A Society without Fathers or Husbands by Cai Hua
The Na of China

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The Na of China, farmers in the Himalayan region, live without the institution of marriage. Na brothers and sisters live together their entire lives, sharing household responsibilities and raising the women's children. Because the Na, like all cultures, prohibit incest, they practice a system of sometimes furtive, sometimes conspicuous nighttime encounters at the woman's home. The woman's partners--she frequently has more than one--bear no economic responsibility for her or her children, and "fathers," unless they resemble their children, remain unidentifiable.This lucid ethnographic study shows how a society can function without husbands or fathers. It sheds light on marriage and kinship, as well as on the position of women, the necessary conditions for the acquisition of identity, and the impact of a communist state on a society that it considers backward.


About Cai Hua

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Cai Hua is Director of the Center for Anthropological and Folkloric Studies at the Peking University. Asti Hustvedt received her PhD in French literature from New York University. She has worked as an editor and translator, and lives in New York City with her family.
Published May 1, 2001 by Zone Books. 505 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian. Non-fiction

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Cai Hua, director of research at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences in China, lived among the Na for extended periods during the 1980s and 1990s and gathered comprehensive data on their history, religion, economic practices and social customs—in particular, kinship systems.

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Project MUSE

Communist power was more successful in supplanting this local pecking order by recruiting Na leaders into the party-state apparatus than it was in changing Na domestic practices.

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