Gender And Ritual Power Among African Hunter-Gatherers

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Camilla Power

Gender And Ritual Power Among African Hunter-Gatherers

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 - 18:45

In this talk, Camilla Power explores the relation of sex and gender among African hunter-gatherers. Egalitarian peoples like Khoesan Bushman, Congo Forest hunters and the Hadza of Tanzania have a straightforward sexual division of labour: men hunt; women gather. But gender does not reduce to a masculine/feminine binary. Instead, evidence from Bushman rock art, story and initiation ritual reveals a fluid and mutable gender transformative through time for men and women. Central religious concepts - the Moon, the Eland, Trickster - all show this gender transformation in relation to the lunar cycle. Rather than a hierarchical opposition of masculine over feminine, gender oscillates between a 'gender of power' which fuses features of the sexes, and a 'weak' gender which disambiguates the biological sexes. Evidence from Central and East African groups is compared.

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Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.

Next evening class

Chris Knight

A Plains Indian Myth: When Women Lost Their Power
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

'The Wives of the Sun and Moon' is one of the key myths of Claude Levi-Strauss' monumental study, Mythologiques. This evening will begin with a story-telling followed by a workshop and class discussion to decode the message of the myth. Originally, according to the Arapaho Indians of North American Plains, marriage was not a fixed state but a periodic alternation between one kind of relationship and another, a once-a-month honeymoon followed each month by divorce and re-union with kin. Everything started going badly wrong when hunting and gathering gave way to gardening, the lunar calendar gave way to a seasonal/solar rhythm - and womankind became subject to wedlock as a permanent state.