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Sexualities in Anthropology: A Reader

Andrew P. Lyons (Editor), Harriet D. Lyons (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-4051-9054-1
408 pages
February 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Sexualities in Anthropology: A Reader (140519054X) cover image


This thought-provoking new collection, Sexualities in Anthropology: A Reader offers insights into the diversity of human social beliefs and practices relating to sexuality in different times and in different cultures around the world.
  • Substantial editorial introductions set each Part in context of the field, providing readers helpful background and explanatory notes.

  • Presents a comprehensive collection of key historical and current readings in the social anthropology of sexuality
  • Includes literature on both heterosexualities and same-sex sexualities
  • Explores the key works and major debates of prominent scholars in the field, such as Mead, Malinowski, Newton, Herdt, and others
  • Introduces readers to major theoretical developments (“essentialist” and “constructionist” positions)
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Table of Contents


Introduction: Problems in Writing About Sex in Anthropology.

1 The Bubble, the Burn, and the Simmer: Locating Sexuality in Social Science (Kath Weston).

Part I Sex, Race and Gender in Anthropological History.

2 Which Bodies Matter? Feminism, Poststructuralism, Race, and the Curious Theoretical Odyssey of the "Hottentot Venus" (Zine Magubane).

Part II Primitive Promiscuity and Matriarchal Theory ("Oversexed Savages").

3 Origins of the Family (Friedrich Engels).

Part III Against Primitive Promiscuity (Fear of Sex).

4 The Reconstruction of "Primitive Sexuality" at the Fin de Siècle (Andrew Lyons and Harriet Lyons).

5 The Sexual Instinct in Savages (Havelock Ellis).

6 The Mystic Rose: Selections (Ernest Crawley).

Part IV Early Work on Homosexualities.

7 Pederasty (Richard Burton).

8 Homosexual Love (Edward Westermarck).

9 Hermaphrodism Among Gods and Mortals (Edward Carpenter).

10 The Zuñi Ła'mana (Elsie Clews Parsons).

Part V Heterosexual Freedoms (Elsewhere).

11 Prenuptial Intercourse Between the Sexes (Bronislaw Malinowski).

12 Formal Sex Relations (Margaret Mead).

13 Premarital Pregnancy and Native Opinion: A Note on Social Change (Isaac Schapera).

Part VI Sexual Repression: A Test Case.

14 Sex and Repression in an Irish Folk Community (John C. Messenger).

Part VII Virgin Birth.

15 Ignorance of Physiological Paternity (Bronislaw Malinowski).

16 Tradition, Experience, and Belief (Ashley Montagu).

17 Virgin Birth (Edmund Leach).

Part VIII The Attack on Margaret Mead.

18 Sex and Hoax in Samoa: Was Margaret Mead Misled or Did She Mislead on Samoa? (Derek Freeman).

19 Sexual Morality in Samoa and Its Historical Transformations (Penelope Schoeffel).

20 Virginity and the History of Sex in Samoa (Paul Shankman).

Part IX Genital Cutting.

21 Genital Cutting: The Past and Present of a Polythetic Category (Harriet D. Lyons).

Part X Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender.

22 Role Models (Esther Newton).

23 Notes and Queries on Sexual Excitement in Sambia Culture (Gilbert Herdt).

24 Causing a Commotion: Public Scandal as Resistance Among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes (Don Kulick).

25 Between Religion and Desire: Being Muslim and Gay in Indonesia (Tom Boellstorff).

26 The Semiotics of Transgendered Sexual Identity in the Thai Print Media: Imagery and Discourse of the Sexual Other (Megan Sinnott).

27 The Categories Themselves (David Valentine).

Part XI Heterosexuality Today.

28 A Good Spouse Is Hard to Find: Marriage, Spouse Exchange, and Infatuation Among the Copper Inuit (Pamela R. Stern and Richard G. Condon).

29 Love and the Risk of HIV: Courtship, Marriage, & Infi delity in Southeastern Nigeria (Daniel Jordan Smith).

30 Beyond Pain, Towards Pleasure in the Study of Sexuality in Africa (Rachel Spronk).


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Author Information

Andrew Lyons is Editor-in-Chief of Anthropologica, Journal of the Canadian Anthropology Society. He is Professor Emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. Andrew and Harriet Lyons are co-authors of Irregular Connections: A History of Anthropology and Sexuality (2004).

Harriet Lyons is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Waterloo, Ontario.

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"The Lyons present a very insightful, informative and articulate reader in the anthropology of sexuality.  Their book turns a bright analytic light on over a century of important cross cultural writings on sexuality with each section introduced in an enticing fashion by the editors. Anyone in this field would benefit by reading this book."
Ira L. Reiss, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota



"This inspired set of essays brings together classics in the study of sexuality and is set to shape the field for years to come.  Each section is brilliantly contextualized by the editors, whose crisp and authoritative introductions both illuminate the significance of the contributions and advance our understanding of sexualities in anthropology."
Hastings Donnan, Co-author of The Anthropology of Sex and Professor of Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast

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