Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists.
Originally published in the early 1990s, Bodies, Pleasures, and Passions quickly became a classic ethnographic study of the social, cultural and historical construction of sexuality and sexual diversity. Drawing on extensive field research and interviews, together with the analysis of historical and literary texts, anthropologist Richard Parker mapped out the multiple cultural systems that structure gender, sexuality, and erotic practices in Brazil, and helped to open up a new wave of social science research on sexuality.
Using ethnographic methods focusing on sexual meanings as an alternative to traditional surveys of sexual behavior, Parker argues that sexual life can only be fully understood through an analysis of the cultural logics that shape experience. Drawing on the tradition of interpretive anthropology, he focuses on the diverse sexual scripts that have been articulated in Brazilian culture and examines the often contradictory ways in which these scripts shape the sexual experience of different individuals. He highlights the sexual socialization of children and young people, and the changing sexual realities of adults living in a rapidly changing world. He underlines the ways in which complex cultural forms such as carnaval can be understood as stories that Brazilians tell themselves about themselves and about the meaning of sexuality in contemporary Brazilian life.
The 1991 book was the winner of the Ruth Benedict Prize from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists.
As a scholar who regularly teaches classes on gender and sexuality as well as in Latin American Studies, I regard Parker's book as one of the most important written in these fields in the last twenty years. Both in terms of the conceptually pioneering framework employed, as well as for the innovative ethnographic style of presentation, Bodies, Pleasures, and Passions stands as a landmark study.
--Matthew Gutmann, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies,Professor of Anthropology,
Richard Parker has given us the most sophisticated treatment of the cultural construction of sexuality in a large-scale society so far. He vividly describes not only the cultural scripts but also how Brazilians adapt them, sometimes with virtuoso-like improvisation, to their own intentions.
--Robert N. Bellah, co-author, Habits of the Heart
A significant contribution to sex and gender research. Parker has linked the history of sexuality with contemporary forms of sexual experience in a way that demonstrates a compelling social form of excitement and repression in a radically different society. The book is unique.
--Gilbert Herdt, San Francisco State University
About the Author
Richard G. Parker is Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Director of the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Health at Columbia University. He is also President of the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA), the largest nongovernmental AIDS service and advocacy organization in Brazil, and Co-Chair of Sexuality Policy Watch, a global forum composed of researchers, activists, and policy makers.