Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture

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9780300049114: Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture

The emergence of human culture is generally traced to the development of a social order in which males hunted large game animals and females had access to the meat. This book presents a new theory of how this culture originated. Integrating perspectives of evolutionary biology and social anthropology within a Marxist framework, Christopher Knight rejects the common assumption that human culture was a gradual extension of primate behaviour and argues instead that it was the product of an immense social, sexual, and political revolution spearheaded by women. Culture became established, says Knight, when women realized that men armed with hunting weapons could not be trusted to share the spoils of the hunt with women and offspring. They began to assert conscious control over their own sexuality, refusing sex to all males except those who came to them with provisions. Women usually timed their ban on sexual relations with their periods of infertility while they were menstruating, and to the extent that their solidarity drew women together, these periods tended to occur in synchrony. Thus every month with the onset of menstruation, sexual relations were ruptured as the prelude to each successful hunting expedition; it was the means through which women motivated men not only to hunt but also to concentrate their energies on bringing back the meat. Knight shows how his hypothesis sheds light on the roots of such cultural traditions as totemic rituals, incest and menstrual taboos, blood-sacrifices, and hunters' atonement rites. Providing detailed ethnographic documentation of this theories, he also explains how myths and fairy tales form European, American Indian, Australian Aboriginal, and other cultures seem to the derivations of the same cultural symbolic rituals.

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Knight, Chris
Published by Yale University Press (1991)
ISBN 10: 0300049110 ISBN 13: 9780300049114
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Knight, Chris
Published by Yale University Press
ISBN 10: 0300049110 ISBN 13: 9780300049114
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