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Making Gender


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About the Author

Sherry B. Ortner is professor of anthropology at Columbia University. Her books include High Religion- A Cultural and Political History of Sherpa Buddhism and Culture/Power/History- A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (coedited with Nicholas B. Dirks and Geoff Eley). She received a MacArthur Award in 1990 for her work in anthropology.


Ortner (Univ. of California, Berkeley), a MacArthur Award-winning anthropologist and a founder of the school of feminist anthropology, writes on gender theory in a series of eight essays. She attempts to explain the anthropological universal of the subordination of women, with the answer found in a nature/culture dichotomy. Using cooking as an example, in the same manner as did Claude Lévi Strauss, Ortner suggests in her first essay that because cooking symbolizes "lower-level conversions from nature to culture," it thus serves as a metaphor for the male perception of women as being closer to nature and therefore on a lower level. Other articles examine this subordination in terms of examples gleaned from Ortner's research with the Sherpas of Nepal and other cultures. Written in an academic but readable style, Ortner's thought-provoking book would be an excellent addition to women's studies collections in academic libraries.‘Cynthia D. Bertelsen, Indexing Svces., Blacksburg, Va.

A tour-de-force journey through both the work of an outstanding anthropologist and the history of a field.
-Rayna Rapp, editor of Toward an Anthropology of Women

[An] engaging book. . . . Sherry B. Ortner is well known among anthropologists for having her finger on the pulse of the discipline. . . . [Making Gender is] a fine example of the way anthropology helps us to think about ourselves. --Tanya Luhrmann, The New York Times Book Review To have [Ortner's] brilliant writings gathered together in one volume, along with an introduction that is sure to move even further our understanding of gender, is a gift to all of us. --Nancy J. Chodorow, author of The Reproduction of Mothering Even those familiar with Ortner's more widely read essays will want to reread these next to her more recent writing to understand some of the important changes in feminist anthropology in the last twenty years. --Louise Lamphere, coeditor of Woman, Culture, and Society

Ortner, a feminist anthropologist and winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award, mixes her pathbreaking papers and specialized academic pieces in this collection of eight essays spanning the last 25 years. In one influential 1972 article she argues that in every society women are viewed as closer to nature, whereas men are identified with culture, a prejudice that she blames for the universal second-class status of women. Another major essay looks at men's obsession with female chastity, and their systematic control of women's social and sexual behavior in traditional societies. This ideology, she contends, was bound up with the emergence of patriarchal extended families, social hierarchies and the state. Drawing on her fieldwork in Nepal, Ortner, a professor at UC-Berkeley, offers some unusual perspectives on the roles of women, such as the entry of European, American and Tibetan women since the 1970s into Himalayan mountaineering and their interactions with Sherpa guides. Another provocative essay contrasts the popular image of Polynesia as a haven of sexual liberation with less familiar realities: low status of women, a high incidence of rape and sexual violence, an elaborate prestige system regulating personal status. (Nov.)

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