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Guardians of the Flutes, Volume 1: Idioms of Masculinity

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226327495
ISBN-10: 0226327493
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Guardians of the Flutes, Volume 1: Idioms of Masculinity
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Herdt, a Stanford anthropology professor, lived with the Sambia people of Papua New Guinea for two years, a tribe noted for its practice of forcing boys to engage in homosexuality. The author "makes interesting observations about gender identity, symbolism and perception," PW commented.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

This unique study of boy-inseminating rituals among the Sambia of New Guinea challenges our deepest assumptions about the role of culture in understanding homosexuality and gender-identity development.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 402 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (December 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226327493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226327495
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,023,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have not yet read this book, but I will be reading it in the coming semester for a college course.

I want to respond to the person below who believes that using a fake name for the tribe somehow implies that the author is lying. This is absolutely not the case. Readers must keep in mind that this book is an ethnography, and Herdt, the author, is an anthropologist. It is standard anthropological practice to disguise the names of groups and people involved in anthropological studies. Anonymity is extremely important in a study such as this one because it allows people to disclose potentially dangerous information without fear. The use of pseudonyms does not take away from the credibility of the work.
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Format: Paperback
...about this subject.

One reviewer whines "How Do We Know?" and thereby implies directly that the author is a liar, and made up everything reported in this book.

While that person may choose to remain in darkness, this book was very well received among professionals, who realized at once that it added more detail (a lot more detail) to the generally known facts about sexuality in New Guinea. In fact, there are many other tribes, reported in the literature, who practice the same system of sexuality -- with the perhaps interesting exception that the sexuality is not oral but via the posterior route.

As for disguising the name of the tribe, it seems to me that Herdt has really done something quite remarkable: he has protected his sources. There is no tribe called the "Sambia" in New Guinea, but there is the tribe which Herdt studied, and one of the key elements in their system of male sexuality is that it must be kept SECRET.

In this, I must confess that by the age of 60 I have seen this sort of behavior all over the world: men can have all the sex they want together, but it is imperative not to scare the horses. DON'T let the women know.

If Herdt had published his book with the tribe's real name, he would have blown their cover. I congratulate him for not doing so.

As for what the Sambia are up to, I would suggest reading the book, and not counting on a book review to fill you in on all the details. But as a very high-level view, the Sambia have a superstitious belief that a young boy's development into a full-fledged male is a highly doubtful procedure -- not guaranteed by the spirits or the gods. So they practice "boy invigoration," which entails the young boy receiving regular doses of masculinity.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book promises a fascinating insight to a rare Papuan tribe...........ts not an easy read..........a lot of illuminating footnotes.........amazing dedication to very serous research by the author.No regrets about buying it but be prepared for a heavy read.
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Format: Paperback
Homosexual behavior is illegal in Papua New Guinea and especially if the younger partner is less than 17 years old. That of course means that all of the sexual behavior reported in this book was illegal. This is presumably why Herdt disguised the identity of the tribe. He didn't want to set the men up for arrest. Several reviewers have justified this by saying that it is standard anthropological practice to protect the sources. But it seems to me that here we have a blatant double standard. The Catholic church has practiced extensive coverups with regard to priests having sex with boys. The officials at Penn State did the same thing with Sandusky. This has provoked universal outrage. How are anthropologists exempt from having to report such behavior? Who has exempted them?
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