This ethnography is a cultural study of the Hijras of India, a religious community of men who dress and act like women. It focuses on how Hijras can be used in the study of gender categories and human sexual variation.
Issues of sexuality and gender are hotly contested in both religious communities and national cultures around the world. In the social sciences, religious traditions are often depicted as inherently conservative or even reactionary in their commitments to powerful patriarchal and pronatalist sexual norms and gender categories. In illuminating the practices of religious traditions in various cultures, these essays expose the diversity of religious rituals and mythologies pertaining to sexuality. In the process the contributors challenge conventional notions of what is normative in our sexual lives.
This cultural and psychological study of gender identity and sexual development in a New Guinea Highlands society includes rich material on initiation rites and socialization studies, and contrasts the Sambia with other societies, including the United States. For example, Sambia boys experience ritualized homosexuality before puberty and continue this practice until marriage, after which homosexual activity is prohibited. The implications are developed cross-culturally and contextualized in gender literature. This new edition contains updated information about the Sambian ritualization and socialization of gender practices and will include a new chapter on sexuality, gender and social change among the Sambia.