It’s always seemed to me that one of the skills in teaching comes from choosing articles that, when read together, pose a certain problem that students can wrap their heads around and can generate discussion. I just got done teaching “Gil Herdt’s”:http://hmsx.sfsu.edu/faculty/herdt/cv.htm newly-updated The Sambia to students and as usual the papers on the topic of homosexual initiation (boys must ingest semen to become men and undergo puberty) focused on how misled this practice was, and that “if only the Sambia knew the facts about semen” and so forth then they wouldn’t do this stuff. I don’t personally endorse ten year olds performing sex acts with adults, and I admit that Sambia practices would change if they had ‘our’ understanding of exactly what semen does. But the challenge of the course is to see that this is not a case where ‘we have science and they have culture’ –that biomedecine is itself a cultural phenomenon, albeit one that is calibrated to the physical world in unique ways that allow for the control, manipulatin, and prediction of biological phenomenon etc. etc.
Anyway it occured to me recently that a good way to explain this would be to discuss the culturally-specific understanding of semen at play in the US, so I brought some excerpts from “Emily Martin’s”:http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/anthro/faculty/martin.html 1991 essay “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles” (Signs 16 (3):485-501, btw). I didn’t really have enough time to pull it off completely, but I think in the future I will for sure try to play this article off the Sambia. And I think you should too.