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Tragic SpiritsShamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia$
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Manduhai Buyandelger

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226086552

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226013091.001.0001

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Ironies of Gender Neutrality

Ironies of Gender Neutrality

(p.169) Five Ironies of Gender Neutrality
Tragic Spirits

Manduhai Buyandelger

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 5 concerns the dilemmas that female shamans face in their quest for power. By exploring the rise and fall of Chimeg, a female shaman, the chapter unpacks the discrepancy between egalitarian rules and hierarchical practice and asks why female shamans’ skills as shamanic practitioners do not translate into political and material empowerment. The author explores how multiple gender systems in domestic, local, national, and state contexts impede female shamans’ ascent to power both during socialism and a market economy. Female shamans are betwixt and between: they need to be married and maintain households in order to fit the moral standards of womanhood, but their marriages and homes become obstacles to their advancement. If female shamans leave their households in order to pursue their shamanic practices, their lack of kinship and household support also impede their empowerment. They encounter a glass ceiling in either case, and so many tend to resort to unconventional sexual unions and creative strategies to maintain their audiences. Most broadly, the author argues that shamanism might give women a temporary escape from the tyranny of household patriarchy, but at the price of making them victims of patriarchy in the public sphere.

Keywords:   Empowerment, Patriarchy, Domestic Sphere, Gender Hierarchy, Female shamans, Public sphere, Glass Ceiling

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