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The spirit and the flesh : sexual diversity in American Indian culture /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Beacon Press, 1986
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SUMMARY

Winner of the: Gay Book of the Year Award, American Library Association Ruth Benedict Award, Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists Award for Outstanding Scholarship, World Congress for Sexology"An extraordinary perceptive study of the berdache and the most comprehensive treatment of this controversial topic to date."--American Historical Review


Review by Choice Review

In this readable book, Williams thoroughly reviews all available data on the role of the berdache in traditional and contemporary North American Indian societies. Drawing upon his fieldwork, Williams argues convincingly that the berdache were an accepted third gender in which males-usually around puberty-developed an androgynous personality, a mixed-gender work role, as well as engaging in homosexual activities. Berdacne played valuable spiritual and shamanistic functions in many Indian societies, a role that still continues despite suppression by governmental officials and missionaries. Williams attributes the prevalence of the berache to the overall flexibility of gender roles and the value placed upon individual choices in Indian societies. Valuable information is provided on the current position of the berdache on reservations and in urban areas as well as the cultural interchange between the American gay movement and the Indian community. Data regarding the diversity of male/male relationships worldwide are reviewed. Clearly, men relate to other men in a variety of ways, and the rigid Western division between heterosexual and homosexual relationships is not shared by all societies. The Spirit and the Flesh is probably the most thorough study of sexual diversity in non-Western societies yet published and is a must for those interested in gender roles cross-culturally. Excellent bibliography. Recommended for college and university students.-K.M. Weist, University of Montana

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

This is the first complete study of the American Indian berdache, androgynous men prevalent among some of the Plains tribes who did not conform to the primarily heterosexual image associated with Indians. The book contains three parts, the first two of which explore in detail this notion of the berdache as a variant to the norm in native American culture. Williams describes the history and character of these men and explores the ways in which the berdache tradition changed after European contact. He notes, for example, that the often warlike berdache were not outcasts, but were held in reverence by their fellow Indians. The last section tries to discuss female gender variance in comparative terms and attempts to draw wide-ranging conclusions about Western culture and the place of gay men and women within it. This broad-based theorizing seems out of place in what is otherwise a straightforward ethnographical study of a specific subject. Before Williams succumbs to illusions of grandeur, however, his thought-provoking study lays claim to important new ground in native American studies. Notes and bibliography; to be indexed. JJ. 306.7'66 Indians of North America Sexual behavior / Homosexuality, Male North America / Sex roles North America [OCLC] 86-47505

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.

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