Cultural Alternatives and a Feminist Anthropology: An Analysis of Culturally Constructed Gender Interests in Papua New Guinea

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The Chambri of Papua New Guinea are well known as being the 'Tchambuli' of Margaret Mead's influential work, Sex and Temperament, in which she described them as a people among whom, in contrast to Western society, women dominated over men. In this book, however, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz re-analyse Mead's data, and present original material of their own, to reveal that Mead misinterpreted the Chambri situation, and that in fact Chambri women neither dominate Chambri men, nor vice versa. They use this reformulated interpretation to discuss the relevance of the Chambri case for the understanding of gender relations in Western society today, showing that male dominance is not inevitable. At the same time, they also use their knowledge of cultural alternatives to clarify Western feminist objectives.