Freud’s theories of personality have helped to explain what motivates us to think, behave and feel the way we do. A mere slip of the tongue or dream can help us gain access into the otherwise, inaccessible unconscious. Although behaviors, practices, rituals and thought processes of non-Western societies differ tremendously from those of Western societies, some anthropologists who were sympathetic to the psychodynamic theories of the mind proposed that, although expressed differently, rituals and behavior of non-Western societies are rooted in the same unconscious conflicts and instincts. In light of Freud’s psychodynamic theory, supernatural entities can be seen as projections of the maternal or paternal figure, objects such as a wooden bow can be seen as a symbol of the phallus; a representation of the paternal figure. Just like Western societies resolve conflicts and impulses through defense mechanisms known as sublimation (for example: transference of sexual urges through Christian work for the poor), might certain rituals be another form of sublimation of these same urges? Another source of interest for anthropologists in Freud’s psychodynamic theory is the Oedipus complex, which according to Freud is a universal and central concept in the developing child. Anthropologists wondered whether the same jealousy for the father and sexual desire felt for the mother is experienced universally. If its universality is indeed true, anthropologists posed the question as to how is tension due to the Oedipus complex expressed. Freud placed great emphasis on our primal instincts, namely sex and aggression. Through culture, we are presented with a moral code or compass which hinders the free and outright expression of these urges. Man is reduced to an ego-centric and aggressive being. It is worth noting, however, that all mammals are social beings, since the ability to live in groups provided an evolutionary advantage. Therefore, it would be incorrect and reductionist to interpret symbolism in non-Western countries purely from the psychodynamic perspective. Thus, anthropologists interpret symbolism for the Tallensi of Ghana from the combined psychodynamic and socio-historical perspective. From a socio-cultural perspective, the ambivalence between the son and father is the outward expression of the tension the father feels toward the son, seeing as the son symbolizes the father’s replacement upon his passing away. Through the lack of interaction, the tension is resolved and continues to be further resolved by the comforting, cultural concept of ancestry and lineage. The tension felt by the boy towards his father, bears resemblance to the same tension experienced by a boy during Freud’s Oedipus complex. This tension is resolved upon the son being allowed access to things like the father’s bow which before his death were forbidden to him. In this way the boy identifies with the father, the rivalry ends and the tension, typical of that of the Oedipus complex is resolved. Both perspectives can also convey the symbolism the Ndembu ritual symbol of the Mudyi tree. The milky sap from the Mudyi tree can come to symbolize the oral phase characterized by breastfeeding and the oral pleasure gained by deriving breast milk. The tree can also come to symbolize the social relationship between the mother and daughter as well as the matrilineal descent or ancestry. Cultural ontology is defined as ‘a society’s system of notions about what kind of things (including kinds of people) exist in the world and their characteristics and social value,’. One may be inclined to state that the notion that there are two sexes (dimorphism) is a fact. However, through their work, numerous anthropologists have shown that this is not true for all parts of the world. The Western cultural ontology stresses the notion that there are two genders or sexes with people who do not fit into this category being labelled as transgender. Although discrimination is less common nowadays, being transgender, in Western societies is not considered to fit into the list of culturally constructed gender norms and into our notion of dimorphism. Some non-Western societies however, possess a cultural ontology which encompasses more than 2 kinds of gender of sexes but also what are known as ‘third genders’. These third genders are not only tolerated and not discriminated against but have great value in society. An example of this is the Nadleehi in Navajo where the male Nadleehi has both male and female qualities. A male Nadleehi may partake in activities which are typically female and sexual relaltionships between a male and a Nadleehi are considered normal and accepted. Other examples of third genders are they Berache, Eunuchs, Hijra and Travesti in Brazil. Rather than being labelled as possessing male or female qualities, the Travesti in Brazil are said to belong to the non male category. This category has its roots in their cultural ontology which divided genders into two categories; male and non male. Furthermore, a western society regards sexuality or sexual preference as a more or less permanent way of life, however in certain societies, homosexuality is seen as a common rite of passage for the transition of boys into men as seen in the introduction of semen to young boys in Melanesian societies.

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