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The Subject of Anthropology: Gender, Symbolism and Psychoanalysis

ISBN: 978-0-7456-0808-2
288 pages
March 2007, Polity
The Subject of Anthropology: Gender, Symbolism and Psychoanalysis (0745608086) cover image
In this ambitious new book, Henrietta Moore draws on anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis to develop an original and provocative theory of gender and of how we become sexed beings. Arguing that the Oedipus complex is no longer the fulcrum of debate between anthropology and psychoanalysis, she demonstrates how recent theorizing on subjectivity, agency and culture has opened up new possibilities for rethinking the relationship between gender, sexuality and symbolism.

Using detailed ethnographic material from Africa and Melanesia to explore the strengths and weaknesses of a range of theories in anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis, Moore advocates an ethics of engagement based on a detailed understanding of the differences and similarities in the ways in which local communities and western scholars have imaginatively deployed the power of sexual difference. She demonstrates the importance of ethnographic listening, of focused attention to people’s imaginations, and of how this illuminates different facets of complex theoretical issues and human conundrums.

Written not just for professional scholars and for students but for anyone with a serious interest in how gender and sexuality are conceptualized and experienced, this book is the most powerful and persuasive assessment to date of what anthropology has to contribute to these debates now and in the future.

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Acknowledgements viii

1 Body, Mind and World 1

2 A Genealogy of the Anthropological Subject 23

3 Culture, Power and Desire 43

4 Objects and Relations with (M)others 63

5 The Problem of the Phallus 95

6 Being and Having 115

7 Kinship and Sexuality 137

8 Mothers and Men 165

9 Social Transformations 193

Notes 212

References 235

Index 259

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Henrietta L Moore Professor of Social Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science
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  • Ambitious new book by one of the leading theorists of gender and social anthropology
  • Draws on anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis to develop an original and provocative theory of gender and of how we become sexed beings
  • Fresh and innovative treatment of the relationship of psychoanalysis to anthropology
  • Clear, accessible and beautifully written, this book will appeal to students and scholars alike
  • This book is the most powerful and persuasive assessment to date of what
    anthropology has to contribute to these debates now and in the future
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"An excellent and compelling book that, among the many aspects worth discussing, invites the forging of new alliances between anthropology and psychoanalysis in their common concerns for culture, representation and the nature of symbols."
LSE Review of Books

"A very well written book on an important topic by one of the most gifted anthropologists of her generation ... that is bound to become a classic text in the emergent cross-road between psychoanalysis, anthropology and feminist studies."
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Provides a stimulating challenge to social theorists of subjectivity to apply its arguments to other sets of ethnographic data, and to take up and extend the debate that Moore initiates in this innovative book."
British Journal of Sociology

"This book is invaluable – there is nothing else like it. Well-organized and beautifully written, it is also clear as a bell, which is no mean feat when dealing with these complex and abstruse issues."
Emily Martin, New York University

"This is a major intellectual achievement by one of the pioneers of feminist anthropology. Henrietta Moore sets a new agenda for transnational gender and sexuality research while debating some of the cutting-edge theoretical issues in feminist psychoanalysis and post-structuralism. She urges us to acknowledge the complex and dynamic relationship between bodies and the variant cultural meanings attached to femininity and masculinity, but also to consider the enduring hold of the social imaginary upon the constitution of the subject. A major contribution to the political economy of sexuality in the global era."
Rosi Braidotti, Utrecht University

"Henrietta Moore seeks to build a theory of gendered subjectivity by articulating the insights of psychoanalysis, anthropology and feminism. The extended readings of psychoanalytic theory through anthropological and feminist eyes are clear and illuminating. This is a rich and thought-provoking book."
Sherry B. Ortner, University of California-Los Angeles

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