Irregular Connections


Irregular Connections

A History of Anthropology and Sexuality

Andrew P. Lyons and Harriet D. Lyons

Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology Series

420 pages
3 illustrations, index


October 2004


$35.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Irregular Connections traces the anthropological study of sex from the eighteenth century to the present, focusing primarily on social and cultural anthropology and the work done by researchers in North America and Great Britain. Andrew P. and Harriet D. Lyons argue that the sexuality of those whom anthropologists studied has been conscripted into Western discourses about sex, including debates about prostitution, homosexuality, divorce, premarital relations, and hierarchies of gender, class, and race.
Because sex is the most private of activities and often carries a high emotional charge, it is peculiarly difficult to investigate. At times, such as the late 1920s and the last decade of the twentieth century, sexuality has been a central concern of anthropologists and focal in their theoretical formulations. At other times the study of sexuality has been marginalized. The anthropology of sex has sometimes been one of the main faces that anthropology presented to the public, often causing resentment within the discipline.
Irregular Connections discusses several individuals who have played a significant role in the anthropological study of sexuality, including Sir Richard Burton, Havelock Ellis, Edward Westermarck, Bronislaw Malinowski, Margaret Mead, George Devereux, Robert Levy, Gilbert Herdt, Stephen O. Murray, and Esther Newton. Synthesizing a wealth of information from different anthropological traditions, the authors offer a seamless history of the anthropology of sex as it has been practiced and conceptualized in North America and Great Britain.

Author Bio

Andrew P. Lyons is an associate professor of anthropology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Harriet D. Lyons is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Waterloo.


"Anthropologists A. Lyons. . . . and H. Lyons. . . . fill a crucial gap in the literature of intellectual history as well as of anthropology."—Choice

“A valuable addition to the literature on anthropology as cultural critique, and anthropological intersections with the colonial project. . . . An impressive and comprehensive piece of research. . . .  A necessary reference book for all anthropologists who are interested in sexuality.”—Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

“Andrew and Harriet Lyons have drawn on over two decades of study in and about Africa to craft this impressive, thought-provoking book. They analyze numerous examples of the sometimes shockingly shoddy scholarship that was used to make (but also sometimes to refute) racist, misogynist, and homophobic arguments about sexuality to North American and British audiences. Irregular Connections should help grid us non-anthropologists with a more rigorously critical understanding of their (and by extension, our) disciplines.”—Marc Epprecht, International Journal of African Historical Studies

“Given anthropology’s focus on the intersections between the biological and the cultural one might reasonably expect that it would have a lot to say about sexuality. But instead, anthropology has been accused of avoiding sexuality. . . . Irregular Connections offers a useful corrective to these accounts. . . . Because of the breadth of their review and its historical depth, it is sure to become a common reference for those whose work in sexuality has a much more contemporary slant.”—Ellen Lewin, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

“The Lyonses have provided us with a much-needed volume on the history of sexuality and the ways in which Western analysts have used non-Western cultural ‘others’ to support their own ideologies of sex and power. . . . Its publication works toward legitimizing the academic study of sex and sexuality and challenging anthropologists and other scholars to think more self-consciously about representations of sexuality, historical and otherwise.”—Journal of the History of Sexuality


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