Engendering Gesture: Gender Performativity and Bodily Regimes from New Ireland

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    Following Marcel Mauss, who argued that the way people move and position their bodies is socially learned and culturally specific, I examine the ways that bodies move in one particular culture in Papua New Guinea, namely the Lelet. I extend Mauss' insights by drawing on the work of Judith Butler, who suggests that gender is a performance rather than instinctive. Looking at the kinds of actions Lelet women perform, I argue that these play an important part in constituting them as gendered beings. Lelet women's bodily movements, comportments and dispositions are heavily circumscribed by conventions that define what sorts of movements are appropriate to their gender. This process of engendering is quintessentially about power and shows how particular forms of power produce particular subjects. Although these gender conventions are sometimes enforced by punitive means, women largely come to embody them as a process of self-government. Although the Christian church has upheld such conventions in the past, the Pentecostal Christianity the Lelet now practice has produced departures from them, which I analyse.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    JournalThe Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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