Sambia A evaluative critique

Essay by asim24College, UndergraduateA, May 2014

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Najmul Khan

Gilbert Herdt Book

Dr. Rubenstein


The Sambia: An evaluative critique.

Gilbert Herdt's emphatic insight and recollection of The Sambia tribe is brilliantly captured in and articulated in his book. The Sambia reside in the fringe regions of Papua New Guinea. The book explores the roles and complexities of gender, erotic desire and sexuality of the members of the tribe. Gender identity and development, especially among the males is crucial.

The Book: What it is about and what I learned.

The Book articulates on several different aspects of The Sambia entailing their geographic surroundings, their elaborate culture, rituals, the making of the individual, the secret society of the men, the initiation of young boys, the inequalities of gender and power distribution, and the revolutionary change that was inculcated in the tribe, post colonial times.

The book had an extensive chapter describing the Geographical and social structure of the tribe.

The geographical setting of the Tribe is such that they are situated in the Southeastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, dispersed over a vast expanse rain forest. They live in minute, well defended mountain clan hamlets. The book gives detailed accounts for many different individuals in chapter three titled Sambia Social Individuals; I thought this was fascinating to read because I gained perspective on the lives and responsibilities of different people in the tribe.

The Book is a thorough cultural and psychological analysis of gender identity and sexual development vividly describing the tribe's practices which comprises of initiation rites and socialization.

The author does a great job illustrating the geographical realities of the tribe. It gives the reader an acute sense of how life is in these conditions and it also goes to show that the geographical setting of the tribe contributes to the Sambian lifestyle.