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Gender in Amazonia and MelanesiaAn Exploration of the Comparative Method$
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Thomas Gregor and Donald Tuzin

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520228511

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520228511.001.0001

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The Variety of Fertility Cultism in Amazonia: A Closer Look at Gender Symbolism in Northwestern Amazonia

The Variety of Fertility Cultism in Amazonia: A Closer Look at Gender Symbolism in Northwestern Amazonia

Chapter:
(p.45) Three The Variety of Fertility Cultism in Amazonia: A Closer Look at Gender Symbolism in Northwestern Amazonia
Source:
Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia
Author(s):

Jonathan D. Hill

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520228511.003.0003

This chapter examines the prevalence of male hierarchy and exclusiveness in terms of “marked” and “unmarked” fertility cults in Amazonia. Marked fertility cults are those in which male rituals exclude women; symbolically preempt their generative powers; and separate mothers from children. Unmarked cults conduct rituals that link children and mothers through the reproductive process and connect parents and children, men and women through symbolic vocabulary. The chapter demonstrates the complex interweavings of masculinity and femininity in the sacred rituals and intercommunity-exchange ceremonies. In male and female initiation rituals, the construction of metaphorical connectedness is projected outwardly into the external world of peoples, communities, species, and regions of the cosmos. Finally, the chapter suggests that the distinction between marked and unmarked fertility cultism is essentially a reflection of different processes of constructing male ritual hierarchies in contradistinction to everyday social relations characterized by relatively egalitarian relations between men and women.

Keywords:   fertility cultism, masculinity, femininity, Amazonia, social relations, ritual hierarchies

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