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Amazonia and Melanesia: Gender and Anthropological Comparison

WGF Symposium #121

September 7 - 15, 1996
Hotel Mijas, Mijas, Spain   

PUBLICATION: Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia:  An Exploration of the Comparative Method (Thomas A. Gregor and Donald Tuzin, Eds.), University of California, 2001.  


bookcoverAletta Biersack  (University of Oregon, USA)
Pascale Bonnemere (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)
Michael F. Brown (Williams College, USA)
Beth A. Conklin (Vanderbilt University, USA)
Philippe Descola (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France)
William Fisher (College of William and Mary, USA)
Thomas Gregor, organizer (Vanderbilt University, USA)
Jonathan D. Hill (Southern Illinois University, USA)
Catherine V. Howard (University of Cambridge, UK)
Stephen Hugh-Jones (University of Cambridge, UK)
Margaret Jolly (Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australia)
Kenneth M. Kensinger (Bennington College, USA)
Bruce M. Knauft (Emory University, USA)
Rena Lederman (Princeton University, USA)
Alcida Ramos (Universidade de Brasilia, Brazil)
Paul Roscoe (University of Maine, USA)
Sydel Silverman (Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA)
Marilyn Strathern (University of Cambridge, UK)
Donald Tuzin, organizer (University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, USA)
James Weiner (University of Adelaide, Australia)


This symposium was inspired by the suggestion often made by anthropologists that the cultures of Amazonia and Melanesia seem to display startling resemblances even though they are historically, linguistically, and geographically unrelated.  Similarities are found in systems of ecological adaptation, "egalitarian" social organization, flexibility in local and descent-group composition and recruitment, endemic warfare, religious and cosmological systems, and men's cults and other gender-inflected institutions.  While Amazonianists and Melanesianists have discussed such similarities at occasional meetings, the areal orientation of anthropology has discouraged attempts at systematic comparison of these regions.  Appropriately held in 1996, the 100th anniversary of Franz Boas's landmark essay, "The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology," this conference focused on the promise and problems of interareal comparison.  Bringing together leading contributors to the ethnology of the two regions, the symposium sought to develop deeper understanding of the cultures of Amazonia and Melanesia through comparison, and to examine the epistemology of comparative methods.