Construire et habiter l’Inuit Nunangat
Building and Dwelling in Inuit Nunangat
Sous la direction de / Guest Editors:
Myriam Blais & Émilie Pinard
In order to complete the analysis of man-woman relations in hunter-gatherer societies which, in the case of Inuit ethnic groups, are characterized by an absolute dissociation and an interdependency of the two universes - hunting and the great outdoor spaces attributed to the male sex and domestic chores and indoor universe attributed to women - it is necessary to introduce the phenomenon of children "who change sex" at birth, that is to say, girls brought up as hunters and boys brought up as seamstresses - and keepers of the home. This custom, still alive in Ammassalik, puts into question a basic tenant according to which the hunting domain is reserved to men and only the male sex is valued and desired in Inuit society. From thirty existing cases, placed in their family contexts (rank in the family, number of siblings of each sex) and the reasons invoked by the parents, who have taken a decision concerning "sex change", it appears that this practice, as a general rule, serves as a remedy to a disequilibrium of the sex ratio within the family. It is difficult to discover the traditional basis of this custom, since ethnological literature barely discusses the matter, except to mention the existence of women hunters. The artificial establishment of a sex ratio could have been a substitute for infanticide; in a society where the life of a child was extremely fragile, so as not to suppress, at birth, a child of undesired sex, one would thus be transformed from earliest childhood. Hence, there could be, in addition to biological sex, a "social sex" dependent on family socialisation inducing behaviour and activities identical to the desired sex status.