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"A Sack for Carrying Things": The Traditional Role of Women in Northern Albanian Society

Ian Whitaker
Anthropological Quarterly
Vol. 54, No. 3 (Jul., 1981), pp. 146-156
DOI: 10.2307/3317892
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317892
Page Count: 11
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"A Sack for Carrying Things": The Traditional Role of Women in Northern Albanian Society
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Abstract

The analysis of the traditional role of women among the Ghegs of northern Albania presents the student with certain contradictory features: on the one hand there is the constant deference expected of all women, manifested in innumerable but visible ways, such as in everyday custom or the unequal division of labour; on the other hand there is the high valuation placed on chastity, the contravention of which involved the clan in the bloodfeud. In the matter of sexual relations themselves we find a permissiveness towards homosexual conduct which recalls certain features of ancient Greece, but on the other hand the heroic songs enjoin a ribald and thoroughly heterosexual mode of conduct on the part of all true males. And although in general male and female roles are sharply demarcated, it is always possible for a woman to abandon her sex, assume male clothing, and after swearing perpetual virginity, to live and be treated in all respects like a man. In this paper I shall consider these aspects of the position of women in the traditional society of northern Albania as it persisted into the middle of the twentieth century, only changing substantially since the formation of the Peoples' Republic.

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