and Comaroff 1991, with its emphasis on resistance at the political and individual levels, to Bradford 1996, Burke 1996, and Hunt 1999, which engage with the use of material goods as gendered resistance to colonial and even contemporary Western presence. These studies show how resistance can occur through objects as well as individual action. The study of gender and colonialism emerged strongly during the 1980s with the rise of gender and feminist anthropology focused particularly on divisions of labor, prestige systems, rank, matriarchy (Linnekin 1990 provides a good example of this endeavor), and the influence of Western ideas of personhood and identity, which continues today in anthropological studies by non-Western scholars interested in gender, and takes a central role (cf. Jolly and Macintyre 1989 for early discussion of identity and its centrality in gender studies). These early studies of women’s roles and gender symbolism in colonial societies are the foundation for more recent (Charles 2007) post-colonial and ongoing research on the essential role of gender in the colonial endeavor and development work.

  • Bradford, Helen. 1996. Women, gender and colonialism: Rethinking the history of the British Cape Colony and its frontier zones, c. 1806–70. Journal of African History 37:351–370.

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    A good example of the intersections between history and anthropology. An accessible and interesting example of how “gender” came to be equated with “women” across disciplines and how disregard of women has profound implications for the study of African colonial history. Illustrates the value of in-depth case study for understanding inherently gendered situations of conflict. Available online for purchase.

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  • Burke, Timothy. 1996. Lifebuoy men, Lux women: Commodification, consumption and cleanliness in modern Zimbabwe. Body, Commodity, Text. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    An important work that demonstrates how the colonial process exerts power through the consumption of commodities. The analysis situates the social construction of hygiene at the nexus of colonial and Zimbabwean concepts of race, gender, sexuality, and health.

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  • Charles, Laurie. 2007. Intimate colonialism: Head, heart and body in West African development work. Writing Lives—Ethnographic Narrative. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast.

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    This is a relatively recent ethnography that has excellent insight into the intersections among colonial history, contemporary anthropology, and a context of development work in Togo. A discussion of sexuality of both subjects and objective observer makes this a valuable contribution to gender studies in anthropology and discourse on reflexivity.

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  • Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 1991. Of revelation and revolution. Vol. 1, Christianity, colonialism and consciousness in South Africa. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Essential reading in the anthropological study of colonialism in Africa. One of the first volumes, by leading scholars in the field, to analyze the more intimate and individual reactions to, and interpretations of, the colonial encounter. Later works by Jean Comaroff emphasize bodily resistance to oppression and build on the concepts explored here, including the reconfiguring of rituals and redefinitions of work, gender, history, and place.

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  • Etienne, Mona, and E. Leacock, eds. 1980. Women and colonization: Anthropological perspectives. New York: Praeger.

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    The twelve articles in this volume set out to challenge the universality of female subordination. The authors do so by exploring how Western colonial presence in Africa ultimately disempowered women and destabilized more indigenous hierarchies of gender.

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  • Hunt, Nancy Rose. 1999. A colonial lexicon of birth ritual, medicalization, and mobility in the Congo. Body, Commodity, Text. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    Award-winning book that examines the intersections between colonial encounters in the Congo with local knowledge about health, gender, and medicine. Includes interesting and important data on the creation of the aesthetics of health and cleanliness that have been central to gender and colonialism studies.

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  • Jolly, M., and M. Macintyre, eds. 1989. Family and gender in the Pacific: Domestic contradictions and the colonial impact. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Important volume that is grounded in theoretical perspectives on the division of labor and includes early work on the role of missionary and colonial wives and other women in the creation of post-colonial gendered spheres of social life.

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  • Linnekin, Jocelyn. 1990. Sacred queens and women of consequence: Rank, gender and colonialism in the Hawaiian Islands. Women and Culture series. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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    In a thorough investigation of the role of female authority in Hawaii, this text is an excellent examination of gendered resistance to Western perceptions of social roles, hierarchies, land ownership, kinship, and politics. The text offers an interesting challenge to the idea that pollution taboos universally exclude women from positions of power.

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Cultural Construction, Identity, and Sexuality

Gender identity and the roles and behaviors assigned to an individual according to gender can come into conflict. Anthropologists have long made the distinction between sexual behavior and gender identity, and many theorists working at the intersections of biology and culture (Fausto-Sterling 1992) argue for a reconceptualization of the idea of only two sexes. Studies of cultures that recognize multiple genders (Herdt 1996, Nanda 2000, and Peletz 2009) have challenged assumptions of sex/gender synchronicity across time and space. Nanda 2000 on the hijras of India, is a classic study of how performance of gender and biology and community recognition of more than two distinct genders are interrelated; it is essential reading. Bonvillain 2007 includes many examples of gender identity and patterns of behavior from cross-cultural and updated ethnographic data. Other works, such as Butler 2006, have pointed to the very need for attention to the actual performance of gender that individuals engage in every day and to just how that need influences all forms of social status and power. The range of studies that address the intersections among gender and sexual and other kinds of identities (such as race and ethnicity) is tremendous; such studies and understandings form the backbone of much of contemporary anthropology (Lancaster and di Leonardo 1997 is a comprehensive collection that includes many important examples of the intersections of gender and sexuality, highlighting how varied these intersections can be across cultures). With the emergence of the important focus on gay and lesbian studies in anthropology, many authors have turned the lens back on themselves and situated their own identities, and those of fieldworkers and their sexualities in general, at the center of ethnographic research (Lewin and Leap 2002). The study of gender within anthropology owes a great debt to the various ethnographic and theoretical perspectives gathered on the observation as well as the actual lived experience of gender in the field (cf. Newton 2000 for an interesting reflection on how the study of gender and anthropology can influence personal identity and fieldwork), and such studies will continue to grow as the discipline continues to examine those places where the sexualities and identities of gendered subjects and objects become blurred.

  • Bonvillain, Nancy. 2007. Women and men: Cultural constructs of gender. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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    An accessible and concise volume that pulls together many of the essential theories and models of gender and the construction of identity. The volume is organized broadly according to areas of study such as agriculture and gender, development, globalization, and race and religion.

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  • Butler, Judith. 2006. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.

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    Fundamental critique of essentialist French feminist writing—a complex text, not necessarily suited to a first introduction to the study of gender in anthropology, but key in the study of how genetics have been used to “determine” sexuality. Demonstrates how performing or “doing” gender is a compelling way to comprehend gender differences cross-culturally. Originally published in 1989.

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  • Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 1992. Myths of gender: Biological theories about women and men. New York: Basic Books.

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    In-depth challenge to sociobiologists and theories about inherent or innate aspects of the sexes. Although not written by an anthropologist, it has been fundamental in the development of theories within the discipline and beyond when challenging universal or inherent beliefs about sex and gender.

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  • Herdt, Gilbert, ed. 1996. Third sex, third gender: Beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history. New York: Zone.

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    A very accessible collection of essays from history and anthropology that tackled what were the key issues in the study of sex and individual gendered identity in the 1990s; a good set of cross-cultural examples, and an introduction to the study of Berdache, hijras, and others.

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  • Lancaster, Roger, and Micaela di Leonardo, eds. 1997. The gender/sexuality reader: Culture, history, political economy. New York: Routledge.

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    This set of essays provides a thorough background to the intersections and implications of race, identity, and sexuality. With its central focus on culture and with its in-depth historical and anthropological essays, this reader is of central importance to the study of gender and its inherent relationship with the study of race and identity within anthropology.

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  • Lewin, Ellen, and William Leap, eds. 2002. Out in theory: The emergence of lesbian and gay anthropology. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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    This text is a companion to one written by Lewin and Leap on the experience of homosexuality in the field: Out in the Field: Reflections on Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1996). Here the contributing authors survey the growth of gay and lesbian studies in anthropology and trace the role of feminist anthropology in the development of particular areas of interest within the discipline, such as race and sexuality studies.

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  • Nanda, Serena. 2000. Gender diversity: Crosscultural variations. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

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    Excellent overview of how gender is a cultural construction; sets the stage for Nanda’s other work on the hijras of India and offers a good starting point for all interested in the variation of gender and sexual behaviors worldwide.

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  • Newton, Esther. 2000. Margaret Mead made me gay: Personal essays, public ideas. Series Q. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    A collection of essays from the past three decades by one of the central figures in the study of the anthropology of gender, sexuality, and identity. Newton’s classic, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972), was one of the first ethnographic studies of transsexual identity in the United States. In this text Newton’s varied essays offer a range of perspectives on the role of sexuality and gender studies within the discipline itself.

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  • Peletz, Michael. 2009. Gender pluralism: Southeast Asia since early modern times. New York: Routledge.

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    This text traces the history and cultural shifts in understandings of gender in Southeast Asia. Peletz is a leading scholar in the field of gender and sexualities across cultures, and this text brings together much of his work on the cultural construction of difference with respect to gender.

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Environment

Modes of production have long been a focus for gender studies in anthropology. Boserup 1970 and Friedl 1975 both explore the evidence or assumptions that women were universally responsible for particular kinds of “work”; these form important theoretical perspectives in Marxist and other challenges to universal feminism or studies of gender in anthropology. Challenges to the assumption that women were the obvious “gatherers” in prehistory offered an early glimpse into just how contemporary bias against women affected archaeological and other investigations into culture (Dahlberg 1981 and Lee 1979, an ethnography that provides an interesting account of the division of labor among a foraging social group). Groundbreaking work in feminist anthropology contributed greatly to understandings of the natural environment as significant to the construction of gender and social relations and not simply to modes of production (Weiner 1983), and sets the stage for contemporary anthropology and studies of gender that focus specifically on the environment and conflicts over development. Thus, more recent studies of gender and the environment focus on the global impact of local economies and the shifts in gender roles and status that may occur. Holtzman 2001 provides a good ethnographic example of this in Kenya. Studies of women in the workplace, in the United States and across cultures, have been a source of emergent theories on how women engage with the natural environment and with current debates over sustainability efforts.

  • Boserup, Ester. 1970. Women’s role in economic development. London: Allen and Unwin.

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    Fundamental contribution to the study of gender and its relationship to agricultural means of production. Considered an anti-Malthusian, Boserup in general challenged the idea that nature (the environment) would determine population. This particular work highlights just how the presumed naturalness of women’s roles has been a product of cultural constructions and is not inherent or universal.

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  • Dahlberg, Frances, ed. 1981. Woman the gatherer. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    A classic collection of works that examine the question of women’s work and assumptions about the universality of gender roles and the physical environment. Among other important works, this volume includes the Zihlman article on women as shapers of human adaptation (Zihlman 1989, cited under Early Ethnography).

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  • Friedl, Ernestine. 1975. Women and men: An anthropologist’s view. Basic Anthropology Units. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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    This text builds on Friedl’s work on the role that environment and cultural context play in the development of societies and gender roles and responsibilities. Though not explicitly labeled an environmental anthropologist, Friedl sets the stage for the growth of studies about the relationship among nature, culture, and gender.

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  • Holtzman, Jon. 2001. The food of elders, the “ration” of women: Brewing, gender, and domestic processes among the Samburu of northern Kenya. American Anthropologist 103.4: 1041–1058.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.2001.103.4.1041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An example of the interrelationships between reproductive and productive work in shifting contexts in East Africa. The author has examined how shifts in food production affect gender expectations and ideas of modernity on the continent as well as in the diaspora. Available online for purchase.

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  • Lee, Richard B. 1979. The !Kung San: Men, women and work in a foraging society. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    In addition to providing a rich ethnographic account of the !Kung San in southern Africa, the author is one of the early contributors to the study of gender relations in foraging and nomadic groups. The role of the environment becomes as important a social member as the individuals whose lives are explored in the ethnography.

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  • Weiner, Annette. 1983. Women of value, men of renown: New perspectives in Trobriand exchange. Texas Press Sourcebooks in Anthropology. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

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    An important and early feminist anthropological work that challenged previous assumptions in classic ethnographies of Malinowski, who disregarded women’s work and focused solely on men and male systems of exchange.

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Fertility

From studies in demography to the rise of different reproductive technologies, ethnographic work in family and fertility has long been central to anthropological studies of gender. From the 1990s on, the field saw a distinct rise in the number of ethnographies and edited volumes dedicated specifically to and focused on birth (examples include Davis-Floyd and Sargent 1997 and Ginsburg and Reiter 1995), reproductive strategies such as surrogacy (Ragoné 1994), and studies of infertility as a social problem for women and men worldwide (Inhorn 1996, Upton 2002). Ragoné’s book, for example, was one of the very first in anthropology to tackle what is now a key cultural intersection of kinship, fertility and gender, the role of surrogates, and parental rights. Increasingly, the anthropology of gender maintains a focus on the social impact of technological developments in reproductive health as well as on the ongoing emphasis and intertwined aspects of gender and kinship. Concurrent with the rise in studies of assisted reproductive technologies, some important contributions in the field of the anthropology of reproduction as it relates to gender include the often-overlooked aspects of pregnancy loss, as Layne 2003 describes, and groundbreaking work on the role of technology (such as ultrasound and fetal sonogram) in childbearing and loss. Franklin and Lock 2003 offers more contemporary examples of how the field has moved toward a holistic understanding of the impact of gender in biosciences writ large and of the necessity to explore emergent technologies as they shape and are shaped by cultural values and interpretations of gender. Perhaps one of the most influential and generally important contributions to anthropology and science has been Martin 1987, which set the foundation for the critique of perspectives that placed women’s reproductive health, biology, and gendered experiences in subordinate roles. Fertility and reproductive health continue to be two of the most studied topics within anthropology and gender.

  • Davis-Floyd, Robbie E., and Carolyn Sargent, eds. 1997. Childbirth and authoritative knowledge: Cross-cultural perspectives. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    This reader, which contains essays from various disciplinary perspectives and sixteen anthropologists, provides real ethnographic depth to the study of birth, challenges the notion of authority in the birth process cross-culturally, and seeks to inform policy decisions and objectives. Includes articles by key authors in the field, and is a good starting point for readers who wish to gain an overview of the topic.

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  • Franklin, Sarah, and Margaret Lock, eds. 2003. Remaking life and death: Toward an anthropology of the biosciences. School of American Research, Advanced Seminar series. Oxford: James Currey.

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    This edited volume by two leading scholars in the field of anthropology, gender, and health illustrates the importance of culture in contemporary reproductive technology. Essays focus on the cultural construction of life in cross-cultural contexts and the implications of those understandings in an increasingly technological world.

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  • Ginsburg, Faye, and Rayna R. Reiter, eds. 1995. Conceiving the new world order: The global politics of reproduction. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    A volume that includes articles by leading scholars in the field of the anthropology of reproduction. The articles all explicitly explore the relationship between gender and power when considering examples of women’s reproductive health and policies worldwide.

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  • Inhorn, Marcia. 1996. Infertility and patriarchy: The cultural politics of gender and family life in Egypt. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    A very thorough ethnography from one of the leaders in the study of infertility and of medical anthropology in general. This text focuses specifically on the experience of infertility for women in the Middle East and is informative for those interested in studies of family planning and gender relations. A good starting point for the author’s numerous books on the relationship among infertility, gender, and policy worldwide.

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  • Layne, Linda. 2003. Motherhood lost: A feminist account of pregnancy loss in America. New York: Routledge.

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    One of the few anthropological studies of the overlooked phenomenon of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Describes a history of miscarriage in the United States and how current technology has contributed to the idea of “fetal personhood” and congruent debates over rights.

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  • Martin, Emily. 1987. The woman in the body: A cultural analysis of reproduction. Boston: Beacon.

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    Martin explores cultural assumptions embedded in scientific texts that reinforce the ideology of reproduction and the female body as in a constant or natural state of failure and breakdown. Includes narratives from women from different socioeconomic backgrounds and the cultural lessons women and men learn about menstruation and the female body.

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  • Ragoné, Helena. 1994. Surrogate motherhood: Conception in the heart. Institutional Structures of Feeling. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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    One of the first anthropological investigations into surrogacy in the United States. The author gives voice to all of those involved in surrogacy cases and presents the complicated terrain of kinship and how gender and parenthood are cultural constructions outside of biology.

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  • Upton, Rebecca L. 2002. Perceptions of and attitudes towards male infertility in Northern Botswana: Some implications for family planning and AIDS prevention policies. African Journal of Reproductive Health 6.3: 103–111.

    DOI: 10.2307/3583263Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Article that describes the cultural clash between demographic and health policies and Tswana beliefs about fertility in this region of southern Africa. Illustrates the need to examine gender as inclusive of both men and women in contexts of anthropological work on gender, health, and infertility. Available online for purchase.

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Kinship

Jane Collier and Sylvia Yanagisako argued that the study of gender should be placed centrally in anthropological theory, particularly with respect to the study of kinship and kinship systems around the world (Collier and Yanagisako 1987). Their particular emphasis was a critique of the static models of kinship suggested by structural functionalist schools of thought that had little room for studies of strategy, agency, or power. Although some early studies of kinship and gender focused on strategies of women in minority groups, such as their use of network systems (Stack 1997), and on resistance to patriarchal systems of social structure (Wolf 1972), it was not until the rise of feminism in anthropology that gender and kinship rose to the level of study that we see today. Kinship and gender studies place at the center of inquiry the relationship of reproduction to social versus biological kinship and power (cf. citations under Fertility on new reproductive strategies). Examining social structures such as kinship, anthropologists interested in the study of gender have continued to explore these earlier questions through teaching about gender and kinship in comparative cultural contexts. Stone 2010 provides an accessible overview of some of the trends in anthropology and highlights key concepts, texts, articles, and cross-cultural examples. Feldman-Savelsberg 1996 illustrates the interrelatedness of kinship and gender with concepts of power, and is found in a collected volume with other articles that emphasize the importance of power as related to gender and kinship. Gottlieb 2004 is a good example of the interrelatedness of gender and generation in an ethnography on kinship bonds that exist between individuals and the afterlife in West Africa. Studies of globalization have influenced examinations of kinship (cf. Gay 1985 for a clear explanation of how the language of kinship that is employed in same-sex relationships and friendships in southern Africa is a direct outcome of larger transnational and economically related migration processes), and many continue to rethink just how gender can help inform the study of family and reproduction as reproductive technologies have grown (cf. Strathern 1992 for an early exploration of the outcomes of increased research into reproductive technologies and the social inequalities that may arise). Weston 1991 has brought the important issue of gay and lesbian families into anthropological study, and the author suggests the continued importance of placing gender and kinship at the center of anthropological theory, as Collier and Yanagisako once argued.

  • Collier, Jane, and Sylvia Yanagisako, eds. 1987. Gender and kinship: Essays toward a unified analysis. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    This volume grew out of the discontent of those in anthropology with the relegation of women and gender to studies of reproduction or the domestic sphere. The editors assert that kinship and gender touch all aspects of social life and that gender should be placed at the center of anthropological theory, arguing against previous and long-held structural–functionalist theories in the study of kinship.

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  • Feldman-Savelsberg, Pamela. 1996. Cooking inside: Kinship and gender in Bangangté metaphors of reproduction and marriage. In Gender, kinship, power: An interdisciplinary and comparative history. Edited by M. J. Maynes, A. Waltner, B. Soland, and U. Strasser, 176–197. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter is a reprint of an article originally published in American Ethnologist 22.3 (1995): 483–501. An ethnographic study of how symbolically and linguistically ideas of kinship and gender are constructed and, in turn, construct reproductive persons.

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  • Gay, Judith. 1985. Mummies and babies and friends and lovers in Lesotho. Journal of Homosexuality 11.3–4: 97–116.

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    An exploration of how processes such as transnational migration in southern Africa have produced unstable marital relationships and have influenced women’s relationships with one another. Evidence suggests that women and girls form mummy–baby relationships that mimic other forms of familial as well as sexual relationships that are essential to the social maintenance of female networks and economic success.

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  • Gottlieb, Alma. 2004. The afterlife is where we come from: The culture of infancy in West Africa. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    An accessible ethnography from one of the most prolific scholars in the field of infants and childhood cross-culturally. This particular text focuses on the Beng people and the ways in which kinship is configured through beliefs about reincarnation and the everyday practices of parenting.

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  • Stack, Carol B. 1997. All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York: Basic Books.

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    Stack’s study of the networks and strategies used by women of color in the South has long been heralded as one of the fundamental studies in gender, race, and kinship in the United States. Stack uses network analysis, but the value of this volume lies in the voices and agency that she provides in her ethnography and in the resonance that individual lives have with larger social institutions and inequalities. Originally published in 1974.

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  • Stone, Linda. 2010. Kinship and gender: An introduction. 4th ed. New York: Westview.

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    This text has emerged, as the author describes, from years of teaching about kinship and gender in anthropology. The author explores how kinship and gender are inextricably linked in a variety of areas (from reproduction to religion to development and globalization, for example) and underpin social structures worldwide. Very accessible text and an easy way to get a broad overview of some main themes.

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  • Strathern, Marilyn. 1992. Reproducing the future: Anthropology, kinship and the new reproductive technologies. New York: Routledge.

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    As reproductive technologies are gaining ground, the author explores the potential implications for the anthropology of gender and kinship.

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  • Weston, Kath. 1991. Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. Between Men~Between Women. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    A critical study of how culturally relative notions of kinship can be; stems from Weston’s argument and previous writing on how lesbians and gays have long been considered cultural “exiles” from kinship, particularly in the West.

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  • Wolf, Margery. 1972. Women and the family in rural Taiwan. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    In this book Wolf puts forth the notion that networks of women, particularly through uterine family lines, offer agency and strategies for success in the face of traditional and patriarchal values and belief systems in Taiwan. An early ethnography of women’s power and agency as evidenced by careful examination of the socialization process of young girls.

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Religion

The role of gender in religion across cultures, time, and place has long been the mainstay of anthropology. Gender can dictate religious responsibility, as described among the Bedouin in Abu Lughod 2000, or proscribes gendered patterns of behavior, as is the case among Taiwanese nuns who seek status as monastics, thereby becoming more masculine (Crane 2006). Studies of gender and religion in an ethnohistorical perspective have illustrated the power and influence of religion in societies. As described in Kertzer 1994, for young and unmarried women in Italy, unintended pregnancy could have disastrous effects on social and familial life. Gender and sexuality in particular are often intertwined in the study of religion in anthropology, and, as cultural constructs themselves, all are subject to negotiation and interpretation (cf. Ellingson and Green 2002 for a timely collection of essays that place sexuality at the nexus of religion and gender in a variety of cultures). For many interested in the study of gender and religion in anthropology, the study of symbols, language, and metaphor are important and provide keys to understanding belief systems and gendered hierarchies in cross-cultural contexts; compare with Delaney 1991 on the role of language in portraying concepts of gender, honor, and shame in the Middle East and as an example of a pathbreaking ethnography in this area. Although religion and gender are arguably fundamental topics within the discipline and cross-cut many areas of study, it has been clear that social groups that are defined by those very ideas remain closed and difficult to observe in everyday life. Careful ethnographic research such as Brown 2001 reveals just how important the relationship of researcher and the researched can be in the understanding of the implications of gender and religion in everyday and transnational and diasporic contexts; compare with Castañeda 2007 for a full discussion of the intersections of gender, power, and religion, and how these are complicated in diasporic contexts. Perhaps one of the greatest values of the study of gender and religion together in anthropology has been the historical gaze and the subsequent (potential) lessons for the future that such histories provide. For example, as Boddy 2007 suggests, careful analysis of the beliefs by both colonial medical missionaries and the Sudanese, and the resultant contest over women’s lives and reproductive health, forms evidence of the value of the study of religion and gender for thinking through cultural change and contemporary development.

  • Abu Lughod, Lila. 2000. Veiled sentiments: Honor and poetry in a Bedouin society. Updated ed. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Explores the often-strict cultural rules governing the expression of gender and emotion in Bedouin society. The author has done extensive research in the area, and this text is a rich ethnographic account of the implications of the intersections between gender and constructions of moral worth.

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  • Boddy, Janice. 2007. Civilizing women: British crusades in colonial Sudan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Boddy’s earlier work on the cults of possession and subversive use of power by women provides a good backdrop to this more recent text on the clash between Sudanese beliefs and British colonial objectives. With the advent of midwifery, conflicting messages about cleanliness, health, and religion resulted in attempts to control women’s bodies on both sides of the colonial encounter.

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  • Brown, Karen McCarthy. 2001. Mama Lola: A Vodou priestess in Brooklyn. Comparative Studies in Religion and Society 4. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Originally published in 1991, this text offers insight into the role of gender in diasporic studies and religion. A good example for methods courses; the author discusses the lengthy process of gaining entrée into this often secretive society and group of women to learn the complexities of immigrant religion, transnational identity, and culture in the United States.

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  • Castañeda, Angela. 2007. The African diaspora in Mexico: Santería, tourism, and representations of the state. In The African diaspora and the study of religion. Edited by Theodore Louis Troust, 131–150. Religion/Culture/Critique. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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    This chapter is one of several in a volume on the study of religion in the African diaspora. Written by an anthropologist, this particular chapter explores how gender and identity come to be represented and understood in places of cultural intersections and how religion underscores much of those identities.

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  • Crane, Hillary. 2006. The Stoic monastic: Taiwanese Buddhism and the problems of emotion. Asian Anthropology 5:85–110.

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    This article, based on extensive ethnographic research with Buddhist nuns in Taiwan, explores the necessity of the negation of emotions for monastics. The author demonstrates that women are often culturally constructed as inherently more emotional and closer to nature and thus in need of ever more rigor in monitoring and regulating their spiritual selves by emulating their male counterparts. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Delaney, Carol. 1991. The seed and the soil: Gender and cosmology in Turkish village society. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies 11. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Grounded in symbolic anthropology and linguistics, this text illustrates how reproduction is understood and described through the use of metaphor in this Muslim community. An important contribution to the corpus of literature in anthropology on honor and shame societies and the significance of gender in the study of religion.

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  • Ellingson, Stephen, and M. Christian Green, eds. 2002. Religion and sexuality in cross-cultural perspective. New York: Routledge.

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    An edited volume that brings together eight essays, each demonstrating how religion and sexuality change across time and place and are variously interpreted by individuals and social groups in those contexts. An interesting volume that places the variety of understandings of sexuality at the center of the study of religion and emphasizes how gender, sexuality, and religion are themselves constantly in flux and subject to negotiation.

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  • Kertzer, David I. 1994. Sacrificed for honor: Italian infant abandonment and the politics of reproductive control. Boston: Beacon.

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    A text from one of the leading and most prolific scholars in the anthropology of religion and politics. Explores the role of religion in creating and sustaining gender imbalance in historic Italy, particularly over the lives of pregnant, unmarried women. Kertzer draws comparisons to contemporary debates over abortion rights in other cultural contexts.

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Language

The study of gender in linguistics has been both theoretically and practically important in anthropology. From studies of gendered speech communities (Coates and Cameron 1988, which describes how men and women create and maintain distinct speech communities) and universal categorizations of marked and unmarked differences in speech across language systems (Greenberg 1978), to discourse analyses, social prestige systems (Lakoff 2004), and studies of gender and language that make their way into popular culture (Tannen 2001), the anthropology of gender and language have long been inextricably intertwined. Greenberg’s work, for example, has provided a foundation for those interested in the question of how language shapes or is shaped by those using it. Specifically, by using language that assumes a male “neutral” or “unmarked” category and that female objects must be marked linguistically, users and listeners come to understand female realms as less powerful, “marked,” and even diminutive. Ethnographic studies of intimate language as keys to understanding social change and transformations in various social institutions (Ahearn 2001 provides evidence of how individual love letters can operate as means of resistance to larger kinship and societal expectations grounded in gender) and connections to larger social processes and conflict have emerged. As both Cohn 1987 and Enloe 2000 demonstrate, military and economic language is laden with assumptions about gender and utilized for very specific reasons. So too have studies that focus in particular upon men’s language and shifts in male discourse over time and place (see Coates 2003 on male language and a more recent discussion on speech and masculine identities), as well as societal assumptions about language and the power of those assumptions for feminism and social change. Kulick 2010 is an example of just how powerful stereotypes of gender and sexuality can be across cultures. It can be argued that just as gender is malleable and constantly shifting, so too do language patterns and practices shift and reflect important social structures and change.

  • Ahearn, Laura. 2001. Invitations to love: Literacy, love letters, and social change in Nepal. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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    A thorough and captivating examination of gender and social change. The author examines the love letters written by women and the concomitant shifts in marriage (away from arranged marriage) patterns with the rise of female literacy in Nepal.

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  • Coates, Jennifer. 2003. Men talk: Stories in the making of masculinities. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Incredibly rich with data, this text explores the various ways that the construction of masculinity has been defined and continues to be defined in myriad contexts. Includes analyses of all-male conversations and their styles.

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  • Coates, Jennifer, and Deborah Cameron, eds. 1988. Women in their speech communities. New York: Longman.

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    A basic but useful text that provides analyses grounded in sociolinguistic and discourse-analysis perspectives from fieldwork in Great Britain. A good background in those perspectives and theories with accessible examples.

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  • Cohn, Carol. 1987. Sex and death in the rational world of defense intellectuals. In Special issue: Within and without: Women, gender, and theory. Edited by Jean F. O’Barr. Signs 12.4: 687–718.

    DOI: 10.1086/494362Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Very useful and teachable article on the interesting and gendered use of language by those involved with the military and defense industry. Demonstrates how the use of specific words to describe defense-related actions and items (e.g., Patriot missiles versus Scuds) can have a profound and inherently gendered effect.

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  • Enloe, Cynthia. 2000. Bananas, beaches and bases: Making feminist sense of international politics. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Though not necessarily or specifically a text based on language and gender, this book offers interesting examples of how masculinity and femininity are understood and used in contemporary international politics. Useful to demonstrate through concrete examples just how language and concomitant gendered assumptions can shape politics and actions in cross-cultural interaction and conflict. Originally published in 1989.

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  • Greenberg, J. H. 1978. How does a language acquire gender markers? In Universals of human language. Vol. 4, Syntax. Edited by J. H. Greenberg, Charles A. Ferguson, and Edith A. Moravcsik, 47–82. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    Key article that illustrates gender markers in language and forms the basis for later explorations of marked and unmarked language. Unmarked language categories are often understood to be equated with men and male activities and the norm. Marked language, equated with women and female activities or objects, often defined by the use of a diminutive, can be understood to matter less.

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  • Kulick, Don. 2010. Humorless lesbians. In Femininity, feminism and gendered discourse: A selected and edited collection of papers from the Fifth International Language and Gender Association conference (IGALA5). Edited by Janet Holmes and Meredith Marra. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars.

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    Article that illustrates cultural stereotype of lesbians through examination of language and assumptions of the kinds of language, speech, and topics that are associated with various social groups.

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  • Lakoff, Robin. 2004. Language and women’s place. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    An absolutely seminal work in the field of gender and linguistics. Lakoff’s work was one of the first studies to show that women and men used different kinds of language in speech. In addition, this author’s work showed that women and men could be defined by particular kinds of language used to describe them. This work is key to understanding the social construction of gender through the use of specific language. Originally published in 1975 (New York: Harper & Row).

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  • Tannen, Deborah. 2001. You just don’t understand: Women and men in conversation. New York: Ballantine.

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    Tannen’s books have been fundamental in the study of gender and language in contemporary Western society and have had a mass audience in addition to academia. This text builds on the author’s earlier work and offers some controversial descriptions of “genderlect” and the emotional versus cultural or rational speech of women and men.

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Masculinity Studies

For good reason, early studies of gender in anthropology began as a focus on the role of women and feminist perspectives on equality, human rights, and egalitarian principles. As the study of gender developed, masculinity studies have emerged and grown steadily, adding to the holistic approach of gender in anthropology itself (as well as sociology and other disciplines), and including evolutionary biological perspectives on masculinity (Gray and Anderson 2010). There are many collected volumes and readers that provide overviews of the development of theory about masculinity (cf. Brod and Kaufman 1994 and Whitehead 2002 for early collected essays on the emergence of the study of men and masculinity in social sciences as well as more recent theories and topics that have emerged in the field). In anthropology, ethnographic studies of the construction and meaning of masculinity have emerged steadily in the past several decades. Ethnographic studies of men and masculinity have ranged from classic anthropological rituals and places (cf. Silverman 2001 for a comprehensive study of circumcision and male ritual in the South Pacific) to ways in which fatherhood and machismo are enacted and understood in the contemporary United States and Mexico and transnational borders (Townsend 2002, Gutmann 2007). The meanings of masculinity as related to and contested by ideas of nationalism (Moran 1995 is a terrific article on how Liberian military men adopted the use of intimate women’s clothing as means to protest and reframe their liberation struggle as a nation) and of individual sexuality (Kimmel 2005, Pascoe 2007) illustrate the breadth of studies and the increased focus on the need to unpack assumptions about the meanings of masculinity across time and space. The anthropological examples of masculinity studies build and illustrate the complex and multidimensional aspects of the study of gender beyond the study of women.

  • Brod, Harry, and Michael Kaufman, eds. 1994. Theorizing masculinities. Research on Men and Masculinities 5. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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    An early text that brings together many of the issues in masculinity studies. The volume highlights theoretical debates and perspectives in social science and includes specific examples of some of the areas of potential and necessary study (power, race, sexuality, women’s rights) in the field of masculinity studies. Although not specifically an anthropology text, this book does provide an important overview of this area.

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  • Gray, Peter, and Kermyt G. Anderson. 2010. Fatherhood: Evolution and human paternal behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    A recent publication that is grounded in evolutionary perspective on fatherhood and various cross-cultural forms of parenting. A clearly biological and evolutionary perspective in anthropology, but a useful contribution to discourse on masculinity and parenting behavior.

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  • Gutmann, Matthew. 2007. The meanings of macho: Being a man in Mexico City. 10th anniv. ed. Men and Masculinity 3. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Gutmann provides evidence through rich ethnographic accounts of how machismo can be variously constructed in Mexico City. The text challenges assumptions about masculinity as well as stereotypes about men and women in Mexico and gives voice and agency to individuals whose stories are highlighted throughout. Originally published in 1996.

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  • Kimmel, Michael, ed. 2005. The gender of desire: Essays on male sexuality. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    Explores the role of desire and communication of sexuality by one of the foremost authors in masculinity and gender studies. Theoretical perspectives on men and masculinity are included, as well as data on pornography and sexual violence as forms of interpretation of masculinity in contemporary society. A sociological perspective, but Kimmel’s works are essential reading in gender and social science.

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  • Moran, Mary H. 1995. Warriors or soldiers? Masculinity and ritual transvestitism in the Liberian civil war. In Feminism, nationalism, and militarism. Edited by Constance R. Sutton, 73–88. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

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    This article is a very useful way to explore the flexibility of gender. Moran draws on extensive fieldwork and in particular the use of clothing by the Liberian military to demonstrate how important the appropriation and understanding of gender can be at both individual and national levels.

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  • Pascoe, C. J. 2007. Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    This ethnography explores current narratives about gender and masculinity among American youth. Pascoe examines the narrative and linguistic use of gendered terms to explore the stigma and negotiation of sexuality and gender identity in high school. A useful and insightful text that is accessible and intriguing to students.

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  • Silverman, Eric K. 2001. Masculinity, motherhood and mockery: Psychoanalyzing culture and the Iatmul Naven rite in New Guinea. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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    This thorough ethnography examines the potentially contradictory understandings and images of motherhood in Iatmul society in Papua New Guinea. Silverman presents data about ritual and social understandings of gender and how those are constructed and reconstructed via embodied motherhood. It is an excellent exploration of masculinity in an area made famous by Bateson and the study of kinship.

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  • Townsend, Nicholas. 2002. The package deal: Marriage, work and fatherhood in men’s lives. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    An important anthropological work that tackles the shifts in men’s lives and cultural expectations in the United States over the past several decades. Townsend examines the concepts of responsibility, expectations, masculinity, and obligation through well-researched ethnographic data that is easily accessible and relevant.

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  • Whitehead, Stephen M. 2002. Men and masculinities. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    A good overview of the emergent field of masculinity studies; highlights work of key figures in the field and topics such as the rise of the study of masculinity, male friendships, work, family, and profeminist perspectives across disciplines. Although Whitehead is a sociologist, the text is applicable across social science and includes theoretical perspectives from anthropology.

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Food

The study of food has been a cornerstone in many studies of gender in anthropology (Counihan and Van Esterik 1997). In studies of domesticity and gender, the preparation of food and the role that food plays in connection to gender identity, sexuality, and health figure centrally. For example, food and gender have also been examined in the ways in which they are connected symbolically, as in Sobo 1994, on the “sweetness of fat” in Jamaica, where the language and symbols that connect food and health to gender identity and reproductive ability are clear. Other studies focus on the important role of the body with respect to food and gender (cf. Counihan 1999; the author is one of the quintessential anthropologists working in the field of food, whose collected volumes pay particular attention to the experience of gender in relation to food in various cultures and across time). Others emphasize the intertwined nature of food production and gendered labor, such as caregiving and parenting (Clark 1999). Whereas ethnographic studies of the central role that food production and the symbolic importance of food (or famine) itself abound within anthropology (Kahn 1993 explores, for example, the cultural understanding of famine and gendered outcomes of that understanding), archaeologists, too, have grappled with analyzing and evaluating the role of food in the determinations of gender relations in the archeological and historical record (Jones 2010). The effects of the globalization of food and the means through which culture is communicated by particular kinds of food also form a large corpus of the work done in gender studies in anthropology that examine food pathways and symbolic meanings of sharing meals, as Traphagan and Brown 2002 in particular points out, in contemporary global and interconnected communities.

  • Clark, Gracia. 1999. Mothering, work, and gender in urban Asante ideology and practice. American Anthropologist 101.4: 717–729.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1999.101.4.717Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Article that demonstrates how the roles of wife and mother can be in cultural conflict for women in this region of West Africa. An interesting paper that is useful as an ethnographic example of gendered family strategies in addition to being a good comparative case study of these issues in the West.

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  • Counihan, Carole. 1999. The anthropology of food and body: Gender, meaning and power. New York: Routledge.

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    A comprehensive text by one of the leading authors in the field of gender and food in anthropology. Emphasis is on critical analyses of how food and the body come to be understood through social processes and the intersections of gender and power across cultures.

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  • Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik, eds. 1997. Food and culture: A reader. New York: Routledge.

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    Extremely clear and essential readings, and a foundational text in the study of food and gender in anthropology.

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  • Jones, Sharyn. 2010. Food and gender in Fiji: Ethnoarchaeological explorations. Lanham, MD: Lexington.

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    Recent publication that draws on ethnographic and archaeological methods to demonstrate how the role of food and food preparation plays an important role in the configuration of social structure. A good analysis of food in Pacific Island studies, and an accessible starting point for those interested in studying ethnoarchaeology.

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  • Kahn, Miriam. 1993. Always hungry, never greedy: Food and the expression of gender in a Melanesian society. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

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    An accessible ethnography of the symbolic importance of food in the construction of everyday life among the Wamira. Gender relations and power are described through a symbolic lens grounded in discourse about food and famine.

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  • Sobo, Elisa J. 1994. The sweetness of fat: Health, procreation and sociability in rural Jamaica. In Many mirrors: Body image and social relations. Edited by Nicole Sault, 132–154. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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    Very readable for all academic levels, this article clearly shows how food and gender become conflated and contested through the language of fat and health in Jamaica.

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  • Traphagan, John W., and L. Keith Brown. 2002. Fast food and intergenerational commensality in Japan: New styles and old patterns. Ethnology 41.2: 119–134.

    DOI: 10.2307/4153002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Article discusses how, with the influence of the arrival of fast food to Japan, family and gender relationships have not broken down in the ways that traditional expectations of globalization might suggest. The authors show how, in fact, much of the influx of fast food industries has shifted familial and intergenerational relationships in ways that are described as positive. Available online for purchase.

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Archaeology

The role of gender in the archaeological record is the subject of several texts in anthropology and has experienced significant growth in the past two decades (Gero and Conkey 1991, Hays-Gilpin and Whitley 1998). Engendering archaeology, the search for the patterns of culture related to gender, has been at times controversial in the field as it often emerged from contemporary patterns of gender hierarchies and role differentiation (see, for example, Spector and Whalen 1989 on the challenges of teaching archaeology given gender expectations and assumptions). Exploring gender through material culture, however, has played a key role in placing women’s work, differences in gender and power, and subsequent historical outcomes at the forefront of the anthropology of gender (Walde and Willows 1991 provides data from the physical record to challenge assumptions about gender; see also Ehrenberg 1989). The emergence, too, of ethnohistory also gave rise to a kind of archaeological interest within anthropology in uncovering prehistorical social stratification and representation of women and men, as Wright 1996 does. Wright’s text includes work by other key scholars in this field who challenge some of the same early assumptions that those interested in the study of gender and anthropology on the whole did several years earlier. Although not solely the purview of archaeology, the growth of museum studies and archaeological findings has contributed, too, to the recognition of gender in material culture, and continues to challenge limited and binary thinking about male and female roles throughout history and society (cf. Brumfiel and Robin 2008, part of a recent collected volume published by the American Anthropological Association [AAA], which addresses the ways in which anthropological archaeology has been influential in moving the field forward with the study of gender and households).

  • Brumfiel, Elizabeth, and Cynthia Robin. 2008. Gender, households and society: An introduction. In Gender, households, and society: Unraveling the threads of the past and the present. Edited by Elizabeth Brumfiel and Cynthia Robin, 1–16. American Anthropological Association 18. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

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    An introductory and overview article published by the AAA. The paper surveys current research and challenges to constructions of binary gender roles and relationships throughout history and archaeology. Brumfiel, one of the leading scholars in the area of gender and archaeology, developed the collection from a class she taught at Northwestern University. Very accessible and excellent overview of some of the key debates and current thinking.

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  • Ehrenberg, Margaret. 1989. Women in prehistory. Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press.

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    This text is part of the Oklahoma series in classical culture. Ehrenberg examines concepts of matriarchy in prehistory and traces women’s roles and access to power that resulted from the development of various kinds of modes of production across time and place. An accessible text that re-examines the question of matriarchal cultures and the subordination of women.

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  • Gero, Joan, and Margaret Conkey, eds. 1991. Engendering archaeology: Women and prehistory. Papers originally presented at a conference held at Wedge Plantation, Georgetown, SC, April 1988. Cambridge, UK: Blackwell.

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    A comprehensive text that compiles essays by a variety of archaeological anthropologists to explore the idea of gender systems in the past. One of the first volumes to address the increase in the studies of gender within archaeology as a specific field of study.

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  • Hays-Gilpin, Kelley, and David S. Whitley, eds. 1998. Reader in gender archaeology: Post-processual and cognitive approaches. New York: Routledge.

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    Another reader, this volume compiles a wide range (nineteen chapters) of pieces on many aspects of the study of gender within the archaeological record. It provides a thorough overview of the debates in the field from primate and hunter–gatherer studies to the overall relevance of the study of gender and feminism to archaeology.

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  • Spector, Janet D., and Mary K. Whalen. 1989. Incorporating gender into archaeology courses. In Gender and anthropology: Critical reviews for research and teaching. Edited by Sandra Morgen, 65–94. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.

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    This chapter tackles the problem of gender bias in archaeology and gives an excellent theoretical overview as well as several practical classroom exercises on how to incorporate the concept of gender into archaeological study. Available online for purchase.

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  • Walde, Dale, and Noreen Willows, eds. 1991. The archaeology of gender: Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Conference of the Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary. Calgary, Canada: Univ. of Calgary, Archaeological Association.

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    Another reader that provides evidence to challenge contemporary constructions of gender as located in a historical and archaeological past. Chapters offer theories as well as practical data to question disciplinary assumptions.

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  • Wright, Rita, ed. 1996. Gender and archaeology. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    This collected volume focuses on the rise of feminist archaeology. Chapters challenge the way in which prehistorical work has primarily remained an account of men’s history and archaeological record. Chapters are contributed by some of the central authors in the field of gender and archaeology, as well as anthropologists and other academics in related fields; a good overview of how feminist theory and method might be brought into archaeological work.

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Human Rights

Gender and development studies have become focused on the increasing global attention paid to collective and individual human rights. From studies of law in anthropology to applied aspects of social justice, the role of gender and its cross-cultural constructions is one of the fastest-growing areas within the discipline. Although debate within the discipline remains focused on just how far anthropologists should go to affect change when violations of human rights occur, the history of the discipline and its involvement with human and indigenous rights is key to understanding contemporary disciplinary approaches to the study of gender (Merry 2003, Merry 2006). Studies of violence and human rights abuse as gendered phenomena are fundamental parts of this field, and Merry’s work is crucial to the role that gender plays and has played in disproportionate experiences of human rights violations. Access to basic resources in society (cf. Messer 1993 for a good overview of the study of ethics, gender, and human rights in anthropology) can have far-reaching implications. As some have explored, gendered access to power within society can have global health implications far beyond local or national borders (cf. Farmer 2003 for just one of Farmer’s many fundamental texts on the varied experiences of health resources in developing contexts). Early studies of human rights often took the form of ways in which Western and colonial social structures affected the position of women in society (cf. Van Allen 1972 for local-level resistance movements by Igbo women and their use of familiar kinship and language strategies to promote individual rights and gender equity). More contemporary work on gender and human rights within anthropology now includes a greater emphasis on fieldwork in dangerous places, and challenges ideas of democracy and global security for both men and women (cf. Aggarwal and Bhan 2009 for interesting examples of local and gendered resistance to global democratic movements in India). Most recently, anthropology engages with how the concept of “women’s rights as human rights” has come to define much of the human rights discourse in multiple disciplines (Hodgson 2011), and where the role of anthropology and anthropologists remains within that discourse.

  • Aggarwal, Ravina, and Mona Bhan. 2009. Disarming violence: Development, democracy and security on the borders of India. Journal of Asian Studies 68.2: 519–542.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0021911809000692Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An exploration of how military and security discourse reifies cultural constructions of power in the Ladakh region of India. Based on two ethnographic studies, this article shows the potential conflict among gender, culture, and military initiatives grounded in democratic discourse. Available online for purchase.

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  • Farmer, Paul. 2003. Pathologies of power: Health, human rights and the new war on the poor. California Series in Public Anthropology 4. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    A rallying call by Farmer, one of the preeminent scholars in the field of anthropology and human rights. He argues for the recognition of the plight of the disenfranchised and those without access to health care around the world. Foreword by Amartya Sen, which contextualizes Farmer’s prior works as well as the issues covered in this text.

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  • Hodgson, Dorothy, ed. 2011. Gender and culture at the limit of rights. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    This new book edited by Hodgson is a collection of essays that explore how the study of gender and human rights has been bound up in the study of women’s rights. It promises to be an essential collection that will challenge how strategies and policies addressing human rights issues inform and are informed by concepts of gender and culture as well as constructions of justice.

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  • Merry, Sally Engle. 2003. Human rights law and the demonization of culture (and anthropology along the way). PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 26.1: 55–76.

    DOI: 10.1525/pol.2003.26.1.55Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Merry illustrates how perceptions of “culture” are intricately intertwined with human rights discourse, revisiting the longstanding debate, perceptions of anthropology’s role in human rights law, and the limits of cultural relativism.

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  • Merry, Sally Engle. 2006. Human rights and gender violence: Translating international law into local justice. Chicago Series in Law and Society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    This book examines some of the discord between global perspectives on law and rights and local performance and understandings of justice. Drawing on fieldwork examples, this text situates gender at the nexus between international and local rights and explores the value of ethnography in uncovering local meanings of human rights.

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  • Messer, Ellen. 1993. Anthropology and human rights. Annual Review of Anthropology 22:221–249.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.22.100193.001253Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Messer reviews the history of the study of human rights in anthropology and how anthropologists have grappled with human rights frameworks. The article explores the UN position on human rights and how anthropology has influenced the perspectives of those positions.

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  • Van Allen, Judith. 1972. Sitting on a man: Colonialism and the lost political institutions of Igbo women. In Special issue: The roles of African women: Past, present and future. Edited by Audrey Wipper. Canadian Journal of African Studies 6.2: 165–181.

    DOI: 10.2307/484197Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is one of the important early studies in anthropology to demonstrate the unintended outcomes of Western influence for African women. Van Allen shows how the Western assumption that post-colonial African states will automatically give rise to empowered women is faulty and can have far-reaching implications for the rights of women.

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Health

The popularity of the study of gender in health has risen in recent decades. Attention has been paid to how international health programs will address emergent illnesses and how the role of gender may affect the intersections of culture, medicine, and health (cf. Sargent and Brettell 1995 for a good overview). Many early medical anthropologists focused on the role of women as healers in cross-cultural contexts (Carol McClain, in McClain 1989, for example, discusses how pivotal women are to health and healing, a critique of the sometimes assumed role of man as physician or healer) or as those with culturally specific knowledge about medicine, health, and reproduction (Newman 1985 was one of the first collections of essays on the use and importance of fertility regulation in non-Western contexts). Gender-specific conditions and areas of study that had been historically relegated to chapters on women and family in classic ethnographies, such as menstruation and birth (Renne and van de Walle 2001), and even culturally specific syndromes (cf. Finkler 1994 for an accessible ethnography of women’s experiences of pain, health inequities, and resultant strategies for power that reside in their ability to manipulate the understanding of sickness) have also taken a central place in the study of health within anthropology. Assumptions about maternal behavior are challenged through ethnographic study of gendered experiences of health in different socio-economic realms. Scheper-Hughes 1993 is a thorough analysis via ethnographic data that show how gendered expectations of maternal behavior can affect how we understand birth and death. The study of women and health has played a large role in the development of knowledge in medical anthropology (cf. Inhorn 2006 for an interesting overview of how anthropology has come to discuss “women’s health” as a particular kind of gendered phenomena). An essential aspect of this work in anthropology has been the emphasis on praxis and the applied aspects of health work (Singer 1995) and the ethical dilemmas that doing health work in cross-cultural contexts can present. Other aspects that have proved important in the field include those researchers who provide global examples of how individuals experience social and institutional control over their bodies and of the gendered experience of health (Lock and Kaufert 1998 gives a great set of examples in this collected volume that place power and the Foucauldian concept of resistance at the center of the study of gender and health).

  • Finkler, Kaja. 1994. Women in pain: Gender and morbidity in Mexico. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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    A rich ethnography and narratives from fieldwork in Mexico that explores the symbolic concept of life’s lessons as a means for negotiating gender conflict and individual suffering; draws on Kleinman’s concepts of illness narratives. A good ethnography for those interested in teaching medical anthropology and gender studies.

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  • Inhorn, Marcia C. 2006. Defining women’s health: A dozen messages from more than 150 ethnographies. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20.3: 345–378.

    DOI: 10.1525/maq.2006.20.3.345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A recent overview of the many ethnographic examples of women’s health and how health concerns more generally are being addressed and understood globally. Written by one of the leaders in the field of gender and health, the article is a good overview of the corpus of work being done in this area.

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  • Lock, Margaret, and Patricia Kaufert, eds. 1998. Pragmatic women and body politics. Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology 5. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    An edited volume by leaders in the field of medical anthropology who focus on the importance of gender and feminism; it examines the construction of the individual, social, and political body with respect to gender and health. Grounded in Foucauldian perspectives, control over the body is a central theme throughout the sections.

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  • McClain, Carol, ed. 1989. Women as healers: Cross-cultural perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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    A good starting point for investigating the role of healers and the differences between patients and healers in cross-cultural contexts. Takes as central the role of women in the therapeutic process.

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  • Newman, Lucile, ed. 1985. Women’s medicine: A cross-cultural study of indigenous fertility regulation. Douglass Series on Women’s Lives and the Meaning of Gender. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

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    This edited volume has a central focus on cross-cultural fertility regulation, although each piece offers data on how social context and cultural factors in women’s lives influence their individual decisions about reproduction and health. A key text in the development of studies of reproductive health and female agency.

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  • Renne, Elisha P., and Etienne van de Walle, eds. 2001. Regulating menstruation: Beliefs, practices, interpretations. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Collected volume of articles that address the cultural constructions and beliefs surrounding menstruation. One of the few volumes to focus on contemporary cross-cultural work on this aspect of women’s health.

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  • Sargent, Carolyn F., and Caroline B. Brettell. 1995. Gender and health: An international perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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    This volume is an example of the anthropological response to the increased interest in the intersections between gender and health worldwide. The authors focus on issues such as ethical dilemmas that are inherent in international health work and emphasize the central role that cultural understanding of constructions of gender plays in efficacious health planning.

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  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1993. Death without weeping: The violence of everyday life in Brazil. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    One of the author’s most influential works, a very large and rich ethnographic account of infant mortality in Brazil. A key text in the study of gender and health as it challenges assumptions about expectations of maternal behavior and reactions to illness and death.

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  • Singer, Merrill. 1995. Beyond the ivory tower: Critical praxis in medical anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 9.1: 80–106.

    DOI: 10.1525/maq.1995.9.1.02a00060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A pivotal article that calls for the situation of practice at the heart of medical anthropology, with careful attention to the role of cultural factors and beliefs about such things as gender. The author offers real and personal examples of how to “do” anthropology and in particular how to affect social change in gender and health. Available online for purchase.

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LAST MODIFIED: 01/11/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766567-0009

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