In 1985, anthropologist Gilbert Herdt and psychoanalyst Robert Stoller, both from California, published an interview with Sakulambei, a Papua New Guinean Shaman. They conducted the interview together in 1979 when Stoller joined Herdt in Papua New Guinea. By then, Herdt had lived in Papua New Guinea on and off since 1975 and had conducted ethnographic research about a people that he referred to as the Sambia (a pseudonym) of the Papua New Guinean Highlands. Herdt has published widely on the societal organization, rites of passage, and gender relations among the Sambia (e.g., Herdt, 1981, 1982). Herdt invited Stoller, after having apprenticed with him on the issues of sexuality, erotics, and gender identity between 1975 and 1979 at UCLA. Herdt felt that it was necessary to bring the expertise of a clinician to his field site. Stoller went to Papua New Guinea for ten days specifically to help Herdt undertake research and to assist him in interviewing six individuals of the Sambia. One of them was Sakulambei, a Sambian Shaman whom Herdt suspected to be intersex. Herdt and Stoller therefore explicitly address intersexuality in “Sakulambei-A hermaphrodite’s secret: An example of clinical ethnography” (Herdt & Stoller, 1985). The paper is a partial transcript of their interview with the shaman, and is republished in Intimate Communications (Herdt & Stoller, 1990), which includes six interviews with other Sambian “interpreters” as Herdt and Stoller call their interviewees (46). For this first book, Guardians of the Flutes (1981), Gilbert Herdt worked predominantly with the Sambia of the Papua New Guinea Highlands; eroticism and sexuality were his central concerns. Aware of Robert Stoller’s expertise in sexology, he contacted the psychologist/psychoanalyst from UCLA. Stoller subsequently invited Herdt to UCLA as a postdoctoral fellow. From 1978 to 1985, Herdt became a member of the Gender Identity Research Clinic at UCLA. In 1979, he received a Post-doctoral Certificate in Psychiatry at the Neuropsychiatry Institute. Since then, he has held positions at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the University of Washington, and the University of Amsterdam. He has been Professor of Human Sexuality Studies and Anthropology, and Director of the National Sexuality Resource Center at San Francisco State University since 2002. He is currently an associate editor of the Journal of Culture, Sexuality, and Health; the Journal of Men and Masculinities; and Transaction:
Journal of Social Science and Modern Society. Robert Stoller was most famous for his work on intersexuality and transsexuality, but he has also published on transvestism, erotic imagery/pornography, sado-masochism as a pathological expression of sexuality, and homosexuality (see Chapter 2 in this volume). Papua New Guinea maintains a special status for anthropological research because of its linguistic and cultural diversity. More than 800 languages are spoken in an area smaller than 463 km2. The country holds a unique fascination for anthropologists specializing in sex, gender, and sexuality. Anthropologist Bruce Knauft lists more than 20 different researchers who have conducted fieldwork on gender and sexuality in this “object of Western epistemic gaze” (1994: 396).1 Herdt and Stoller’s interest in a Shaman who seemed to them to be intersex, then, is not merely yet another problematic anthropological project located in the anthropologists’ mecca of Papa New Guinea. It is emblematic of anthropological research into human sexuality and stands in for the ignorance towards neo_colonial aspects which emerge, when researchers from the Global North infiltrate the Global South to gain knowledge on sensitive issues such as sexgender-sexuality-systems. What concerns me in this chapter is the nature of Stoller’s and Herdt’s interaction with Sakulambei, which produces a specific kind of intersexualization-that is cross-cultural intersexualization. Underlying ethnocentric assumptions they carried made them unconsciously treat a Papa New Guinean ‘informant/patient’ differently than they would a white American subject. Stoller and Herdt, of course, brought to Papua New Guinea a host of assumptions (knowledge) about gender, sex, and sexuality that was generated outside of Papua New Guinea and the Sambian realm. Looking at an instance of intersexualization in a cross-cultural context lets us compare and contrast it to the kind of intersexualization that happened at John Money’s clinic at Johns Hopkins (see Chapter 1 in this volume). Whereas the medicalization and pathologization remain fairly constant, what changes is that the power relations between the participants are entangled in a different context. The power relations between anthropologist/anthropologized, interviewer/interviewee, and psychoanalyst/psychoanalysand prove to be complex and interconnected with mechanisms hard to discern. They can, however, help shed light on the underlying mechanisms in intersexualization-especially in non-colonial settings. By the mid-1980s, Herdt and Stoller had developed their new method of clinical ethnography, yet the overarching structure of anthropological fieldwork-‘experts’ with authority of the Western university explore/exploit a nonWestern culture-remained the same. The crucial means of intersexualization
Anthropology, Sexuality, Neo-colonialism Early anthropology developed in the cradle of colonialism. Today it is acknowledged that anthropology and ethnology/ethnography descend from a tradition of travel reports and the like. From within anthropology, those self-reflexive about their discipline’s complicity with the project of colonialism acknowledge that anthropology carries colonial heritage baggage (e.g., Asad, 1973; Clifford &
Marcus, 1986; Said, 1978). As Talal Asad and the authors of his edited collection Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (1973) first convincingly argued, anthropology can be seen as perpetuating the implicit and explicit power asymmetries of colonialism. Moreover, anthropology arose largely out of the need for colonial administration (Forster, 1973); therefore, a certain synergy between economical interests and anthropology cannot be denied (Grosse, 2000). The origins of anthropology and its methodologies are thus ‘colonial,’ having emerged in an era when the world was mapped out geographically and politically. This era displayed a particular arrangement of power relations and hierarchies embedded in the expansion of European empires. Colonialism should be regarded as not just a matter of military invasion and economic exploitation; it should also be seen as a practice of imagination through which dominated populations are represented in ways that produce ethnicization/racialization, sexualization, and cultural difference. These modes of knowledge production take place on the level of groups of people and on the level of singular embodiments, subjectivities and practices. At the most basic level, anthropology seeks to explain cross-cultural variation in human behavior. Anthropologists utilize findings from psychology, medicine, ethnography, archeology, and linguistics to formulate comparative knowledge about humankind. Anthropological interest in sexuality has a long history. When first establishing anthropology as an academic discipline in its own right, early anthropologists, such as Margaret Mead and Bronislaw Malinowski, became aware that sex-gender-sexuality-systems are organizing forms of society. It was not until the 1960s, when taboos regarding sexuality lifted, and studying sexuality became accepted practice. Joseph Carrier, pioneering anthropologist in homosexualities, states in retrospect about the time before the 1960s that “few anthropologists have had the courage to study human sexual behavior in other cultures as a major focus of their research; even fewer have had the courage to study highly stigmatized homosexual behavior” (1986: xi). The American Anthropological Association (AAA) finally acknowledged the importance of sex research at its annual meeting in 1961, when a plenary session was exclusively dedicated to human sexual behavior (see Gebhard, 1971: xiii). In 1974, the AAA sponsored a historic symposium on homosexuality. After this, journals, symposia, and conferences on the issue of (homo)sexuality started to emerge within the field. Even before that, there were notable exceptions of anthropologists studying sex-gender-sexuality systems. In the early part of the twentieth century, Margaret Mead, along with Bronislaw Malinowski, studied sexuality and gender in a matrilineal island group belonging to Papua New Guinea. Malinowski (1961 ) questioned the idea that Freudian concepts such as the Oedipus complex are universally applicable to all cultures. In questioning the relevance of Oedipus for cultures dissimilar to the nineteenth-century Western European context of Freud, Malinowski implicitly cast doubt on the universal applicability of any knowledge about humans in cross-cultural contexts. Mead’s work, also in this island group called the Trobriands, explored whether differences between the
sexes_genders were culturally or biologically determined (1930; 1935; 1962 ). Mead’s reports on gender-sex-sexuality-systems in Papua New Guinea highly influenced the American sexual revolution of the 1960s, and her early research and ethnographic writings informed later developments in anthropological knowledge of sex, gender, and sexuality.