Anthropology is the social science that used to study non-western cultures. In its beginnings, it mostly surveyed "primitive tribes" that were largely untouched by colonial cultures, and later also started to explore larger social entities that had been in contact with other cultures for longer periods of time. Its focus was on the social, economic, and cultural forms of small groups. Kinship and marriage formed the basis of analysis, with themes such as exchange of women, incest, and the definition of family. Because of its focus on face-to-face associations, it could not come as a surprise that also same-sex relations came to the attention of anthropologists. But because of the scholarly marginalization of homosexuality in the Occident, it never became a central topic of interest.
Since some decades, anthropologists have started to do research in western, and sociologists who traditionally worked exclusively in the western world, in non-western cultures. This put an end to the main difference of both disciplines, although some scholars continue to see a distinction because of methodology. In their opinion, anthropology is a kind of micro-sociology that focuses on small groups and intimate relations and has developed its own methods, for example participant observation. As many sociologists have the same focus and use similar methods, I understand the continuing split of anthropology and sociology as a historical difference that is best explained by the traditional dichotomy of western and non-western, but has become outdated in a globalizing world.
The split of western and non-western was also political and ideological: western anthropologists researched non-western cultures while the opposite never happened in the past. The term "western" had in those times a series of meanings like "scientific", "objective", "advanced", while "non-western" carried the opposite meanings of "religious" or "superstitious", "subjective", "primitive" and so forth. This dichotomy has been contested by non-western anthropologists while western anthropologists have become very critical of this heritage.
For this reader, I concentrate none the less on non-western forms of male and female homosexuality as this article discusses the historical development of anthropology and should not cross over with other articles in this collection. Thus, western forms will be covered marginally. The academic particularity of anthropology can only be explained by its historical development and has little meaning any more in the contemporary situation where sociology, anthropology, geography and history permanently intertwine and where a patchwork of cultural forms has come into existence that can be better explained with other concepts such as multicultural or multisexual than the dichotomy of western and non-western. After a historical introduction, I will discuss some major topics in contemporary anthropology and end with some perspectives for future research.
Ethnology: the first ruffles
The early work in anthropology was done from the armchair. The first serious anthropologists heavily relied on the reports on "exotic" cultures by seamen, missionaries, and traders. These accounts remained strongly biased by the prejudices of the authors, certainly when they related to (homo)sexual practices and relations. It is common to find such terminology as "the unmentionable vice", "the terrible sin of sodomy" or "the men are addicted to the practice of pederasty". But based on these narratives, some armchair anthropologists like Ferdinand Karsch-Haack (1911) and Edward Carpenter (1914) wrote in an apologetic tone about same-sex loves and practices within the scholarly ideas of their time. They showed that homosexual men in other cultures existed, and often were, according to their accounts, as they were supposed to be in the Occident, third sexers or sexual intermediaries between male and female. According to them, homosexuality was an innate sexual inclination. Carpenter (1914:172), for instance, concluded: "The intermediate types of human being created intermediate spheres of social life and work", interestingly suggesting that social differentiation resulted from sexual differentiation. Sex rarely got such a central position in the work of other anthropologists.
This early work played an important role in Western homosexual apologies. That other cultures allowed more space for same-sex pleasures, and sometimes gave it a central place, countered the homophobic idea that homosexuality did not exist among "natural peoples" and, where it did, should be understood as a result of decadence and decline. It also fortified the argument that gay men and lesbians should not face discrimination "at home".
The focus in these earlier reports is on public manifestations that were assumed to be homosexual, such as cross-dressing, men or women showing tenderness for persons of the same sex, and homosocial institutions with uncertain sexual contents as women's marriages and male initiation rites. Sexual acts might have been implicated in such observations, but were rarely discussed. This situation continues to the present in most research. Anthropologists had and still have great difficulty in going beyond visible traces of same-sex desires and in exploring the details of same-sex practices. They framed public intimacies between same-sex partners or cross-dressing as a sign of homosexuality, while the absence of such public markers led them to believe there was no homosexuality. This could of course be very erroneous as transgendered behavior or public display of same-sex intimacies did not have to result in homosexual practices that could be common in cultures where such signs were absent. As the private practices and feelings in the explored cultures remained in most cases invisible for the researchers, the available data on homosexuality are quite unreliable. In some cases, anthropologists will also have hidden the knowledge they had because such data were classified as non-objective or obscene or because they feared that such information made their subjective feelings translucent. Nevertheless, some very few passionate or intricate stories of same-sex desires have been handed down by anthropologists (for a sad example about the lonely death of a pederast, see Clastres, 1973:273-309).
Ethnography: the early fieldwork
In the twenties of this century, anthropologists like Bronislaw Malinowski and Margaret Mead left the armchair and started to spend long periods in the cultures under scrunity and to investigate themselves the habits and representations of tribal cultures. These anthropologists discovered that there are many forms of same-sex behavior that could deviate widely from accepted Western ideas and practices. The transgendered behavior of the Native American "berdache" and the promiscuous practices in Melanesian men's houses posed problems of interpretation. Often, the analysis of same-sex relations got lost in cultural contexts and explanations. So, Van Baal (1966) who started his research on the Papuan Marind-Anim in the thirties, submerged orgiastic same-sex practices in an extended description of their religious cosmogeny. Anthropologists who abhorred the "filthiness" of extended narratives of same-sex affiliations, circumvened them by replacing the focus on something else and by hurrying to explanations that were always found outside the sexual system, and would never find explanations in same-sex systems.
The strange sexual habits of foreign cultures may have been loathed, but some occidentals took a more positive position, understanding such forms as local manifestations of a universal homosexual desire. According to Devereux (1937), berdaches were the distinct way of Native North-American cultures to cultivate innate qualities. Many other cultures knew so-called institutionalized forms of homosexuality or acceptable roles for homosexuals, which were local expressions of a global desire.
As a sequence to Kinsey's sex survey of white Americans, Ford and Beach (1951) undertook a sex survey of the world's cultures. In the phraseology of the period, they came to the conclusion that studies on homosexual behavior "suggest that a biological tendency for inversion of sexual behavior is inherent in most if not all mammals including the human species". With regard to human homosexuality, they found that the male form was widespread. It was unknown, rare or repressed in only 28 out of the 76 sampled societies. In 17 societies, female homosexuality was known and accepted. For both sexes, it was more common in adolescence than in adulthood. Repression of homosexuality was thus much less general than was assumed from a western perspective. Such statistics, based on second hand reporting, are of course highly questionable both in their essentialism and their suggestion of certainty while use has been made of unreliable data. Very disquieting also was the almost total absence of research on female homosexuality.
After Kinsey and Ford and Beach, the social sciences kept largely silent not only about homosexuality, but even about sexuality. Leading anthropologists did not even include homosexual material they had gathered during their fieldwork in their major monographs, but published it much later, after the "sexual revolution" in separate publications (Evans-Pritchard, 1970, Van Lier, 1986). During the 1950s and 1960s, only one article by Mead (1961) on the anthropology of sexuality stands out.
Gay studies in the house of modern anthropology
When gay and lesbian studies emerged in the seventies, anthropology was at first, together with political sciences, the social science that was least touched by this innovation. Anthropologists who worked on gay and lesbian topics like Newton (1972) addressed themselves to subcultures in the western world or to the "berdache" of the Native North-American tribes (Callender and Kochems, 1983; Williams, 1986; Roscoe, 1991, 1998). They applied anthropological methods of participant observation, not often applied in sociology, on western cultures. A few sociologists, however, did the same (Humphreys, 1970; Goode and Troiden, 1974; Delph, 1978). Anthropologist Rubin (1975) came with an influential statement about the basic importance of sex and gender for cultural and political analysis while she herself researched the leather scene in San Francisco (Rubin, 1991). The first to explore the non-Western world concentrating on sex was Herdt (1981; 1987). He worked on male initiation and "boy inseminating rituals" in New Guinea, which was long a secret topic in Melanesian anthropology (Wirz, 1922; F.E.Williams, 1936; van Baal, 1966) but homosexual practices were never before discussed in such detail. The sophistication of ethnographic work has quickly been developing since then. Whereas Herdt (1984) earlier discussed the initiation rituals as "ritualized homosexuality", still suggesting a clear link with western concepts of same-sex desire, the term of "boy inseminating rituals" in his later work (Herdt 1994a:30) breaks off this link, and makes same-sex acts and desires culture-bound.
The most important result of recent anthropology has been the confirmation of a wide diversity of same-sex pleasures, behaviours and courtship rituals (see however Whitam, 1986; and Wieringa, 1989 who see little cultural variety). Notwithstanding diversity, some major cultural patterns have been recognized. The three most significant are gender and age structured forms and egalitarian homosexuality (see Trumbach, 1977; Greenberg, 1988 and Hekma, 1988).
Gender structured forms
In gender structured same-sex behaviours and pleasures, one of the partners takes the role of the other gender (Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, 1984). They disturb the clear dichotomy of male and female and add alternative gender positions to both widely recognized genders. So the hijra in India (Nanda, 1990) and the berdache in North-America who have been born with a male defined body, take a female role and might have sexual relations with a man with a male gender. In some cases, as with the hijra, castration can be part of the gender-change. Reports on women taking male roles have been more scarce, but exist both for the Native North-Americans (by Williams, 1986 labelled amazones) and for sub-saharan cultures where women's marriages have been quite common (Tietmeyer, 1985; Amadiune, 1987). In these cases it is often unclear to what extent relations are sexual. For the hijra's the case is quite clear because they prostitute themselves, but for the berdaches, the amazones and the women's marriages the sexual content of relations is uncertain because of lack of reliable research. Of course, sex and gender are no more than sexuality static categories, and terms as "position" and "performance" underline its variable locations and vocations.
Gender reversals can have different backgrounds and positions. Third genders fullfilled as priests or shamans religious and medical functions or were particularly apt in certain crafts. Women's marriages secured in patrilinear societies continuation of families that had no male offspring. The importance of same-sex interests in opting for a third gender role remains unclear. In most cases however third genders entertained sexual relations with members of the same sex and the opposite gender while there are no reports they had sex among themselves.
Existing gender dichomoties are broken down by gender blending and bending. Even the gender reversal of post-operative male-to-female transsexuals will always, but in different degrees differ from women's position because they underwent a male socialization and notwithstanding all operations none of them has the reproductive capacities most women have. As female-to-male transsexuals, they will occupy not an existing, but a new gender position. The same pertains to hijra's, berdaches, eunuchs and all other intermediary genders that have been labelled third sex or third gender. Herdt used this terminology to indicate a wide variety of gender positions and cited Georg Simmel to explain why he used "third" in stead of "myriad": "The appearance of the third party indicates transition, conciliation, and abandonment of absolute contrast" (Herdt, 1994b: 19). The difference with earlier uses of this terminology, as by Magnus Hirschfeld (1914), is its cultural or constructionist, and not biological or essentialist perspective. Gender is not an innate condition, but a cultural position (see also Ramet, 1996).
Age structured forms
Age structured same-sex behaviours and pleasures are relations between persons of the same gender but of different age. The prime examples are ancient Greek pederasty and the boy inseminating rituals of the Melanesians. But such relations have also been reported for other parts of the world, as Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Africa, and the Arabic world (Leupp, 1995 for Japan; Evans-Pritchard, 1970, for the Azande in the Sudan; Baldauf, 1988 for Afghanistan; Rahman, 1989 for Pakistan). For women, reports have again been much more scarce. The most interesting research has been by Gloria Wekker (1994) for Paramaribo, Surinam. She found among lower-class Creole women age-structured "mati"-relations of older women who in most cases had been married and begotten children, with younger women. As in the male cases, these relations are also a form of sexual and social initiation. The ages of both partners in such relations vary widely. In Herdt's (1981; 1987) example of the Sambia, pre-pubescent boys between 6 and 12 years are inseminated by post-pubescent adolescents, while the younger partners in mati relations will be between 14 and 30 years of age (compare Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, 1980). The Sambian boy inseminations were considered to be essential for becoming a man: without sperm donations, boys would not be able to produce sperm themselves. In different Melanesian cultures, different sexual acts were standard: oral and anal penetration as well as the rubbing of sperm on the skin could transmit the masculine essence. For the Greek male elite, intercrural sex was the norm (Dover, 1978:98).
The most important example of egalitarian relations without gender or age differences are to be found among contemporary gay and lesbian relations. They rarely know large age differences or clear gender divisions, in any case not according to the ideology of gay and lesbian movements. Sexual roles (passive-active, insertive-insertee) are in general interchangeable as was often not the case with the age- and gender-structured forms. For many gay and lesbian couples, a sharp dichotomy of male and female roles has little relevance anymore neither in public nor in private except for reasons of style or play (butch-femme, s/m). For the pre-1900 period equal same-sex relations are reported rarely, except for homoerotic friendships or romantic loves of which the sexual content has been uncertain in most cases (compare Smith-Rosenberg 1975). Equality in sexual relations is nowadays considered to be the rule, but it was not in most cultures before 1900 when gender, age, class, ethnicity made a difference and inequalities generated sexual desire. The finding of Boswell (1994) of same-sex unions between equals in the early Christian church may have been an exception to this rule, but it was probably more marginal than he assumed.
Greenberg (1988) added to these three forms a fourth, a class-structured one, that depends on social inequality. This, however, is not a very convincing form as it involves a wide diversity of sometimes quite contradictory subforms. In slave societies it meant that slaves were available for their masters, and in European class societies it took most often the form of well-to-do persons having sex with servants. But whereas in most slave societies it must have been quite impossible for the male master to reverse roles (to be penetrated), in European class societies such role inversion seems to have been the rule. The three first forms discussed above seem to be by far the most important and coherent, though alongside these forms we should clearly recognize the importance and specifics of sexual relations between persons of different class, religion, ethnicity and so forth.
Identifying such general patterns should not hide the fact that apparently comparable forms will still be very dissimilar. Modern paedophilia is very different in social and psychological status and in ubiquity from Greek pederasty. Meanings attributed to it, social contexts and historic backgrounds are in most cases so dissimilar that comparisons have limited value. Moreover, social forms will not always be adopted in the same way by individuals. There is always some space for individuals to develop personal patterns within cultural forms. Anthropology has focused strongly on social forms, and seldom on individual expressions of cultural rules. This could be a theme for further work in this field (compare Herdt and Stoller, 1990; Hekma, 1994).
The most surprising result of the division of same-sex ambitions into a series of forms is the nearly complete absence of egalitarian same-sex relations before the twentieth century. It might have been expected that the dominant western form of today should have been much more often observed in other cultures as humans in general best recognize what they already know. In a similar vein, but with an opposite result, anthropologists have rarely found love in our sense in other cultures, because love was not very common in marital relations where anthropologists looked for it, but precisely in other relations between kin, friends, or elsewhere. Their occidental perspective made them look in the wrong direction (Jankowiak, 1994). It seems that egalitarian homosexual relations were largely absent elsewhere and earlier because egalitarian sexual relations were nowhere and never the norm. Of course, some people will have formed such bonds beyond the hegemonic models of their culture.
The contemporary situation
Although queer studies in anthropology is nowadays lagging behind work in other fields, such as history and literature, important work has been done (see Ortner and Whitehead, 1981; Blackwood, 1986 and Caplan, 1987 for overviews). The results are quite uneven in terms of cultural space and topics. The work of Herdt (1981; 1984; 1987) has made the sexual lives of a very small population, the Papua Sambia, well known far beyond anthropology. The work of Williams (1986) and Roscoe (1991, 1998) has contributed clearly to knowledge of the "berdache" (third gender) among the Native North-Americans (compare Herdt, 1994b). Thanks to Fry (1986), Trevisan (1986), Parker (1991), Mendès-Leite (1993) and others Brazil's sexual culture is well researched while the dichotomy of macho and maricone of Spanish-speaking America is being put on the map (Carrier, 1995; Murray, 1995; Lumsden, 1996; Prieur 1997). But the Islamic world (Schmitt and Sofer, 1992; Murray and Roscoe, 1997; Bouhdiba, 1975), sub-saharan Africa and major parts of Asia as China or India remain largely untrodden fields (see Nanda, 1990 for Indian third genders; Jackson, 1995 for Thailand; for histories of Chinese and Japanese homosexuality, Hinsch, 1990 and Leupp, 1995). Murray (1992) edited a book on "oceanic homosexualities" surveying the world from Malagasy to Siberia while Manderson and Jolly (1997) covered Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The presence of vast populations of non-western descent in the west has not given much stimulation to inquiries into their sexual behaviours and desires. Greenberg (1988) and Blackwood (1986a) have given good summaries of the available research results for male and female homosexuality, respectively, and Weston (1993) for both. Through Aids-related research more information has come in on same-sex behaviours from different parts of the world, but because of cultural, technical and political problems with data-gathering, this information is not always reliable (e.g. Tielman et al., 1991; Herdt and Lindebaum, 1992; Parker and Gagnon, 1995; Brummelhuis and Herdt, 1995; McKenna, 1996; Herdt, 1997).
In other chapters, the western urban ethnography will be discussed. Examples of this work can be found in Goode and Troiden (1974), Levine (1979) and Herdt (1992). Some anthropologists have taken up research on sexual subcultures as gay bars (Read, 1980), drag shows (Newton, 1972), the leather world (Rubin, 1991), bathhouses or dark rooms (Mendes-Leite and De Busscher, 1995; Henriksson, 1995; Bolton c.s. 1994) as topics of urban ethnography. This research has been innovative because it provided detailed information about cruising and sexual behavior that was largely missing in most social science research. Seen the growing variety of sexual worlds, this is a very promising direction of research.
Once again, it has to be said that anthropological research on lesbianism remains very underdeveloped compared to male homosexuality. Blackwood (1986a) has suggested to take a closer look at those places where we might expect to find lesbian loves and desires. We might assume women sequestered inside houses, and especially in polygynous households, to have emotional and erotic relations among themselves. Homosocial situations and spaces, such as girls' initiations, sisterhoods, colleges, dormitories, worlds of prostitution or industries dependent on female labour are places to research. In the collection Blackwood (1986) edited, Sankar discussed a marriage-resisting sisterhood in turn-of-the-century Hong Kong, and Gay "mummy-baby" relations among adolescent girls in Lesotho. Tietmeyer (1985) and Amadiune (1987) examined women's marriages whose aim it often was to insure patrilinear descent in the absence of male offspring, but that might have incorporated lesbian loves, and that nowadays can be used as models for support of women among women and for lesbianism.
Mati-relations among Surinamese women are the best researched topic of non-western lesbianism today. Van Lier (1986) decribed them in detail as they existed in the late forties, and explained them as a result of socio-economic conditions, particularly the absence of males, and of matrifocal families where oedipal conflicts could not be resolved, which thus were assumed to promote lesbian desires. Gloria Wekker (1994), in contrast, strongly stressed the importance of the black-African cultural heritage for lower-class women. Marie-José Janssens and Wilhelmina van Wetering (1985) have examined the continuation of the Surinamese mati-tradition in Amsterdam where many Surinamese settled after the country's independence from the Netherlands, and its difference from modern lesbianism.
There is no need any more for an anthropology that explains the naturalness and universality of homosexuality. A common thread in discussions within gay and lesbian studies of western versus non-western attitudes is nowadays that modern homosexuality is a social construction of recent origin, a product of the western world, and, according to many people in the non-western world, that it is an unrequested and unwanted import, foreign to their own culture. In non-western countries where sex tourism resulted in sexual exploitation of boys and young men by occidentals, as it did for girls and women, anti-homosexual and anti-western sentiments created a strong and poisonous mixture. In those countries, legislation "to save our children" from sexual abuse (quite a western argument) is being promoted. Social constructionism with its position that homosexuality is a recent and western invention, strengthened the argument that it does not exist outside the western world, or only in very different forms.
Both positions, the modern one that "exotic" cultures knew more homosexual freedoms than the western world, and the social-constructionist one that holds with some nuances that homosexuality is a modern western invention (Weeks, 1977:4), need to be bent. Sexual freedom as an all-encompassing norm will never exist anywhere because sexuality as a social form will always know certain boundaries. Access to sexual possibilities has been socially limited and depended on gender, age, class or other social denominators in all cultures and periods. Adult men have rarely been allowed the more passive stances in sex, and women the more active ones. Even if the possibility existed to take such gender-deviant positions, doing so was rarely well respected. Some contemporary western cultures may be considered to have reached the pinnacle of adult sexual freedoms ever experienced because of the great variety of sexual possibilities that exist today. Age structured relations that were widespread in other cultures, are a remarkable exception. On the other hand, and countering more extreme constructionist positions, same-sex behaviours and lusts have probably been universal in human cultures, which does not mean that western concepts of sexual identity, coupling, desire, emancipation and so forth are applicable to those behaviours and pleasures. Nowadays, gay and lesbian identities are coming into existence all over the world, some might say because of globalization, others will say because of deep desires or local developments.
The important contribution anthropology nowadays makes to research on homosexuality lies in its focus on representations and social contexts. Definitions of same-sex interests depend strongly on local knowledge. Similar acts may have different meanings in different contexts. In western cultures, two men kissing in an urban center might be gay, but two men doing the same on a sportsfield, do so because they scored a goal and the assumption that they might be gay, is outrageous to themselves and their public. Interpretation depends on meanings attributed to certain acts, and these meanings vary widely according to performer, place and time within and between cultures. Interpretations of anthropologists are added meanings, and not superior or definitive ones, and may be incomprehensible to the people being surveyed. The task of contemporary anthropologists is to transcribe and explain as best as they can the relevant acts, their meanings and their contexts. Definitions of homosexuality will consequently be either situational, dependent on local knowledge, or dependent on the relevant research questions.
Some recent questions from anthropology are of great interest for gay and lesbian studies. Herdt (1994a) has taken up the theme of desire. If we consider homosexuality to be a historical and cultural result, desire should certainly not escape relativist thinking. Herdt has asked, but not yet clearly answered, the broad question of how to think desire outside the scientific models that reflect western, but not other social realities. Important is also the question of sexual socialization: how do children learn about sexual habits and meanings in their culture, and how do they handle these?
The work of Herdt has been important for the very simple reason that he has used one of the very last opportunities to study a native culture largely untouched by a major other culture. All cultural forms as they exist at present are a result of mutual influences. Syncretism is the rule of contemporary cultures. Processes of globalization have touched all of them. This is very clear in the case of gay culture, though less so for lesbian culture (see however Wieringa, 1989). Gay bar life is becoming everywhere quite similar, and also the gay habitus. A gay man from Asia can easily recognize many signs and habits of gay men in New York, Amsterdam or Mykonos. A global gay culture emanating from the Western world, especially from the United States, has come into existence through networks of gay men, sex tourism, exiles, media representations and so forth. This globalization of gay culture deeply influences gay experiences everywhere, but the way it is experienced and practiced will remain mediated by local and idiosyncratic factors. On the other hand, local same-sex cultures that work on different models of desire, behaviour and courtship, continue to exist. But in many places, such worlds have been exterminated as happened with Melanesian initiations (Herdt, 1985) or the Uzbek tradition of bacabozlik (boygame) under Russian and Soviet rule (Baldauf, 1988). Discussions on global versus local cultures as they have been developing recently are especially important for gay and lesbian studies.
The global gay culture is very much an urban culture. The main difference between small tribes and large cities is social differentiation. The irony of global society is that it replaces a diversity of quite specific sexual forms for a singular form that includes a great variety. Postmodern urban society is breaking again the mainstream form of homosexuality into a wide range of separate sexual patterns and produces a wide variety of sexual ambitions for specific acts, fetishes, body parts, skin colours, toys and so forth. The urban world of leisure and pleasure creates a growing range of desires. The American sex survey concluded that cities produce more men with gay interests (Laumann c.s., 1994). It seems likely that postmodern urban centers will create always more and larger groups with a variety of specific sexual ambitions which will become an important topic in urban ethnography.
Fascinating additions to anthropological research have come from the history of colonialism. Trexler (1995) researched the harsh persecution of Native American and Spanish sodomites in the early period of Spanish colonization of Latin-America. Stoler (1995) has asked the important question of whether the emergence of sexual science, with its production and disciplining of desires and identities, in nineteenth-century European countries was not highly influenced by their status as empires controlling colonies and colonial bodies. The comparisons made in degeneration theory between inferior races and sexual perverts, probably resulted from the representation of the exotic other as being sensual and hot. Following this image of nature's primitive children, perverts from the West were seen as regressing to earlier stages of evolution and not being adapted to modern times. A main question persists why the least colonial European empire, Germany, saw the strongest development of sexology. Stoler's strongest point remains however that the division of labour between anthropology and sociology, and between western and colonial history is not only outdated, but also responsible for major misunderstandings concerning the interactions between colonial and imperial (sexual) politics.
The focus of Bleys (1995; compare Aldrich, 1993) was specifically the contribution of travel stories, sailor's diaries and so forth to the deployment of sexology. His study raises the interesting question of the development of homosexual attribution: first, occidentals perceived the other as perverted and sodomitical, nowadays the western world itself is seen elsewhere as the main den of perversion and homosexuality. Whereas European countries have become more liberal with regard to homosexuality, many other countries (Cuba, Iran, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe) seem to go the other way.
Subjectivities and Sexual Involvements
A main question of anthropological methodology has recently become how to handle subjectivity. Most data anthropologists gather, are based on intimate relations with some privileged informants. Data on sexuality have often been collected in sexual encounters or love relations. An interesting problem has been posed by these involvements of researchers with their respondents. Because of ideals of objectivity and privacy, anthropologists with such experiences were reluctant to report on their intimate knowledge. Only recently have scholars started to do so (Kulick & Willson, 1995; Lewin & Leap, 1996) and even stressed the interesting scholarly spin-off that sexual relations might have for research (Newton, 1993; Bolton, 1995). The so-called "reflexive turn" in anthropology "makes a problem out of what was once unproblematic: the figure of the fieldworker" (Marylin Strathern quoted in Kulick & Willson, 1995:2). Nowadays, the opinion is becoming that anthropologists should explain their social and sexual involvements with respondents, reflect on their own position, and learn early on about the erotic intricacies of fieldwork. Situating the anthropologist's subject position has become an essential part of research methodology. Subjectivity is not opposed to objectivity, or dissolved in intersubjectivity, but has received its independent place. Participant observation requires that anthropologists tell about the kind of participants they have been. With "experiential" ethnography, Jim Wafer (1996) makes his gay identity an indispensable part of his texts. Anthropologists' relations with and phantasies about their interviewees can throw as good a light on their results as their theoretical perspectives. Some anthropologists might even go so far as to say that all research results in mere personal stories. Criticism of objectivity has led them to reject all forms of objectivity as if a dialogue is impossible.
This "experiential" trend may seem to be self-indulgent or might well continue a "tradition of reflecting on others as a means of talking about the self", as Don Kulick summarizes Elspeth Probyn's argument against "banal egotism". Kulick cites her alternative that the object of reflection should be a self understood as "a combinatoire, a discursive arrangement that holds together in tension the different lines of race and sexuality that form and re-form our senses of self" (Kulick & Willson, 1995:13-17). This self is inherently incomplete and partial and problematizes not only itself, but also relations of self and other, of subject and object, of native informant and foreign researcher, of domination and exploitation, of speaking and keeping silent. Such a flexible self produces situated knowledge that might be more interesting and effective than objective knowledge. But it will remain difficult to find a way through the labyrinth of objectivities and subjectivities.
Gay and Lesbian Studies in Anthropology: the Future
The theme of homosexuality has always been present in anthropology, and nowadays perhaps a little bit more than before, but it is certainly not very central to anthropological research and education. Gay and lesbian studies are still marginal in an anthropology that has always strongly focused on kinship but rarely on same-sex arrangements. It is not clear why gay and lesbian research in anthropology had a slower start than in other disciplines such as history and sociology. Perhaps history has the advantage that there are many "amateurs" with an interest in gay and lesbian history, whereas such non-professionals lack the resources to do similar anthropological research. Of course, many governments strongly oppose such studies being carried out in their countries. For several reasons, research on sex in other cultures was hindered by ideologies of privacy and secrecy, by difficulties of getting access to local sexual knowledge, and by the awareness of western sexophobia by locals who therefor may have resisted to divulge their sexual secrets. Gays and lesbians themselves may also have been more attentive to criticisms of anthropology as a neo-colonial enterprise, and therefore more reluctant to go "native". They knew from their own experience how distressing straight colonialism of queer cultures and the corresponding research had been and sometimes still is. Because female homosexuality is often more private than its male counterpart, this could explain the even greater lack of research on lesbianism in anthropology. It was probably not because anthropology was a male domain, since many anthropologists were women.
Cultural relativism has been the banner of anthropology for many years, and this relates certainly to sex and gender. Anthropology defines, as argued before, same-sex behaviours and desires as cultural forms that have various social contents, shapes, contexts among different cultures. The meanings and forms of homosexuality have been a central theme of much recent research in anthropology. What has been missing too often, but that is the case of most research in gay and lesbian studies, was a focus on the forms and meanings of sexual acts, and on individual variability in cultures. Too easily we have forgotten that pleasures not only take distinctive forms in various cultures, but also unique forms in individuals (Herdt and Stoller, 1990). Other important themes for anthropology should be the genders of sexuality; sex and age; combination and separation of love and sex in physical relations; inequality, violence and force in sexual relations; the social structure of sexual relations; geographies of sexuality, and what constitutes public and private; recreational and cruising cultures; the development of same-sex communities; shifting ideologies of nature and culture with regard to sexual pleasures. The very unequal attention given to male and female homosexuality should certainly be redressed, because this imbalance has not changed much since Ford and Beach did their sexual-culture survey in 1951.
A very promising and underresearched topic remains the relation between global and local gay and lesbian cultures. The internationalization of gay and lesbian culture has effected most countries while fewer and fewer people with same-sex interests will be unaware of western concepts of homosexuality which are however not uniform. Notwithstanding this trend of internationalization, local cultures of same-sex pleasure still persist and sometimes influence the global culture. The machos and maricones of Latin culture, the hijras of India and the warias of Jakarta, the Arab males interested in penetrating other men have not disappeared, and have sometimes remained fairly untouched by the global gay culture. But there are forces of sexual hybridization and replacement of local by global cultures. Both the functioning and the results of these processes are unknown and remain clouded. The best example of globalization and hybridization might be contemporary Brazil (Parker, 1991). It is a dangerous development that the main example of gay and lesbian cultures and politics has been found in the United States where the movement operates in a virulent homophobic environment, and has been quite unsuccessful in imposing its agenda on general society. The privileged example probably points in a wrong direction.
Anthropology has done a poor job in gay and lesbian studies until recently. It has too often avoided the topic of homosexuality. Many scholars have chosen western instead of non-western topics, and relegated the non-western world to itself. Political correctness has rarely been extended beyond the borders of the Anglosaxon and Western cultures themselves. Signs of redress are few given the recent boom in anthropological research. But gay and lesbian studies can not leave the rest of the world to itself, and neglect its struggles for sexual emancipation.
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