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History Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Three into two: the third sex in Northern Albania

By Roland Littlewood, 2002

From the position of a formal sociology, Georg Simmel argued that the introduc- tion of a third element into a pervasive binary system can serve to mitigate the latter’s salience. The instance considered here is that of a third sex in Northern Albania. “Sworn virgins” are generally perceived as women who become men (gender crossing) rather than as an additional engendered category (multiple gender). The overarching signi􏰜 cance of the Albanian gender system is thereby barely attenuated, and virgjinesha do not contribute to a less subdominant position for other women.

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