Gender Variations across Cultures

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Edwin SEGAL, University of Louisville, USA
This paper is concerned with gender expressions in relatively small scale, sub-national ethnicities. These peoples represent a major focus of strain in the processes of national development and consolidation and a concomitant decolonization of these processes. Gender and ethnicity are two major intersecting variables.
In the world of primary socialization gender is a transformative process.. Ordinary expectations are that it will be the only process of transformation. Individual experiences will blend with variations in the normative complexes in a particular society. Ethnographic evidence indicates that in every socio-cultural system some people do not find a fit with ordinary expectations, or in some instances ordinary expectations are inadequate. The same material also indicates the known range of culturally based gender paradigms, some of which fit the western binary, many of which do not, either because they use a different binary or are not binary at all. Historic ethnography also documents the impact of western oriented colonialism in distorting indigenous concepts of gender and gendered activities.
My approach here is broadly comparative, based on an analysis of secondary sources. Much cross cultural research tends to be based on statistical analysis. Such an approach reduces each culture to a check box, and in that way reduces examination of culture details. It is not enough to simply say that the Bugis people of Sulawesi recognize five genders, and so put them into the multiple gender box. Bugis gender constructs are much more complex (and also simpler) than that.
Part of our problem may rest in our understanding of the relationships among the parts of culture and the behavioral models they create. Another part may rest in the Western gender biases that promote a colonialist orientation to gender constructs.