This ethnography explores the social practices of Nigeria's Hausa-speaking ‘yan daudu or "feminine men". By describing the social practices, social exThis ethnography explores the social practices of Nigeria's Hausa-speaking ‘yan daudu or "feminine men". By describing the social practices, social experiences, and expressive culture of the ‘yan daudu in the Islamic city-state of Kano, Rudolf Gaudio situates a broader analysis of local, national, and global gender and sexuality debates using “feminine men’s” claims to and performances of cultural citizenship that challenge the idea that Islamic and African cultures fundamentally reject or do not support gender and sexual minorities. Because shari’a or Islamic law requires strict separation of the sexes and different rules of behavior for women and men, this book (pg. 3) focuses on men who challenge the cultural and religious rules of gender through their use of language, through their bodies and clothing, and through popular media. Using a nuanced view of gender dynamics, Gaudio suggests that the “sexual minorities” of this work are ultimately asking what it means to be male and what it means to be female. 'Yan daudu are defined as biological males who have sex with males (typically referring to conventionally masculine men) but they also marry and father children, which culturally defines them as "men". In public they use male pronouns both for themselves and for other 'yan daudu. However, in private they wear clothing that is marked as female, such as a headscarf or skirt wrap, and begin using female pronouns and stereotypically female forms of gossip among in-group members. Language plays a large role in this work, as Gaudio, a cultural anthropologist and linguist, points out the 'yan daudu’s heavy use of proverbs, syntactic pronoun switches, playful use of language, and the use of an in-group code. Actual discussions of sexual practice were notably circumspect, likely having to do with the stigma attached to various sexual acts in Islamic culture and to the assignment of the “prostitution” label to any kind of gift-giving to sexual partners, payments for sex acts, and to the financial independence of single women. Gaudio also uses this as an opportunity to discuss the 'yan daudu’s historical association with independent women and with Bori spirit possessions, including the controversial subject of spirit possession as a pre-Islamic cultural residue. In the end, “Allah made us this way” becomes, not really cultural resistance, but a bid for cultural citizenship, particularly in the ways that the 'yan daudu neither fully accept nor fully reject the negative social judgments made against them. This also appears to have led to difficulties on the ethnographer’s part in gathering data, mostly because many 'yan daudu would not permit him to tape their interactions and addressing the topic with wives and children was socially forbidden. But Gaudio's descriptions of the ‘yan daudu’s disvalued verbal aptitudes are nonetheless filled with valuable insights into the complexities of gendered language as well as how sex-gender nonconforming individuals navigate their lives in a Muslim city with a reputation for sodomy as well as before and after the imposition of shari'a law. I found Chapter 5, "Playing with Faith" to be particularly useful. The ‘yan daudu primarily practice Islam, some even within the strict Wahabbist tradition. Through this tradition, agency for almost everything that happens in the world is attributed to Allah which provides the foundation for the sociolinguistic self-defenses of the 'yan daudu. If everything that happens is dependent on Allah's will, then so must being 'yan daudu, and so must it be for the hypocrites they criticize for self-righteously proclaiming their piety by slandering the 'yan daudu all the while seeking sex with them in the context of a Muslim society’s non-public homosocial spaces. ...more
This book is about queer religious lives. As an ethnography of men in the Christian ex-gay movement, Erzen’s work describes the complex and seeminglyThis book is about queer religious lives. As an ethnography of men in the Christian ex-gay movement, Erzen’s work describes the complex and seemingly contradictory tensions that exist between Western homosexual identities and conservative American Christianity. In doing so, Erzen introduces a wide variety of men, from those who converted to Christianity and adopted ex-gay causes to those who were raised in conservative households who have endured long-term struggles with same-sex desires. Moreover, these tensions help support the principle thesis of this work: that the men of the ex-gay movement, at least those at New Hope Ministry and others who live in similar kinds of residential ex-gay programs, are queer. They are queer, not just as a matter of sexual orientation, but in the way that they are caught in an ambiguous space between revulsion and pity by gay rights activists and progressive Christians and hatred and exclusion by Christian fundamentalists and conservatives. The identities of ex-gays are perpetually in flux. Yet, at the same time, the ex-gay individuals in Erzen’s account construct a new kind of ex-gay identity. This ethnography also works to demonstrate that black-and-white worldviews, particularly views of sexuality and religion, are often too simplistic and in seeking not to take any particular side, she instead asks why these men find it so important to navigate their desire for religious inclusion and their desire for same-sex relationships through ex-gay frameworks. During her time with New Hope, Erzen meets numerous men who come "with the objective of healing their homosexuality, controlling sexual compulsions, becoming heterosexual, or even marrying someone of the opposite sex" (p. 2). But through participant-observation and her personal relationships with several residents, she comes to conclude that the longed-for complete transformation from homosexual to heterosexual does not happen for those who come to ex-gay ministries. However, change still does occur, not in a move away from same-sex desires (or even behavior in some cases), but rather in a kind of religious transformation. Though most of the men reject the idea of an essential homosexual identity and instead frame their same-sex desires in terms of their feelings or their behaviors, what Erzen’s participants tend to have in common is a sense of being damaged or broken in a way that they seek to heal spiritually. This “woundedness” is then combined with a religious worldview that dictates that positive and morally-correct sexuality only exists inside of married heterosexual relationships. Like coming-out narratives, the religious conversion narratives of the New Hope participants index a troubled time of personal crisis where a process of personal healing and sexual awareness becomes paramount. However, it is a New Hope participant's born-again relationship with Jesus that is the primary way in which they measure their progress. This subjective progress often comes about through activities that help the men "rebuild masculinity”, usually though ritualized gender-performance activities (like sports and camping) that do not always correspond to residents’ own ideas of gender transformation. The ultimate idealized goal for many men in the program is heterosexual marriage, but many New Hope participants come to realize this is not a realistic goal, striving instead for a sense of belonging they have so often lacked. Some participants even remain affiliated with New Hope in the long term, serving as counselors or leaders years later. Erzen concludes hoping that a diversity of sexual identities, including ex-gay identities, might one day become part of a more inclusive culture. While Erzen seeks to further our understanding of queer religious lives in contemporary American culture she also demonstrates how the lives of individuals in ex-gay ministries subvert the larger political goals of the ex-gay movement, particularly regarding rigid religious ideals of masculinity and femininity or in cases where the idea of homosexuality as an "addiction” is rejected. In opposition to the larger ex-gay movement's language of total healing from homosexuality to heterosexuality, ex-gay individuals continue to queer conversations about the nature of sexual and religious change. Thus, these personal transformations are not always so easily translated into monolithic political causes. ...more
As a general philosophy book in what I would call the "popular science" genre, I actually really enjoyed this. It read something like a personal, inteAs a general philosophy book in what I would call the "popular science" genre, I actually really enjoyed this. It read something like a personal, internal, monologue but one that covered the broad brush-strokes of the Ontological Argument (in its multiple variations), cosmological science, and general philosophy. My advice? If existential musings annoy you, do not read this, however, if you enjoy pondering critical thought experiments and can tolerate the short-comings of a slew of modern theorists you'll enjoy this one....more
For all you would-be philosophers out there, I'm willing to bet you'll find this a fascinating read. For those of you in the social sciences, best skiFor all you would-be philosophers out there, I'm willing to bet you'll find this a fascinating read. For those of you in the social sciences, best skip this one (I'll get to that in a second). Robert Wright is an author who, for his past several books anyway, has taken on the notion of "if God exists, who is he? And how do we know?". While this might sound like a rehash of every 'existence of God' argument you've heard before, it isn't quite in the way you might be expecting.
Using everything from anthropology and sociology to ethnography and history, Wright makes his case for God in a somewhat interesting but problematic way. His thesis is that cultural evolution, much like biological evolution, is a human process governed by laws (complex laws we haven't yet fully unraveled). In the same way that elements can, and do, change from liquids to solids under certain circumstances(the Phase Argument), cultures and societies have evolutionary processes that are immutable, and are simply part of the way the universe works (for those of you familiar with Structuralism, you will have heard this before). It is in these immutable laws of the universe (things that are simply the way they are because that is the way they work, and nothing can or will ever change that (think: water becomes ice at a certain temperature, and always will)) that we find God. God is the architecture on which all things are built. It's an interesting line of thought to trace in the ways in which he does it, but again, if you are particularly savvy to the anthropological lens and current theories of culture, Wright's arguments will get very frustrating very quickly. His links between his deep cosmological structure and culture don't quite work out and, unfortunately, will leave many hanging.
However, if you are interested in the idea that the God of humanity (religion having evolved because it suited our survivability) and the God of nature (the architecture of the universe) coexist in a particular kind of semi-Structuralist thought experiment, give this one a try and see how you feel about it....more
My first experience with Mary Roach's books, Bonk was amusingly enjoyable. If you've ever wondered where we went after Kinsey, Roach's research into tMy first experience with Mary Roach's books, Bonk was amusingly enjoyable. If you've ever wondered where we went after Kinsey, Roach's research into the subject spans the distracted to the intimate (pun intended). However, once I passed chapter 5 I also determined that she was a braver woman than I.
A great read and written for the laymen (sorry about the puns)....more
I must say, I quite enjoy Mary Roach's writing style. Her often self-deprecating humor is interwoven admirably among topics too often left tabled. StiI must say, I quite enjoy Mary Roach's writing style. Her often self-deprecating humor is interwoven admirably among topics too often left tabled. Stiff, which follows the possibilities one might encounter as a cadaver "donated to science", is rather entertaining.
Ever wanted to know how doctors really practice their craft? Here it is. Ever wonder how car makers know exactly how their cars will injure a driver in a crash? That's there too. From the look and smell, to the sights and sounds, and everything in between, Stiff is not for the weak stomach but is definitely for the strong of curiosity....more
I've read Mary Roach's Stiff and Bonk, already. Her off-the-cuff humorous style is quite appealing to me as light reading and her take on subjects sucI've read Mary Roach's Stiff and Bonk, already. Her off-the-cuff humorous style is quite appealing to me as light reading and her take on subjects such as death, sex, and now the afterlife opens the doors for discussions many don't like to have but I, always the social miscreant, enjoy far too much.
A bit of a spoiler here, but if you are looking for someone to reassure you that there is, in fact, life after death, this really isn't the book for you. Mary Roach is far more interested in those that have gone before (pardon the pun) than in any kind of philosophical debate. This is more about the history of science and scientific endeavors than anything having to do with the final destination of the human soul. ...more