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Gender And Sociality In Amazonia

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Autor:  anton  04 April 2011
Tags:  Gender,  Sociality,  Amazonia
Words: 1211   |   Pages: 5
Views: 391

Gender and Sociality in Amazonia

The culture of the Cashinahua was studied by Cecilia McCallum in an

attempt to understand the creation of gender and the effects of sociality in

their amazonian culture. She more specifically studied the physical and

symbolic creation of gender within the Cashinahua's culture. McCallum's

personal insight allows readers to have a more indepth look at the

Cashinahua culture which enables one to have a better understanding on

how it compares to the considerably modern western culture.This

information is essential to our class discussions because it gives a more

complete insight into a culture instead of the less explanative versions we

often tend to read in our daily class readings.

McCallum discussed in Gender and Sociality in Amazonia the

physical making of persons. She used the metaphor of cooking for the

birthing process. It is a good way of explaining how the Cashinahua

percieve the process of forming a child. The creation of a child or ba va

according to the Cashinahua occurs due to repeated intercourse. This

theory is quite similar to western culture since we know it occurs due to

repeated intercourse without the use of birth control. What is quite unique

about the Cashinahua is that they have interesting concepts on what a child

is made of, believing that semen, or male blood as it is referred

to and

actual blood make up a baby. Western cultures have of course the biology

to prove the semen and the egg theory for making a child. The Cashinahua

also believe that any man who makes repeated love to a woman while she

is pregnant will be the father of the child even if he is not the biological

one. This could be seen as similar to the process of adoption in

westernized cultures, though a parent may not be a biological one the child

is raised by parents as if it was their own.

Another physical aspect of Cashinahua culture that deals with the

physical creation of physical beings is food. Since "Food, like sex, both

make and unmakes bodies." (McCallum, 17) The Cashinahua believe that

men should drink caissuma, a drink made from corn and peanuts if he

wants to produce healthy children. This could be seen similar to the diets

which many couples trying to have a child go on before pregnancy. It is

also similar to the diets and vitamins pregnant women go on in order to

ensure a healthy pregnancy and child birth. The birth of a child is also

unique in the Cashinahua culture in that a woman delivers her child either

stands or squats in a hammock while her husband supports her. A mother

or close female friend also tends to aid in the delivery. As well as "no man

other than the father can see the genitals of the mother or the blood."

(McCallum, 19) These beliefs are similar to western culture in that a

woman's husband normally helps during the delivery process through

coaching. The use of a woman to help with the birthing process can also

be seen with the slow reappearance of midwivery in the United States.

Another similarity can be seen in the trend of women to walk around

between contractions as a way to use gravity to move along the birthing

process. Differences in the birthing between western women and the

Cashinahua is evident with the fact that many western women have male

doctors delivering their infants in hospitals unlike the home births that the

Cashinahua have. The physical aspects while differ between the

Westernized culture of the United States and the Amazonian culture of the

Cashinahua, one can see that there are still quite a few similiarities. Where

the most similarities are encountered is essentially in the symbolic creation

of beings.

The Cashinahua believe that a new born child should receive

its 'true

name' within the first week of birth.(McCallum, 21) True names are limited

and tend to be passed down from generation to generation. Names tend

to be the mother's mother for a female child and the father's father for a

boy. This name may only be used by the child's parents, siblings, and co-

resident grandparents for the first few months, after a certain point only a

child's parents and later spouse may call the child this name without

causing offense. (McCallum, 22) During the beginning of a child's life it's

name must be used often in order for the child to exist as a being. Once

their existence

is established after a few months, the child is referred


an alternate name. This is quite similar to western cultures since many

children have full names and abbreviations of their names which they are

preferably called. For example a boy named Joseph may want to be

called Joe or Joey. His family may also be the only ones who refer to him

by his full name. There is no doubt that a child exists without having their

name repeatedly used, though it is used a lot

so the child may know what to

respond to. Names also are not exclusively private such as the

Cashinahua's. Many religions however do perform a type of ritual to name

the child which could be seen as similar to the Cashinahua's naming.

Another aspect of symbolic creation of gender can be seen in the

social relationships. This can first be seen in how male children will

typically be looked after by their mother's father and female children are

looked after by their maternal grandmother.(McCallum, 22) The fact that

the females tend to have closer relationships could be in relation to

gender roles. This is quite often seen in the United States and other

western cultures, since women are typically close to their mothers and it is

almost essential in many aspects of culture. While for men it is seen

essential to distance themselves from their family. Cashinahua social

relationships, according to McCallum are typically learned through kinship.

It can be seen in the verbal relations kinships tend to have with each other.

Also genderization can be seen as in siblings sharing a mosquito tent until

they become sexually mature. Then males are given their own tents and

females stay with the younger siblings until marriage. (McCallum 33) This

different in western culture since it is quite taboo for a male and female

sibling to share a room. It is, however more acceptable for females to live

with parents until marriage than males, whom are expected to go out on

their own. According to McCallum, Women are also associated with the

inside, while men the outside. This is similar to the United States in the fact

that women are typically associated with being homemakers, while men

are typically the ones who work outside the home. Though it is changing

slowly the generalization is still mostly reality.

Gender is quite evident in the making of persons physically and

symbolic. The Cashinhua and Western U.S. Culture have many similar

things in relation to each other with both physical and symbolic ways.

There are slight differences but it all can depend on the approach one

takes. Though these readings it is possible to have a better understanding

of the Cashinahua culture in relation to that of the United States.

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