Table of Contents


Title page

Copyright page



1 Body, Mind and World

The reproduction of culture

Symbolism, fantasy and culture

Gender and the post-oedipal

Desire and ideology

2 A Genealogy of the Anthropological Subject

Anthropological selves and persons

How much does culture matter?

Language and the body

Power, discourse and multiplicity

The subject of anthropology

3 Culture, Power and Desire

The case for a new relationship between anthropology and psychoanalysis

Freud and culture

Language and desire

The power of the imaginary

4 Objects and Relations with (M)others

Subjects and objects

Winnicott, Klein and (m)others

The oedipal, the pre-oedipal and the post-oedipal

Feminist revisions of the imaginary

Bodies and objects

Metaphor and metonym


5 The Problem of the Phallus

What does a penis signify?

Signifiers and sexual difference

6 Being and Having

The body ego

The woman with the man inside


7 Kinship and Sexuality

Oedipus once more

Masculinity and initiation

Identification and object choice

Gender and the repetition of sexual difference

8 Mothers and Men

The origins of sexual difference

Figures of the maternal

The Yafar Yangis

Naven and the maternal

9 Social Transformations

Ideology and ontology

The Tambaran

The causes and consequences of social change

The future of sexual difference



Title page


Marilyn Strathern


The Economic and Research Council of the UK generously funded the project on which this book is based, ‘Gender and Symbolism: New Theoretical Approaches’, from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 2000, grant number R000237794. I am very grateful for their support.

This book has been a long time in the making, perhaps because I have always envisioned it as the third and last in a series of works on gender beginning with Feminism and Anthropology and continuing with A Passion for Difference. In consequence, my intellectual and personal debts are many and of a very profound and deep-seated character. I can only apologize in advance to friends and colleagues who recognize their thoughts in mine and yet feel that I have not traced our mutual genealogies in ways that reflect the depth and length of our exchanges. They know how much I owe them. I would like to thank also Nicholas Casarini and François Gemenne for their help with library research and sources, and Geraldine Miric for the kind of practical support that is itself a gift.

My thinking, as it has evolved over many years, owes a particular debt to the writings of Melford Spiro, Bernard Juillerat and Marilyn Strathern. The influences of their brilliant, measured, yet incisive intellects may not be evinced here as much as they should, but I nonetheless offer my sincere appreciation. They opened the doors through which I have been able to walk.

My understanding of psychoanalytic theory has developed out of long conversations and interactions with two outstanding practitioners of this art, Renata Salecl and Darian Leader. My disagreements with them have always proved tremendously productive and enjoyable. I have been fortunate to have had the friendship and intellectual support of David Held, Kriti Kapila, Nicholas Thomas, Christina Toren, Todd Sanders and Megan Vaughan during the time this book was being conceived and written. They have always set the pace, and I do my best to keep step. It would probably never have been written at all without the encouragement and unstinting support of John Thompson.