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Anthropological Analysis of an Egalitarian Society (The Lahu people)

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  1. Introduction
  2. The ideals in a Lahu's life
  3. The idea of dualism in Lahu culture
  4. Intricate ceremony and tradition regarding dyads
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

Until recently, according to an innumerable amount of anthropologists and feminists, a gender egalitarian society was simply a utopian ideal (Du, 1-6). It was a concept unattainable to any individual society unless certain concessions were made, such as the view that women and men have ?essential differences?, often categorized by male oppression and even then these societies were seen as improbable (Du, 3). However, regardless of the reasoning, a general lack of faith in the possibility for a fully gender egalitarian society among all experts was incredibly prevalent at the opening of Shanshan Du's book, appropriately titled, Chopsticks Only Work in Pairs. Du then bravely introduces the Lahu people of the mountainous regions in the Yunnan province in southwestern China. These people, the subject of her book, live this utopian ideal of a life, fully embodying the equality portrayed by the two chopsticks referred to in the title. Through the various aspects of their culture, including mythology, daily activities and rites of passage, Shanshan Du proves that, at least for the Lahu people, having just one of the two chopsticks is useless. The aforementioned chopsticks are of course symbolic of the individual members of a dyadic couple, with the man and the woman standing together on one common ground, one no better or more important than the other and useless apart.

[...] The most telling example of such equality is in the case of a mother who cannot bear children, in a traditional Han society there is no doubt the blame would be placed solely on her and her inadequacies, whereas in Lahu society the blame is dispersed and sometimes not placed at all. Such intricate ceremony and tradition regarding dyads as displayed in Lahu culture by their mythology and rites of passage leads to a similarly dyadic social life maintained on a daily basis with very little difference in gender roles. [...]


[...] In fact, the individual Lahu towns themselves exhibit joint leadership by an elected couple in which the wife and the husband contribute an equal amount of effort to govern the town and at the same time provide themselves and their kids with food to eat 115). No matter where one looks in the Lahu society a complete sense of gender egalitarianism is unavoidable, from the bilateral and bilocal kinship systems, in which belongings are dispersed equally among the sexes and a newly married [...]

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