Sex in Anthropology

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 1997

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Vanessa Kibble

October 14, 1996

Sex in Anthropology

Anthropological studies are investigations of human life as it functions in a society. These observations are seen through the eyes of an objective anthropologist. But even if an anthropologist is completely objective in his or her studies, can there still be a descrepency in data due to the sex of the person?

Over the years anthropology has evolved to an ever expanding world that has more of a variation in thoughts and beliefs, so that all cultures are recognized and respected. Although many changes have been made in anthropological studies, like the introduction of cultural relativity, it seems that woman were the last to be considered in the field, this is mostly due to the lack of them. During the late 19th century, anthropologist were know as 'arm chair' anthropologist. These were 'anthropologists' who relied on merchants, missionaries, explorers, ect. as informants for their ethnographic presents.

All of the latter professions were practiced by men only, as were the roles of anthropologists when fieldwork was introduced. This was in turn reflected through the way that societies were depicted and influenced.

The Trobriand Islanders are a society in Papaua New Giuenia. They are composed of about, twelve thousand people in sixty villages. The Trobrianders have been penetrated by outside influences for centuries and have remained considerably unaffected, two primary displays of this is the economical structure and politics of kinship. The economy of the Trobriand Islanders is a complex system in which there is a separate wealth for men and women. Although both sexes have their own capital, the women's wealth is a sign of power and is necessary for the definition of the chief's . The Trobrianders system of kinship is based on a matrilineal principle, in which 'mother right' is demonstrated.