Anth/ws 123: The Cultural Construction of Gender

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Anth/WS 123: The Cultural Construction of Gender Tannenbaum

Maginnes 270 2:10 - 3:00 MWF Spring 2001

Office: 11 Price Hall: phone 8-3829; e-mail: nt01 [note: that’s a “zero” ]

Office Hours: 11:00-12:00 MWF, by appointment, OR chance.

Purpose: To develop an understanding of the ways cultures assign different values and potentials to genders. We will do this through a thorough grounding in ethnography that will provide the background to examine the historical development of anthropological theories about gender and gender construction.
Class Structure: Discussion, lecture, and films. The class will be primarily discussion. I will lecture to provide background for the anthropological ideas and concepts. Students are expected to do the readings before class.
Evaluation: Three essays. The first essay on classical vs. current approaches -- Malinowski and Weiner [27.5% of grade]. The second essay, analyzing violence and gender antagonisms [27.5%]. The third, comparing Neither Man nor Woman and The Left Hand of Darkness and how it illuminates issues related to the study of gender raised throughout the course [35%]. Essay three receives more weight because I expect you to integrate material from the previous sections of the course.
Within these three broad topics, students will come up with their own particular questions for the essays. Questions and/or general approaches must have my approval and are due a week before the essays are due. Essays will be from 5 to 7 pages - long enough to answer the question or cover the topic. Students have the option of revising their essays. If I judge an essay inadequate, I will ask the student to re-write his/her essay rather than receive a grade of D or F. Students must consult with me before they revise their essays. Revisions are due one week after I return the essays.
Class participation, 10% of grade: In order to motivate reading and class discussions -- brief summaries of the readings and discussion questions due as assigned. Due in class the day of the discussion. I will not accept late assignments. Class attendance is expected.


Heider, Karl Grand Valley Dani: Peaceful Warriors. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 3rd edition. 1997.

Herdt, Gilbert The Sambia: Ritual and Gender in New Guinea. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 1987

LeGuin, Ursula The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace Books, 1987.

Nanda, Serena Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India. 2nd Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishers, 1999.

Weiner, Annette B. The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 1988

We will be reading parts of Malinowski, Bronislaw The Sexual Life of Savages. Boston: Beacon Press.1987 [1932]. I have placed 2 copies on reserve. The full text is available from the Human Relations Area Files on the web at: To get to the book: on Lehigh’s home page click on library, electronic resources, and then on databases. You will have to log in using your e-mail name and password. Once in, click on G-L, and then on Human Relations Area Files (eHRAF). Click on Browse Cultures and type in OL06 which is the code for Trobriand Islands, click on OL06 on the next page. This will take you to the guide to the Trobriand files, about two thirds down the page is Sexual Life of Savages. Click on it and there you are. Alternatively, on the first eHRAF page, click on citation search, type in Malinowski and click on The Sexual Life of Savages There are codes on every paragraph which makes for clunky reading but just ignore them.

I. Issues and Topics

Week 1 Jan. 17 - 19

Readings: Malinowski Special Forward to the 3rd Edition, pp. lvii-lxxxii.

Weiner, Introduction, pp. 1 - 16.

Herdt Introduction, pp. 1-10.

Nanda Preface and Introduction, pp. ix-xxi.

Due: Jan 19: list of issues and topics from the readings.

II. Classical Issues - the Trobriands: Malinowski and Weiner

Week 2 Jan. 22 - 26 Malinowski

Readings: Malinowski Chap. 1 The Relations between the Sexes in Tribal Life, pp. 1-23.

Malinowski Chap. 4 The Avenues to Marriage, pp. 65 -92.

Malinowski Chap. 5 Marriage, pp. 93 - 120

Malinowski Chap. 6 Divorce and the Dissolution of Marriage by Death, pp. 121 - 139.

Week 3 Jan. 29 - Feb. 2 Malinowski, cont.

Readings: Malinowski Chap. 7 Procreation and Pregnancy in Native Custom and Belief, pp. 140 - 178.

Malinowski Chap. 8 Pregnancy and Childbirth, pp. 179 - 199.

Malinowski Chap. 11 The Magic of Love and Beauty, pp. 290 - 323.

Week 4 Feb. 5 - 9 Weiner

Readings: Weiner Chap. 1 The Trobriands: Past and Present, pp. 17 - 32.

Weiner Chap. 2 Death and the Work of Mourning, pp. 33 - 50.

Weiner Chap. 3 Fathers and Matrilineality, pp. 51 - 64.

Weiner Chap. 4 Youth and Sexuality, pp. 65 - 77.

Movie: Trobriand Cricket, Feb. 7
Week 5 Feb. 12 - 16 Weiner, cont.

Readings: Weiner Chap. 5 Marriage and the Politics of Yams, pp. 81 - 96.

Weiner Chap. 6 Chiefs and Hierarchy, p. 97 - 111.

Weiner Chap. 7 Men Working for Women, 112 - 124.

Note: No class Feb. 12 Pacing Break.
Week 6 Feb. 19 - 23 Weiner & Malinowski

Readings: Weiner, Chap. 8 The Regeneration of Matrilineality, pp. 125 - 138.

Weiner Chap. 9 Kula and the Search for Fame, pp. 139 - 158.

Weiner Chap. 10 Conclusion, pp. 159 - 168.

Feb. 23 General discussion of Malinowski & Weiner.

III Violence, Gender, and Male Dominance: The Sambia and the Dani

Week 7 Feb. 26 - March 2 The Sambia

Readings: Herdt Chap 1 The Behavioral Environment, pp. 11 - 24.

Herdt Chap. 2 Warfare and Social Organization, pp. 25 - 58.

Herdt Chap. 3 Ordinary People, pp. 59 - 67.

Due: Feb 26 Question/topics for essay on Malinowski & Weiner.
Week 8 March 5 - 9 The Sambia, cont.

Readings: Herdt Chap. 4 Gender and Socialization, pp. 67 - 100.

Herdt Chap. 5 The Men's Secret Society, pp. 101 - 170.

Herdt Chap. 6 Ritualized Gender Development: Continuities., pp. 171 - 198.

Herdt Chap. 7 The Relativity of Gender, pp. 199 - 206.

Herdt Afterword: Whither the Sambia.

Due: March 5 Essay on Malinowski & Weiner.
Week 9 March 12 - 16 No week 9: Spring Break
Week 10 March 19 - 23 The Dani

Readings: Heider Chap. 1 Studying the Dani, pp. 3 - 24.

Heider Chap. 2 The Dani, pp. 25 - 66.

Heider Chap. 3 Social Relationships, pp. 67 - 120.

Movie: Dead Birds March 21- 23.

Note: No class March 19.
Week 11 March 26- 30 The Dani cont.

Readings: Heider Chap. 4 Religion and Ritual, pp. 121 - 152.

Heider Chap. 5 Return to the Dani, 1988, pp. 153 -166.

Heider Chap. 6 The Road and the Cave, 1995, pp. 167 - 178.

Note: No class March 26.

Due: March 28 Thoughts on the movie vs. text. What did you learn from the movie that you didn’t learn from the book? What did you learn from the book that you didn’t learn from the movie? 2 pages.

Due: March 30 Question/topic for essay on gender relations and violence.

IV Other Systems of Gender - Hijras of India and Gethen (Winter).

Week 12 April 2 - 6 Hijras

Readings: Nanda Chap. 1 Hijra Roles in Indian Society

Chap. 2 The Hijra as Neither Man nor Woman

Chap. 3 Emasculation Ritual Among the Hijras

Chap. 4 Social Organization and Economic Adaptation

Chap. 5 Kamladevi: A Prostitute

Chap. 6 Meera: A New Guru

Week 13 April 9 - 13 Hijras, cont.

Readings: Nanda Chap. 7 Sushila: Achieving Respect

Chap. 8 Salima: An Outcast

Chap. 9 Hijra Lives in Context

Due: April 9 Essay on gender and violence

Note: no class April 13 Passover/Easter break.

Week 14 April 16 - 20 Hijras, concluded

Readings: Nanda Chap. 10 Hijras in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Epilogue: Fieldwork among the Hijras

Note: no class April 16 Passover/Easter break
Week 15 April 23 - 27 Winter

Readings: LeGuin Chaps. 1-16.

Week 16 April 30 - May 4 Winter, concluded

Readings: LeGuin Chaps. 17 - 20

Week 17 May 7 Gender reconsidered

Due: May 7, essay topic on nature of gender in light of the Hijras and Gethen.
Due: Final Exam Date, essay on the nature of gender in light of the Hijras and Gethen.

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