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Ross, J.M. (1992). Oedipus in the Stone Age. A Psychoanalytic Study of Masculinization in Papua, New Guinea: By Theodore Lidz and Ruth Wilmanns Lidz. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1989. 228 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:481-486.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:481-486

Oedipus in the Stone Age. A Psychoanalytic Study of Masculinization in Papua, New Guinea: By Theodore Lidz and Ruth Wilmanns Lidz. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1989. 228 pp.

Review by:
John Munder Ross

This is a gem of a book. Brilliantly researched and organized, it distills for the practicing psychoanalyst the evolving anthropology of the tribes of the remote regions of Papua, New Guinea. Concentrating on the prepubertal initiation rites practiced by these tribal peoples, the authors consider the ethnographic data they so evocatively present within the context of our current theories of male development. The results are illuminating. Not only do they make the Western reader privy to the rituals and myths of these simple societies, but, in so doing, the Lidzes further entreat culture-bound readers to reassess their notions about the critical ingredients of the early evolution of masculinity.

Oedipus in the Stone Age may be seen as a state-of-the-art position paper in a tradition in applied psychoanalysis that began in 1954 with Bruno Bettelheim's Symbolic Wounds. In this first contribution, surveying the field data then available to him from societies like those reviewed by the Lidzes, Bettelheim argued that psychoanalysts had been too preoccupied with the castration threat on the part of the collective fatherhood toward their initiates which seems evident in their bloody rites of passage.

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