Neo-paganism, feminism, and anthropological gender discourse

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Swain, Eleanor
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University of Guelph

Increasingly, feminists and postmodern anthropologists are analyzing the complex relationships that occur between constructions of gender, epistemology, and ontology. It is thought that essentialized constructions of masculinity and femininity are largely naturalized through a dualistic epistemology and a static, 'a priori' ontology. These three elements support one another in a complex interrelationship. This thesis examines this relationship as it is expressed by the members of a small neo-pagan society at an Ontario University. The ontological beliefs expressed by the words and actions of members of the Pagan Society promote an understanding of personhood that is variable and partible, while still employing a dualistic, or binary approach to knowledge. Gender is understood in a dichotomy of masculine and feminine energy; however, this energy is malleable and partible. The ideal person contains a balance of all dichtotomous aspects of the universal energy within. Despite this ideal of balance, and the belief in a dynamic ontology, many members of the Pagan Society reject a feminist identity.

constructions of gender, epistemology, ontology, neo-pagan society, personhood