The Geography of Perversion: Male-To-Male Sexual Behavior Outside the West and the Ethnographic Imagination, 1750-1918

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Recent years have seen enormous attention devoted to the history of sexuality in the Western world. But how has the West conceived of non-western societies been influenced by these other traditions? The Geography of Perversion and Desire is the first historical study to demonstrate convincingly that the representation cultural otherness, as found in European thought from the Enlightenment through modern times, is closely interrelated with modern constructions of homosexual identity. Travel reports and early ethnographic accounts of cross-gender roles in the Americas, Africa, and Asia corroborated the 18th century construction of the sodomite identity. Similarly, the late 19th-century construction of the third sex provoked much anthropological speculation on to genetic versus societal nature of male-to-male sexual relations, a precursor of current essentialist versus constructionist debates. An invaluable contribution to the ongoing debates on cultural and sexual otherness, this volume unravels how the categories of the modern sodomite and later homosexual were inextricably intertwined with essentialist definitions of racial identity. In encyclopedic detail, Bleys traces how cross-cultural records were collected, created, structured, manipulated, excerpted, reformulated, and omitted in interaction with changing beliefs about male-to-male sexuality. Focusing in such subjects as puritanism, sodomy, and ethnicity in colonial North America; cross-gender behavior and hermaphrodditism; the semiotics of genitalia; and the parameters of sexual science, The Geography of Perversion and Desire is a breathtakingly thorough, cross cultural history of sexual categories.

Drawing on travel reports and early ethnographic accounts, The Geography of Perversion and Desire presents the first historical study to demonstrate convincingly that the representation of cultural otherness, as found in European thought from the Enlightenment to modern times, is closely interrelated with modern constructions of homosexual identity.

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About the Author:

Rudi C. Bleys holds a Ph.D. in European intellectual history from the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Review:

”Brave and fascinating, as well as important . . . . A scholarly and comprehensive contribution to our growing knowledge of the history of homosexuality.”

-Jeffrey Weeks

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