23. april 2018

Cutting Cosmos: Masculinity and Spectacular Events among the Bugkalot

Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen has published the book ‘Cutting Cosmos: Masculinity and Spectacular Events among the Bugkalot,’ in which he explores issues such as cosmology, egalitarianism and ritual killing.

For the first time in over 30 years, a new ethnographic study emerges on the Bugkalot tribe, more widely known as the Ilongot of the northern Philippines. Exploring the notion of masculinity among the Bugkalot, the book is not only an experimental, anthropological study of the paradoxes around which Bugkalot society revolves, but also a reflection on anthropological theory and writing. Focusing on the transgressive acts through which masculinity is performed, this book explores the idea of the ‘cosmic cut,’ the ritual act that enables the Bugkalot man to momentarily hold still the chaotic flows of his world.

Through an exploration of diverse phenomena that are associated with Bugkalot men, for instance, headhunting, consumption of alcohol and shamanism, the book demonstrates that masculinity implies a paradox. Bugkalot masculinity revolves around the ability to act assertively and Bugkalot men aspire, above all, for individual autonomy - the establishing and maintaining of a certain form of imperviousness to the world. Yet, this autonomy cannot be converted into actual, assertive power, but rather entails the privilege of same-ness - of being like other men and entering into egalitarian relations. Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen shows how these seemingly opposed characteristics of male life - the egalitarianism and the assertive ideals – actually are interwoven. Acts of dominance are presented as acts of transgression that are persistently ritualized, contained and isolated as spectacular events within the society. Through a novel approach to egalitarianism, where equality is not a cultural ideal but rather that which emerges out of persistent conflict, the book seeks to revitalize egalitarianism and reinstall it as a key anthropological concept.

Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen, Cutting Cosmos: Masculinity and Spectacular Events among the Bugkalot, Berghahn Books, 2018.