Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia: An Exploration of the by Thomas Gregor, Donald Tuzin

By Thomas Gregor, Donald Tuzin

One of the nice riddles of cultural heritage is the extraordinary parallel that exists among the peoples of Amazonia and people of Melanesia. even if the 2 areas are separated by way of part a global in distance and no less than 40,000 years of historical past, their cultures still show impressive similarities within the components of intercourse and gender. In either Amazonia and Melanesia, male-female modifications infuse social association and self-conception. they're the center of faith, symbolism, and cosmology, and so they permeate principles approximately physique imagery, procreation, development, men's cults, and rituals of initiation.

The individuals to this leading edge quantity remove darkness from a few of the ways that intercourse and gender are elaborated, obsessed over, and internalized, shaping subjective studies universal to whole cultural areas, and past. via comparability of the lifestyles methods of Melanesia and Amazonia the authors extend the learn of gender, in addition to the comparative procedure in anthropology, in new and profitable directions.

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I now return to the comparison between Sambia and Ankave by underlining the symmetry of semen and blood in these two groups. Semen for the Sambia and womb blood for the Ankave have the capacity both of coconceiving and of making the fetus grow. Both substances are also used in male rituals, directly in one case,17 and through a substitute, red pandanus juice, in the other. What differs most is the relation that these bodily substances entertain with breast milk. Among the Sambia, ingesting semen triggers the production of milk in women, while sugarcane performs the same function for the Ankave.

The Ankave territory, whose altitude ranges from  to  meters, is for the most part (%) covered in forest. Gardens supply the main foods: taros, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sugar cane. Besides working in the gardens, the women raise a few pigs and gather forest greens, which are eaten almost daily with some kind of tuber. The fruits of two seasonal plants—red pandanus and Pangium edule—are consumed in large quantities as a sauce. In spite of the surrounding forest, little hunting is done (marsupials, cassowaries, wild pigs), and the bulk of the game captured is given in exchanges between affinal groups.

Furthermore, the particular taro whose leaves are used to rub the initiates’ noses is the one mentioned in the myth, relating how female sexual organs were first pierced. 8 Throughout the period when the initiates’ septums are healing, the boys’ mothers are secluded in a large collective shelter and respect numerous behavioral constraints and food taboos, which, for the most part, are similar to those imposed on the initiates in the bush. Mothers and initiates alike must also soak their new bark capes in stream water every day at dawn before putting the capes on their shoulders.

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