The Anguish of Gender: Men's Cults and Moral Contradiction in Amazonia and Melanesia

Thomas A. Gregor and Donald Tuzin

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:
The Anguish of Gender: Men's Cults and Moral Contradiction in Amazonia and Melanesia

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There are remarkable resemblances between men's cults in Amazonia and Melanesia. The similarities include myths of matriarchy and role reversal; body imagery that merges male and female reproductive anatomy and physiology; rituals which assign generative, pseudoreproductive powers to men; hyperphallic cult objects in ritual; secrecy and constant vigilance against penetration of the cult by women and noninitiates; and terror and violence directed against those who breach the rules of the cult. This chapter presents the perspective that the cult reflects an effort, at times desperate, to hold together an all-too-fragile masculine self, portraying an “anguish of gender” in which men and women who may be closely related also stand opposed and antagonistic. It concludes by stating that this moral contradiction is the fault line of the cult and may lead to its rapid demise or, at minimum, to personal questioning and uncertainty.

Keywords: men's cults; anguish of gender; masculine self; moral contradiction; Amazonia; Melanesia

Chapter.  13616 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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