Anthropology Projects Ripped from the Headlines

3 January 2008 at 22:21 Leave a comment

The New York Times recently published two articles on gender and sexuality, both of which cry out for further ethnographic elaboration.

In the first article, Choe Sang-Hun reports on how the growth in economic opportunities for women along with government-sponsored public awareness campaigns have helped stem the centuries-old South Korean preference for male children. It would be interesting to see what anthropologists could reveal about the changes in attitudes and family life that contributed to and resulted from these changes.

The changes in South Korea also beg the question of what will happen in China and India where similar preferences for boy babies are resulting in increasing gender imbalances. So far it seems that a lot of the attention paid to this issue has focused on the potential for increased violence when the surplus young men come of age. There will no doubt be a raft of other less sensational social and cultural changes as well. (via Broadsheet)

Then this week Nicholas Kulish reported from Berlin on gay and lesbian Muslims. Part of the anti-Muslim backlash in Europe has been based on the accusation that these immigrants don’t share the tolerant values of their new homelands — a thinly veiled (and, albeit, sometimes justified) accusation of religiously based sexism and homophobia, which renders gay and lesbian Muslims invisible. Fatma Souad, a transgender performer originally from Turkey sums up the perils of a doubly stigmatized identity: “Depending on which part of Berlin I go to, in one I get punched in the mouth because I’m a foreigner and in the other because I’m a queen.”

Of course, anthropologists interested in the intersections of sexuality and ethnicity/religion don’t need to go to Berlin to do fieldwork. Back when I lived in New York, Irish gays and lesbians fought a long and bitter battle with the main Irish fraternal organization over inclusion in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade — a dispute that centered on the role Catholicism should play in defining Irishness.

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Entry filed under: Anthropology, Politics. Tags: , , , .

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