Synopses & Reviews
Examining cultures as diverse as long-house dwellers in North Borneo, African farmers, Welsh housewives, and postindustrial American workers, this volume dramatically redefines the anthropological study of menstrual customs. It challenges the widespread image of a universal "menstrual taboo" as well as the common assumption of universal female subordination which underlies it. Contributing important new material and perspectives to our understanding of comparative gender politics and symbolism, it is of particular importance to those interested in anthropology, women's studies, religion, and comparative health systems.
"The first book on the anthropology of menstruation to be published by a major university press.and#8221;
"A major innovation is the deliberate and consistent focus on womenand#8217;s views and their participation in social responses to bodily processes."
and#8220;Reclaiming the female body, retrieving it piece by piece from the grip of patriarchal culture and medical practice, has been a central feminist goal for each of the last two decades. Menstruation . . . is now front and center on the feminist agenda as a topic that needs to be rethought . . . Blood Magic . . . [is] among a larger set of books that are seeking simultaneously to dismantle the traditional formulations and to replace them with a woman-centered set of understandings . . . [the book]. . . not only clear[s] and point[s] the way for a new woman-centered scholarship on menstruation but demonstrate[s] its significance to the feminist agenda.and#8221;
and#8220;The first major collection on anthropological interpretations of menstruation. . . The editors contribute a lengthy, useful introduction to this biological phenomenon and the interpretations given to it by different peoples; moreover, they provide discussions for each section . . . A well-edited and useful contribution to the continually growing literature on the cultural constructions of gender.and#8221;
and#8220;Menstrual taboos have long been a favorite subject of ethnographic inquiry, but in the past their study has suffered from both an ethnocentric and male-centered bias. Burdened by their own set of and#8216;menstrual taboos,and#8217; ethnographers have too often assumed they knew what those of another culture meant. Blood Magic, a collection of essays by nine fieldworkers in anthropology and related disciplines, marks a welcome departure from earlier studies in a number of ways. It derives its perspective from womenand#8217;s studies in recognizing the need to focus on womenand#8217;s experiences as well as those of men, and in recognizing the importance of female fieldworkers to do this. This is the first book-length collection of essays to grow out of recent cultural anthropological research on menstruation. Never before has the study of menstruation been so well informed by a combination of fieldwork and theoretical approaches to the study of gender and the symbolism of the body. This is the first book-length collection of essays to grow out of recent cultural anthropological research on menstruation. Never before has the study of menstruation been so well informed by a combination of fieldwork and theoretical approaches to the study of gender and the symbolism of the body . . . This is a well-constructed and well-researched collection, grounded in received anthropological theory, yet looking far beyond it.and#8221;
"Sets the stage for an ethnography of menstruation beliefs and will, I predict, be viewed as the opening work of a whole ethnographic tradition . . . will be widely cited."and#151;Anna Meigs, Macalester College
"Provides a concise and complete critique of the literature and thinking on menstrual practices and introduces new analyses and concepts with regard to previously unknown material."and#151;Ann L. Wright, University of Arizona
Table of Contents
1. A critical appraisal of theories of menstrual symbolism / Thomas Buckley and Alma Gottlieb -- 2. Menstrual cosmology among the Beng of Ivory Coast /Alma Gottlieb -- 3. Mortal flow / Carol Delaney -- 4. Menstruation among the Rungus of Borneo / Laura W.R. Appell -- 5. Menstrual politics / Denise L. Lawrence --6. Menstrual symbolism in South Wales / Vieda Skultans -- 7. Premenstrual syndrome / Emily Martin --8. Menstruation and the power of Yurok women -- 9. Heavenly bodies / Frederick Lamp -- 10. Menstrual synchrony and the Australian rainbow snake / Chris Knight.