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Hardcover | $42.95 Short | £35.95 | 512 pp. | 6 x 9 in | March 2001 | ISBN: 9781890951122
Paperback | $26.95 Trade | £21.95 | 512 pp. | 6 x 9 in | July 2008 | ISBN: 9781890951139
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A Society without Fathers or Husbands

The Na of China
Translated by Asti Hustvedt


The Na of China, farmers in the Himalayan region, live without the institution of marriage. Na brothers and sisters live together their entire lives, sharing household responsibilities and raising the women’s children. Because the Na, like all cultures, prohibit incest, they practice a system of sometimes furtive, sometimes conspicuous nighttime encounters at the woman’s home. The woman's partners—she frequently has more than one—bear no economic responsibility for her or her children, and "fathers," unless they resemble their children, remain unidentifiable. This lucid ethnographic study shows how a society can function without husbands or fathers. It sheds light on marriage and kinship, as well as on the position of women, the necessary conditions for the acquisition of identity, and the impact of a communist state on a society that it considers backward.

About the Author

Cai Hua is Director of the Center for Anthropological and Folkloric Studies at the Peking University.


“Dr. Cai Hua has done Western anthropology a great service by making it acquainted with one of those few societies in Asia (and in Africa as well) who deny or belittle the roles of father and husband in their social system. Thanks to him the Na now have their place in the anthropological literature.”
Claude Lévi-Strauss
“Dr. Cai Hua's revelatory work is replete with invaluable ethnographic findings and human value.”
Rodney Needham, Oxford University