Posted by James Harper on 9/05/2013 / Labels: cultural
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What's so special about the Na is that they do not have any concept of fathers, i.e. there is no word for that in their language. There are also no in-laws. And no spousal fights, as there is usually no marriage. Instead, they know furtive visits at night, when men try to win the short-lived favor at the women's houses. Monogamy is also unknown. Till 13 years of age, all Na wear unisex clothes.
The book features 475 regular text pages, 20 of which are footnotes, the last 25 or so just repeat and the first 100 are used as an introduction. Which still leaves some 330 pages on the Na from an anthropological perspective. I missed his raising of the obvious question of how homosexuality works in this society, which didn't surprise me, not coming from a Chinese professor. Instead he defines marriage in strictly heterosexual measures. Which is in vain anyway, as no such thing exits (save some exceptions of official Na functionaries). What I found disturbing, was his definition of family. According to him, the Na do not live in families. Because they do not fit his definition of family. Which flabbergasted me. Grandmother, mother, kids and mother's brother living in the same house do not seem to be countable as a family...
There are some other anthropological books about the Na. And also the very recommendable autobiography of a Na woman, Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World, which is a bit atypical in so far that the protagonist DOES know as a child who her biological father is.
You may also be interested in the Zapotec matriarchy of Mexico, of which I know a German book only. And to a transformed society from matriarchy to patriarchy in Nigeria, Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society.A Society without Fathers or Husbands: The Na of China Overview
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