The University of Wisconsin Press


Anthropology / African Studies



When Men Are Women
Manhood among Gabra Nomads of East Africa
John Colman Wood

What it means to be a man

"The writing is finely crafted and Wood's knowledge of Gabra society is extensive and nuanced. I know of no study comparable to this." —John C. McCall, Southern Illinois University–Carbondale

In this fascinating exploration of the cultural models of manhood, When Men Are Women  examines the unique world of the nomadic Gabra people, a camel-herding society in northern Kenya. Gabra men denigrate women and feminine things, yet regard their most prestigious men as women. As they grow older, all Gabra men become d'abella, or ritual experts, who have feminine identities. Wood's study draws from structuralism, psychoanalytic theory, and anthropology to probe the meaning of opposition and ambivalence in Gabra society. When Men Are Women provides a multifaceted view of gender as a cultural construction independent of sex, but nevertheless fundamentally related to it. By turning men into women, the Gabra confront the dilemmas and ambiguities of social life. Wood demonstrates that the Gabra can provide illuminating insight into our own culture's understanding of gender and its function in society.

John Colman Wood is visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Emory University.

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November 1999
LC: 99-006427 DT
256 pp.   6 x 9   11 b/w photos, 1 map, 6 diagrams

The cloth edition, ISBN 978-0-299-16590-1, is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

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Paper $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-16594-9
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