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Lecture 5

ANTA02H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Menstruation, Basket Weaving, Genderqueer

Course Code
Maggie Cummings

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Week 5 Lecture Notes
Gender, Personhood, and the Concept of Cultural Construction
Key terms/names
o Cultural/social construction
o Biological determinism
o Sex versus gender
o Sambia of Papua New Guinea; jurungdu
o Third Gender/Berdache/Two Spirit
o Emily Martin
o Egg and sperm as gendered
o Biology as cultural knowledge
o Egocentric and Sociocentric
Think Ahead: Feeding Desire writing assignment
o 3-5 double-spaced pages
o 15% of final grade
o Due February 27; submit via Blackboard make sure you hit
submit, not just attach file
o Can resubmit stuff
o Not an essay, no argument
o A day, week, month in the life of an Azawagh Arabs
o First person ), give yourself a name journal entry, conversation
b/w informant and anthropologist
o Can also write in third person
o Can use other resources if I want to, but Feeding Desire MUST be
o Content how much do you demonstrate an understanding of the
o Writing style sentence structure, diction
o Mechanics spelling, punctuation, proofreading, citation guidelines,
o Write about life among the Azawagh Arabs from the native’s point of
o Create a character and a brief narrative that illustrates what you’ve
learned; cite evidence from the text for your characters motivations
What is social/cultural construction?
o Cultural constructionismhuman behaviour and ideas are best
explained as the result of culturally-shaped learning
This is the best explanation (not the only one, just the best
Cultural constructionist would say that spatial skills are passed
on through learning
Boys are more likely to learn spatial skills than girls are
find more resources at
find more resources at

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o Biological determinismbiological features such as genes or
hormones are used to explain behaviour and ideas
o Biological determinist would search for the gene that would lead to
specific things like alcoholism, spatial skills, etc.
Apparently human males have better spatial skills than women
evolutionary natural selection
o Can’t rely solely on biological determinism or cultural construction,
both have good theories for things
Social/cultural constructs
o A social construct is a concept or practice that is seen as natural,
common-sense, essential, timeless, or God-given but which is really an
invention, an artifact of a particular culture. may not rely on
biology just the way things are i.e. women don’t have the spatial
skills to drive as well as men do) this is actually not natural, it’s the
product of a particular social context
o Cultural Constructionism is a way of thinking about knowledge and
how it is created in a particular social context
o We create social constructs through our choices; in doing so, we
reinforce our own worldview may not be intentional, it just sort of
happened over time, not from nature or divine law
o Social constructs help us to create and maintain our worldview
o Gender becomes institutionalized and then turned into common sense
at the hospital, you are marked as female or male on a form at
birth, then it becomes common sense that you are male or female
Gender as cultural construct
o Sex refers to biological categories (male and female) determined by
genital, chromosomal, and hormonal differences
o Gender refers to patterns of culturally constructed and learned
behaviour and ideas attributed to men and women
o In small-scale societies, gender and age may be criteria for social
o Sex is male/female
o Gender is man/woman
o In NA we say that men should do x because they have male
characteristics and that Y should do y because they have female
o The constructions differ between cultures
Anthropology and gender
o Early anthropologists ignored gender; assumed men’s lives were the
cultural norm
o But, a cross-cultural perspective challenges the idea that gender is
naturalbecause gender is variable cross-culturally
o Gender and sex do not correlate naturally, but culturally
o Divisions of labour are divided between men and women
find more resources at
find more resources at
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