One of the great riddles of cultural history is the remarkable parallel that exists between the peoples of Amazonia and those of Melanesia. Although the two regions are separated by half a world in distance and at least 40,000 years of history, their cultures nonetheless reveal striking similarities in the areas of sex and gender. In both Amazonia and Melanesia, male-female differences infuse social organization and self-conception. They are the core of religion, symbolism, and cosmology, and they permeate ideas about body imagery, procreation, growth, men's cults, and rituals of initiation.
The contributors to this innovative volume illuminate the various ways in which sex and gender are elaborated, obsessed over, and internalized, shaping subjective experiences common to entire cultural regions, and beyond. Through comparison of the life ways of Melanesia and Amazonia the authors expand the study of gender, as well as the comparative method in anthropology, in new and rewarding directions.
Thomas A. Gregor, Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University and author of two volumes on Amazonian peoples, last edited The Natural History of Peace (1996). Donald Tuzin is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. His most recent book is The Cassowary's Revenge (1997).
"A fascinating and probably unique excursion into the thought worlds, cultural and linguistic structures, cosmological and symbolic systems, and gendered relationships of these peoples. The breadth and scope are huge, although the focus on the comparative method purposely anchors the scholarship, and grounds the studies, in a pleasing way."—Gilbert Herdt, author of Sambia Sexual Culture