Homo Hierarchicus versus Mulier Aequalis

(Un)acceptable Asymmetry?

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Taking my cue from Louis Dumont's Homo hierarchicus versus Homo aequalis, I reflect on the notion of symmetry among the Wakanongo of south-central Tanzania, in a region subjected to enforced circumcision by East African Muslims towards the close of the nineteenth century. And where, as a Catholic missionary-cum-anthropologist, I carried out my fieldwork from 1969 to 1972 . Here I address myself to the rights and wrongs of women and to the wrongs sometimes done by women to themselves. My Habermas-style plea is for an anthropology of asymmetrical acceptability, in that it could be more acceptable both philosophically and practically than the excessively ethnocentric proposition of an essential equality.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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