About this Item
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Title: Same Sex, Different Cultures: Exploring Gay ...
Publisher: Westview Press, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Soft cover
Book Condition: As New
About this title
Because homoerotic relations can be found in so many cultures, Gilbert Herdt argues that we should think of these relations as part of the human condition. This new cross-cultural study of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals around the world, Same Sex, Different Cultures provides a unique perspective on maturing and living within societies, both historical and contemporary, that not only acknowledge but also incorporate same-gender desires and relations.Examining what it means to organize sex” in a society that lacks a category for sex,” or to love someone of the same gender when society does not have a homosexual” or gay/lesbian” role, Herdt provides provocative new insights in our understanding of gay and lesbians lives. Accurate in both its scientific conceptions and wealth of cultural and historical material, examples range from the ancient Greeks and feudal China and Japan to the developing countries of Africa, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Thailand, from a New Guinea society to contemporary U.S. culture, including Native Americans. For all of these peoples, homoerotic relations emerge as part of culture and not separate from history or society.In many of these groups, loving or engaging in sexual relations is found to be the very basis of the local cultural theory of human nature” and the mythological basis for the cosmos and the creation of society. The mistake of modern Western culture, Gilbert contends, is to continue the legalization of prejudice against lesbians and gays.In this light, the book addresses the issue of universal” versus particular practices and reveals positive role models that embrace all aspects of human sexuality. Finally, it offers knowledge of the existence of persons who have loved and have been intimate sexually and romantically with the same gender in other lands through divergent cultural practices and social roles.The most important lesson to learn from this cross-cultural and historical study of homosexuality is that there is room for many at the table of humankind.Review:
In this wide-ranging and readable book, Gilbert Herdt suggests that field anthropologists have gathered so little information about homoeroticism in non-Western cultures because they are asking the wrong questions--sometimes out of indifference or embarrassment, but often on the shortsighted assumption that same-sex relations will take the same forms that they do in the Western world. Drawing on research into sexual initiation rites and "sexual lifeways" from Africa to the American Southwest, Herdt convincingly demonstrates that many cultures "simply lack categories or general concepts that cover the meanings of the contemporary notion of the homosexual." The Sambia people of New Guinea, for instance, whom Herdt studied for several years, consider a lengthy period of male sexual interaction to be a vital (in fact, mandatory) initiation into manhood, but have no words for a life devoted to a same-sex partner. Although Herdt had explained his own life choices to them many times, his Sambian friends persisted in trying to arrange marriages for him, "feeling sorry" that he had no wife or children. Rich in anecdotes, Herdt's book provides fuel for ongoing dinner party disputes over the nature/nurture question and changing cultural constructions of homosexuality. --Regina Marler
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