Moore, Henrietta L. (2007) The Subject of Anthropology: Gender, Symbolism and Psychoanalysis.

In this ambitious new book, Henrietta L. Moore draws on anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis to develop an original and provocative theory of gender and of how we become sexed beings.

Arguing that the Oedipus complex is no longer the fulcrum of debate between anthropology and psychoanalysis, she demonstrates how recent theorizing on subjectivity, agency and culture has opened up new possibilities for rethinking the relationship between gender, sexuality and symbolism.

Using detailed ethnographic material from Africa and Melanesia to explore the strengths and weaknesses of a range of theories in anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis, Moore advocates an ethics of engagement based on a detailed understanding of the differences and similarities in the ways in which local communities and western scholars have imaginatively deployed the power of sexual difference. She demonstrates the importance of ethnographic listening, of focused attention to people′s imaginations, and of how this illuminates different facets of complex theoretical issues and human conundrums.

Written not just for professional scholars and for students but for anyone with a serious interest in how gender and sexuality are conceptualized and experienced, this book is the most powerful and persuasive assessment to date of what anthropology has to contribute to these debates now and in the future.


‘This book is invaluable – there is nothing else like it. Well-organised and beautifully written, it is also clear as a bell, which is no mean feat when dealing with these complex and abstruse issues.’

Emily Martin, New York University

‘This is a major intellectual achievement by one of the pioneers of feminist anthropology. Henrietta Moore sets a new agenda for transnational gender and sexuality research while debating some of the cutting-edge theoretical issues in feminist psychoanalysis and post-structuralism. She urges us to acknowledge the complex and dynamic relationship between bodies and the variant cultural meanings attached to femininity and masculinity, but also to consider the enduring hold of the social imaginary upon the constitution of the subject. A major contribution to the political economy of sexuality in the global era.’

Rosi Braidotti, Utrecht University

‘Henrietta Moore seeks to build a theory of gendered subjectivity by articulating the insights of psychoanalysis, anthropology and feminism. The extended readings of psychoanalytic theory through anthropological and feminist eyes are clear and illuminating. This is a rich and thought-provoking book.’

Sherry B Ortner, University of California-Los Angeles

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