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Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations Paperback – October 7, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1577660743 ISBN-10: 1577660749 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 127 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc (October 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577660749
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577660743
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Titles of related interest from Waveland Press: Mascia-Lees, Gender and Difference in a Globalizing World: Twenty-first-Century Anthropology (ISBN 9781577665984) and Mascia-Lees-Black, Gender and Anthropology (ISBN 9781577660668).

From the Inside Flap

"Precisely because of its wide-range, detail and clarity the value of Gender Diversity extends beyond its target student audience and is an essential reference book for anyone interested in questions of sexual difference, personhood and globalisation." -- The Australian Journal of Anthropology (Vol. 13, No. 1)

Customer Reviews

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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By K. T. on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this lean book, Serena Nanda uses ethnographic accounts to illustrate how diverse cultures construct their sex/gender systems. By doing so, she reveals that these systems are not always binary; male and female, man and woman. Her descriptions of masculinity and femininity in India, Brazil, Polynesia, Thailand, the Philippines, within some Native American tribes and in contemporary Euro-American cultures challenge what some believe is "natural" about gender and, by extension, sexuality. By presenting gender variations historically and as they are currently understood and displayed, Nanda reveals the social, historical and cultural forces that have created changes in these sex/gender systems.
This engaging book has eight short chapters. The introductory chapter lays the foundation for Nanda's argument by defining key terms (e.g., gender diversity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, transgendered, sex/gender identity, etc.) with which readers must be familiar to understand gender variation. Chapters 1 through 5 provide ethnographic accounts of multiple genders among North American Indians, the hijra and sadhin of India, the travestís, bichas, and viados of Brazil, the mahu in Polynesia, the kathoey of Thailand and the bayot/bantut/bakla in the Philippines. What some readers will find most interesting and provocative are accounts of how contact with Western cultures influenced existing gender constructs in these cultures. For example, North American Indian men who dressed like women, did "women's work" and were sexually intimate with other men were called "berdache" (an Arabic term for a male prostitute) and demeaned by early Spanish explorers on religious grounds.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Burns on June 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
A masterful, highly readable survey of an important and fascinating subject. This indispensable, seminal work is concise, but far-reaching. It describes the varied manifestations of gender diversity in a way that permits the reader to perceive the patterns and deeper meanings that underlie cultural differences. This may be the first cross-cultural survey of gender diversity to describe "the trees" in such a balanced and objective way that the reader may see and understand "the forest." Anyone interested in the deeper, changeable nature of human sexuality will find this book to be both provocative and illuminating. A wonderful expansion of the author's classic study of the hijras of India, Neither Man Nor Woman.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on March 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Serena Nanda's short book (only about 100 pages) is an excellent introduction to the subject of "gender diversity". We get to know "berdaches" among North American Indians, a caste of emasculated transvestites in India, effeminate male transvestites and macho gay men in Thailand, and celibate women living like men in Albania. There are also chapters on the Philippines, Polynesia and the contemporary West. The section on the Western world is the shortest one, presumably to emphasize that "gender variants" aren't uniquely Western or modern. There are a few illustrations, including a photo of a transvestite Crow Indian warrior named Finds Them And Kills Them. The book ends with a bibliography and a list of movies about gender variants. I suspect Serena Nanda's intended audience are freshmen anthropology students, but "Gender Diversity" could be read by the general reader as well.

However, I also have some criticism of this book. Nanda claims that gender diversity proves that binary thinking (male/female) isn't universal. I beg to disagree. Most of the gender variants described in her book presuppose an already established binary opposition between "male" and "female". Why else would the most common gender variant be a male wearing women's clothing? Why are such persons expected to do traditional women's work? Why do they establish sexual relations with other men, who don't cross-dress and hence act as typical males? Obviously because the whole point of the gender variants is to reinforce the dichotomy between "male" and "female" identities. Indeed, the transvestites described in the book don't look like a "third" sex or gender, despite Nanda's analysis. Rather, they simply look like a combination of the two main genders, men and women.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bonam Pak on June 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
I read the original 2000 edition. It is an introductory booklet on gender studies and quite a good one at that. Even though or maybe exactly because it features just 108 regular text pages, including 14 monochrome pictures. Intended for mainly college students (but readable for anyone), it features seven additional reference pages for more in-depth material + 11 documentary references.

The booklet itself introduces gender concepts in Native North America, India, Brazil, Polynesia, Thailand, the Philippines and in Euro-American cultures. The last of which include the sworn virgins of Albania, which I personally had never heard of before. For an entire book on the latter read the very recommendable Women Who Become Men: Albanian Sworn Virgins (Dress, Body, Culture). Like many anthropological books, "Gender Diversity" is written with a Western mindset. Which might be important in setting the standard against which other societies' gender concepts are measured. However, the author invites the reader to question those Western constructs. It provides for a fast, easy, informative and thoughtprovoking reading. Not intended to stop with it, but instead to open further doors. Some of these doors may be the following books: Vested Interests: Cross-dressing and Cultural Anxiety,
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More About the Author

Serena Nanda is professor emeritus of anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Her most recent book is "The Gift of a Bride: A Tale of Anthropology, Matrimony and Murder",a novel set in an Indian immigrant community in New York City. Her other published works include CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY, 10th Edition; CULTURE COUNTS: A CONCISE INTRODUCTION TO CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY; NEITHER MAN NOR WOMAN: THE HIJRAS OF INDIA, winner of the 1990 Ruth Benedict Prize; AMERICAN CULTURAL PLURALISM AND LAW; and GENDER DIVERSITY: CROSS-CULTURAL VARIATIONS. She also authored NEW YORK MORE THAN EVER: 40 PERFECT DAYS IN AND AROUND THE CITY. She always has been captivated by the stories people tell and by the tapestry of human diversity. Anthropology has been the perfect way for her to immerse herself in these passions, and through teaching, to spread the word about the importance of understanding human similarities and differences.

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