Chapter

The Genres of Gender: Local Models and Global Paradigms in the Comparison of Amazonia and Melanesia

Philippe Descola

in Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2001 | ISBN: 9780520228511
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935815 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520228511.003.0005
The Genres of Gender: Local Models and Global Paradigms in the Comparison of Amazonia and Melanesia

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This chapter presents an argument that gender is itself not a salient category in South American societies (Amazonia and Melanasia). Gender relationships are subsumed and embedded in kinship relationships of affinity and consanguinity, with women being associated with consanguine relationships and men with affinal roles. Alternatively, gender may be subordinated to other, more symbolically prominent, systems of thought, such as the relationship of humans and animals. This argument is supported by an analysis of the role played by the sexual dichotomy in the cosmology and social organization of a particular society (the Jivaroan Achuar of the Upper Amazon) to show that their gender categories are encompassed by a wider set of relationships. Finally, the chapter emphasizes that this is also the case for many other Amazonian societies, and that this sharp contrast with Melanesia is likely to help identify and assess relevant strategies for the comparison of gender relations.

Keywords: gender; Amazonia; Melanasia; cosmology; relationships; sexual dichotomy

Chapter.  11677 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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