Some final comments
The advocated perspective also suggests some other views on gender. As Strath – ern repeatedly points out, gender does not have a simple, one-to-one relationship to persons (e. g. 1988:14ff.) but is cultural constructions that are, strictly speaking, only indirectly linked to persons. One implication of this view is that studies of gender necessarily have to involve both sexes. Gender—being collective (although contested) ideas about men and women as well as identities linked to selves—is created in social dialogical relations through different forms of exter- nalisations and internalisations (Strathern 1988:14ff.). Thus, the results of restricting the issue of gender to studies of women are as tangible as the sound of one hand clapping. Moreover, modern societies are always class-divided in various ways. Hence the issue of power—which is an ingrained part of treatments of gender—is way more complicated and fuzzy than a simple dichotomous opposition between men and women. Differentiating forces criss-cross in various ways, thus requiring relating gender to other forces, which again requires a treatment of gender as relational. To be simple: not only are there educated and wealthy women who are more powerful than many men, but they probably also have little in common with the poor and uneducated women. But the most important implication in relation to the arguments put forth here is that the context/dividuality perspective provides the issue of gender—especially in its function as identity— with the tools that are necessary in order to treat it as the complicated issue it is. By deconstructing the person along the lines of context and dividuality gender is opened up in new ways that can fruitfully complicate not only the relationships between men and women but also between masculine and feminine aspects of singular persons.
To end this paper I want to retrace the issue of generalisation and culture, and I wish to do it by briefly discussing the infamous ‘African sexuality’ thesis. Many Africanists with a ‘Western’ background, including myself, feel that there are significant differences between sexuality in ‘the West’ and in Africa. Perhaps it is not so much a question of African permissiveness, or people’s preoccupation with it—we certainly find similar traits in certain social groups in ‘the West’. The regional difference is maybe more a question of sexual mores than sexual practice. Perhaps the most significant difference is the Western strictness about sex and motivations: romantic love and/or personal pleasure (physical and psychological) are the ‘proper’ motives for engaging in sex, while strategic, materially oriented uses of sexuality are strictly tabooed—being forcefully embodied in our image of
Arnfred Page 206 Wednesday, March 3, 2004 2:38 PM