Male Cults Revisited: The Politics of Blood versus Semen


  • Michael Allen


IN 1957, as a fourth-year honours undergraduate at Sydney

University, I carried out a library-based study of male initiations in

Melanesia, the results of which were subsequently published in

1967 in a small book entitled  Male Cults and Secret Initiations in

Melanesia.1  Though at that time I was unaware of Levi-Strauss's

(1969) comparative study of what he termed the 'elementary

structures of kinship', I nevertheless developed an argument in

which I contended that the most elaborate compulsory male

initiations were consistently found in societies that Levi-Strauss

referred to as harmonic, that is to say, in societies in which the same

unilineal principle, whether patrilineal or matrilineal, prevailed both

in descent and in post-marital residence, as distinct from the

disharmonic variety, where there was a disjunction between the

descent and residence rules.