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Much of the creativity of anthropology
derives from the tension between two sets
of demands: that we explain human
universals, and that we explain cultural
particulars…The secondary status of
woman in society is one of the true
universals a pan-cultural fact, yet within
that universal fact, the specific cultural
conceptions and symbolizations of woman
are extraordinarily diverse and even
mutually contradictory (Ortner, 1974: 67).
What is the relationship between
feminism and anthropology?
On australian Aboriginal Women
• Male ethnograp…
• Profane
• Economically
• Excluded
• Marginal
Female ethnograp…
Central role
Important in ritual
Three layers of the male bias
• The bias imported by the ethnographer into
his research
• The bias inherent in the society being
• The bias inherent in Western culture
Gender Symbols and Gender
• Woman’s physiology and her reproductive
functions= appear closer to nature
• Women’s social roles are seen as closer to
• The Kaulong of new Britain (Goodale,
Deconstructing the structure of
male bias by
• Focusing on women
• Building data: about women by women
• Reworking and redefining anthropological
Ardener (1975) and the theory of
“Muted Groups”
control over modes of expression
Male dominated structures
--ways of communicating (linguistic concepts)
--ways of writing (mankind for humankind)
--dominant ideology
--different world views
Problems with the assumption of a
privileged status (women studying
• Ghettoization of feminist anthropology
• --too specialized --image problem
• The assumption of a universal category of
• --not the same in all cultures
• Perception of ethnocentrism
• --a bias in favor of one culture9 that of the woman
What are the advantages and
disadvantages of a feminist