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The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture / Edition 1

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Winner of the: Gay Book of the Year Award, American Library Association; Ruth Benedict Award, Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists; Award for Outstanding Scholarship, World Congress for Sexology

Author’s note: Shortly after the second revised edition this book was published in 1992, the term "Two-Spirit Person" became more popular among native people than the older anthropological term "berdache." When I learned of this new term, I began strongly supporting the use of this newer term. I believe that people should be able to call themselves whatever they wish, and scholars should respect and acknowledge their change of terminology. I went on record early on in convincing other anthropologists to shift away from use of the word berdache and in favor of using Two-Spirit. Nevertheless, because this book continues to be sold with the use of berdache, many people have assumed that I am resisting the newer term. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless continued sales of this book will justify the publication of a third revised edition in the future, it is not possible to rewrite what is already printed, Therefore, I urge readers of this book, as well as activists who are working to gain more respect for gender variance, mentally to substitute the term "Two-Spirit" in the place of "berdache" when reading this text. -- Walter L. Williams, Los Angeles, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'An extraordinary perceptive study of the berdache and the most comprehensive treatment of this controversial topic to date.' --American Historical Review
Reprint, with a new preface, of the Beacon Press edition of 1986 (see Choice, 3/87, Booklist, 11/86, PW, 10/21/88). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807046159
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 4/28/1992
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 987,280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Williams is professor of anthropology in the Program for the Study of Women and Men in Society at the University of Southern California.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I The Character of the Berdache
1 Of Religions and Dreams: The Spiritual Basis of the Berdache Tradition 17
2 Sacred People: Berdache Mystical Power and Ceremonial Roles 31
3 Family Matters: The Economic and Social Position of the Berdache 44
4 Men, Women, and Others: The Gender Role of the Berdache 65
5 The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Aspects of the Berdache Tradition 87
6 A Normal Man: The Berdache's Husband and the Question of Sexual Variance 110
Pt. II Changes in the Berdache Tradition Since the Coming of the Europeans
7 The Abominable Sin: The Spanish Campaign Against "Sodomy," and Its Results in Modern Latin America 131
8 Seafarers, Cowboys, and Indians: Male Marriage in Fringe Societies on the Anglo-American Frontier 152
9 Of Bibles and Bureaus: Indian Acculturation and Decline of the Berdache Tradition 175
10 Survival and Pride: The Berdache Tradition and Gay American Indians Today 201
Pt. III Toward a Theoretical Understanding of Gender and Sexual Variance
11 Amazons of America: Female Gender Variance 233
12 Social Constructions/Essential Characters: A Cross-Cultural Viewpoint 252
Notes 277
Bibliography 317
Index 335
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2001

    Finally an alternative that feels right

    After reading an excerpt from this book I had to track it down! Every page offered a new concept and ideas that were totally new to me. Finally I feel like there is a place I can belong in this world and I'm not just some defect left in the street to be kicked around. An invaluable resource for someone who is really unsure of exactly who and what they are.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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