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Title:"Chopsticks Only Work in Pairs": Gender Unity and Gender Equality Among the Lahu of Southwest China
Author(s):Du, Shanshan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Gottlieb, Alma
Department / Program:Anthropology
Discipline:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Sociology, Individual and Family Studies
Abstract:Based on eighteen months of full-time fieldwork among the Lahu of Southwest China and Thailand, I explore in this dissertation the ways in which gender unity is constructed as a master motif---as encapsulated in the Lahu metaphor, "chopsticks only work in pairs"---that fosters gender equality and that prevails in ideological, institutional, and practical domains alike among the Lahu. Following an introduction to the project and the Lahu, I examine the orientation of the Lahu world view towards the "pair" (awl cie), i.e., the unity of male and female. I discuss the ways in which the Lahu principle, "everything comes in pairs," underlies Lahu mythology, cosmology, classification systems, rituals, and language, as well as their perceptions of the life cycle. I then explore the joint roles of Lahu men and women in both productive and reproductive activities, as well as in ownership and leadership of the household and beyond. I further explore the ways in which the Lahu kinship system fuses a married couple into a single social category and provides a structural base for their practice of gender unity. I then explore how the dynamics of individual marriages frequently challenge the Lahu ideal of gender unity, which expects all marriages to endure, even if forcefully implemented and maintained at the cost of the individuals' emotional well-being. I demonstrate that the Lahu gender system have endured, in varying degrees in different contexts, through encounters both with their neighboring ethnic groups and with the patriarchal Chinese state over last two centuries. To conclude, I situate the Lahu gender model in a spectrum of gender systems cross-culturally, proposing new questions that may strengthen feminist theory by transcending the dichotomized conceptual shackles that tend to be embedded in many models of gender relations.
Issue Date:1999
Type:Text
Language:English
Description:306 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/85322
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI9944839
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:1999


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