Secrecy and Cultural Reality: Utopian Ideologies of the New Guinea Men's House

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Secrecy and Cultural Reality: Utopian Ideologies of the New Guinea Men's House

  • by Gilbert Herdt
  • Filetype: pdf
  • Filesize: 918.69 KB
  • Language: English

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Overview

Secrecy and Cultural Reality explores the ways in which male ritual secrecy is created and inflects collective reality in uncertain sociopolitical conditions and in times of war. Through a series of detailed case studies beginning with the life of Lewis Henry Morgan, followed by studies of male ritual secrecy and the men's house in Melanesia and Papua New Guinea, the author shows how a form of conditional masculinity always precedes the creation of sexuality as a means of rule over women and children.
Proposing a general theory of the conditions that foster secrecy, especially among men, Gilbert Herdt posits that men deploy rituals of conditional masculinity in order to cope with social anxiety, gain purpose, achieve homosociality, and impose hierarchy and rule over younger males and women. The personal and institutional outcome is to create an alternative, hidden cultural reality in society. While previous theorists have paid little attention to the role of sexuality in these processes, this book demonstrates the significance of sexuality in homosociality and relationships between the genders. This historical formation is especially interesting in view of the fact that in Melanesia it precedes the development of "homosexuality" as a category or homosexual subjects in the cultural meaning system.
Gilbert Herdt is Professor of Human Sexuality Studies and Anthropology and Director of the Program in Human Sexuality Studies, San Francisco State University.



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