Women of the Forest

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Columbia University Press, Jun 1, 2010 - Social Science - 328 pages
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When it originally appeared, this groundbreaking ethnography was one of the first works to focus on gender in anthropology. The thirtieth anniversary edition of Women of the Forest reconfirms the book's importance for contemporary studies on gender and life in the Amazon. The book covers Yolanda and Robert Murphy's year of fieldwork among the Mundurucú people of Brazil in 1952. The Murphy's ethnographic analysis takes into account the historical, ecological, and cultural setting of the Mundurucú, including the mythology surrounding women, women's work and household life, marriage and child rearing, the effects of social change on the female role, sexual antagonism, and the means by which women compensate for their low social position.

The new foreword -- written collectively by renowned anthropologists who were all students of the Murphys -- is both a tribute to the Murphys and a critical reflection on the continued relevance of their work today.


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Beyond the Looking Glass
Mundurucú Culture
Women in Myth and Symbol
The Womans World
Women and Married Life
Women and Social Change
Women and Men

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Page xxxix - ... men, then the whole society, men and women alike, votes them as important. When the same occupations are performed by women, they are regarded as less important. In a great number of human societies men's sureness of their sex role is tied up with their right, or ability, to practice some activity that women are not allowed to practice. Their maleness, in fact, has to be underwritten by preventing women from entering some field or performing some feat.
Page xxvi - feminine personality" has been a nearly universal fact, it can be argued that its characteristics may have contributed further to the view of women as being somehow less cultural than men. That is, women would tend to enter into relationships with the world that culture might see as being more "like nature...
Page lxi - ... personality nor from playing an appreciable part in literature and affairs. In other words, it is important to ascertain what customary or written law and philosophic theory have to say on feminine rights and obligations. But it is more important to know whether social practice conforms to theory or leaves it halting in the rear, as it so frequently does.
Page xxvi - ... transcending and transforming things through the superimposition of abstract categories and transpersonal values. Woman's relationships tend to be, like nature, relatively unmediated, more direct, whereas man not only tends to relate in a more mediated way, but in fact ultimately often relates more consistently and strongly to the mediating categories and forms than to the persons or objects themselves. It is...
Page xvii - Development unfolds through conflict, the moving power of history is human passions which produce wholly unintended results, and the structure of reality is a structure of oppositions, of elements that contradict each other and limit each other's possibilities.

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About the author (2010)

Yolanda Murphy, previously on the faculty of Empire State College (SUNY), is retired.

Robert F. Murphy was professor of anthropology at Columbia University. He was the author of many books and articles, including Headhunter's Heritage: Social and Economic Change Among the Mundurucú Indians and The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled, for which he won a Columbia University Lionel Trilling Award.

R. Brian Ferguson, editor of the foreword, is professor of anthropology at Rutgers University -- Newark. His books include The State, Identity, and Violence and Yanomami Warfare: A Political History.

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