Call for papers Socio 8: The Third Social Sex (or The Third Gender)

socioThe journal Socio is launching a call for papers on the theme of the “third social sex” (or the third gender). This topic is being coordinated by Bernard Saladin d’Anglure and Elaine Coburn. Proposals for contributions (title, two-page summary and bibliography) should be sent to Socio by October 15, 2015. If the proposal is accepted, the article must be submitted by January 15, 2016.


The social relations of sex or gender, the sexual division of labour, how we define the individual and the person, kinship and the family—but also normality, abnormality, and difference—all of these are omnipresent social and political questions in Western societies. Sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, legal experts, and historians take part in these debates with a view to giving voice to persons often treated as (marginalized) “third parties” and to describing their social agency in the academic literature Such individuals are relegated to the margins of society, sometimes being subject to medical or legal interventions to “normalize” or even imprison them. Homosexuality, for instance, remains illegal in many countries and may incur the death penalty in five nation-states. The 19th century established the scientific idea of the “pervert,” which represents an ontological state or way of being (Davidson, cited by Hacking 2005, chapter VI). The pervert and later the “homosexual” was criminalized and medically “treated” to bring the individual back to normality. Previously, Christian theology and its “demonology”  dealt with such cases, when brought to the Church’s attention, ever since Thomas Aquinas had introduced the Aristotelian logic of the excluded “third parties” (with asexual angels and oversexed demons, see Saladin d’Anglure, 1985). In practice, however, many people participated in diverse and varied sexual relations without this defining their identity or being. Since the late 1960s, homosexuals—who subsequently identified as lesbians or gays—and also those identifying as transgender, transsexual, and bisexual (LGTB) later collectively as queer— have mobilized against this marginalization, medicalization, and criminalization. In so doing, they have raised radical questions about sex, gender, the definition of the individual and the family, their history and their variations over time and across societies. Likewise, in recent years, several countries (Germany, Australia, Nepal, India) have legally recognized the status of intersex persons (whose biological sex cannot be defined at birth as male or female), as a result, in some instances, of the strong agency of intersex organizations. The most important of these is the Organization Intersex International (OII), founded on December 10, 2012, Human Rights Day, and currently representing organizations in twenty countries on six continents. It seeks to gain legal recognition of intersex status by the United Nations and by nation-states, and is pushing for a legally approved designation of this status on birth certificates, passports, and so on. As with the LGBT and queer movements, the OII raises new questions not only about the binary conception that Western peoples have of sex and gender, but also about the day-to-day organization of social relations around these apparently “natural” binaries, which are now being vigorously challenged by those who identify as intersex.

These questions are not new. In 19th century France, for instance, physicians observed that some children were born with indeterminate sexual organs. They asked for a relaxation of French law, which officially adhered to the binary sex system from birth, but their request went unheard. In contrast, around 1900, other European countries, including Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Switzerland, legally recognized the possibility of a “neutral, indeterminate or hermaphrodite” sex at birth (Houbre, 2014: 75). Although law and medicine sought to establish official norms around biological sex and gender, they  had no monopoly on these debates and questions. The early 20th century British artist Romaine Brooks, for instance, painted portraits of herself and other women dressed in bourgeois male clothes. One of these portraits, from 1923-34 has the title: Peter (A Young English Girl). Closer in time, we can cite well-known cases of transvestism, for instance, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie by Sydney Pollack (1982),  Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire by Chris Columbus (1993), or Barbara Streisand in Yentl by Barbara Streisand (1983), not to mention the very contemporary new wave with Melvil Poupaud in Laurence Anyways by Xavier Dolan (2012) and finally Guillaume Gallienne in Me, Myself and Mom! by Guillaume Gallienne (2013).[1] These “troubles” of sex, gender, and sexuality, to use Judith Butler’s now well-known expression (Gender Trouble, Butler, 1990), are far from being a concern unique to Western countries, despite the tendency to portray Muslim nations, for instance, as being bound by heteronormative and binary norms. Thus, transvestism and effeminate men have been common practice for centuries in countries like Morocco (Zaganiaris, 2014:8), sometimes playing a specific social or religious role (Hell, 2002); see also the theme of the eighth daughter brought up as a boy in a family without sons, in the novel The Sand Child by the Moroccan writer and poet Tahar Ben Jelloun (1985), which is not without recalling the secular transvestism of girls as a boy (Bacha posh) among siblings without boys, thus sparing parents the dishonour of not having a son (Manoori, 2013) in certain parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although, today, there is growing legal and social recognition of intersex (previously “hermaphrodites”) and transgender persons,  antecedents in both Western and Eastern nations go back many centuries.

The intersex, LGBT, and queer movements are interested in the practices of Indigenous societies, as described in the anthropological literature, including ritual transvestism and, sometimes, homosexual practices, but they tend to refer to these practices in a romantic and decontextualized way (see Towl and Morgan, 2002), even adopting, after Rousseau, a point of view that celebrates primitive and free humanity, sheltered from the evils of “Civilization” (Trexler, 1995). They are ill at ease with recent publications by Saladin d’Anglure (2012, 2014) that describe the Inuit conception of sex, gender, and family relations and of identity rooted not in the Western world’s binary systems and logic of “excluded third parties” but in the logic of third parties being included (ibid), while focusing debate much more on gender than on sexual orientation. To be more precise, we can say that the Inuit do not exclude third parties from sex and gender, as in Western societies, because sex and gender are fluid over the course of one’s life and in society in general. In addition, the Inuit are familiar with the occasional occurrence of genital ambiguity in newborn babies, whether temporary or lifelong. They see this ambiguity as being the desire of the foetus, and of the deceased person the foetus incarnates, to change sex. Such a person is called a sipiniq, which has no negative connotation. If, in a dream, a deceased individual appears and wishes to drink or eat, the Inuit interpret this request as meaning that he or she wants to live again in the dreamer’s family. In such cases, the next newborn in the family must be named after the deceased, even if their biological sex differs. It is therefore not unusual for a boy to be brought up until puberty as a girl, who must subsequently “learn” male roles before being married, preferably to a girl who has been conversely raised as a boy. The social consequence is the existence and recognition of persons and “androgynous” couples, who can perform tasks that express the sensibilities  of both women and men.

For Saladin d’Anglure, these individuals form a “third social sex” and are particularly called upon, like shamans, to fulfil a role of social and religious mediator, a situation comparable in some respects to that of thwarted left-handed individuals, who thereby become ambidextrous (Serres, 1992). Saladin d’Anglure argues that the third gender is present in Western societies although this reality is not recognized and is not as explicit as it is in Inuit society. In his own family, for example, he is the second of eight children and the first son, having been born after a sister who was very close to their father. In contrast, he was very close to his mother (and a thwarted left-handed individual like his mother). He was initiated into “female” tasks at the age of 4, at the outbreak of the Second World War, and performed them until his father came home from the war and could initiate him into male tasks. This experience led him to explore the third social sex among the Inuit and to recognize part of himself in their practices.

This call for papers is being made to challenge the excessive efforts by contemporary Western social movements to politicize sexual and gender orientation, and to challenge the confusion surrounding debates over gender and sex (Saladin d’Anglure, 1985, 2012, 2014). We are asking for reflection, specifically:

  • on the history of movements that involve individuals of the third social sex and the various situations that these movements cover;
  • on the legal transformations of the status of the third social sex in the world (comparative approaches are particularly welcome);
  • on the artistic and literary representations of the third sex;
  • on Western scientific colonialism and its binary logic, as a source of exclusions, misunderstandings, and  conflicts;
  • on the third social sex and the ancient logic of “third parties included,” still existing today among many peoples, like the Inuit, other North and South American Indigenous peoples, or in the Taoist Chinese tradition, etc. (Saladin d’Anglure, 2015). These logics help these different peoples overcome the complexities of life and human society (Berthoz, 2013).

We invite critical reflections that mention the obstacles which too often confront excluded third parties. At the same time, we expect the contributions to consider the innovative presence of the third social sex in history, in jurisprudence, in scientific research, and in the arts or literature.

The editorial committee will prioritize proposals that draw on empirical or more conceptual work and that include analyses and/or critical reflections about the third social sex from the point of view of the humanities and social sciences.


Alessandrin, Arnaud, 2014, « Jean-Yves Tamet (ed.) : Différenciation sexuelle et identité : clinique, art et littérature », Nouvelles Questions Féministes 1, vol. 33, p. 121-124.

Ben Jelloun, Tahar, 1985. L’enfant de sable, Paris, Le Seuil.

Berthoz, Alain, 2013, La vicariance. Le cerveau créateur de mondes, Paris, Odile Jacob.

Broqua, Christophe and Doquet, Anne, 2013, « Masculin pluriel », Cahiers d’études africaines, pp. 209-210.

Butler, Judith, 1990, Gender Trouble. Feminisme and the subversion of identity, Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Inc. [French translation: 2006, Trouble dans le genre, preface by Éric Fassin, translation by Cynthia Kraus. La Découverte/Poche].

Douville, Olivier, 2007, « L’enfant, le sexe et la mort : que nous apprend l’anthropologie ? », La lettre de l’enfance et de l’adolescence, vol. 68, no 2, pp. 25-32.

Fassin, Éric, 2008, « L’empire du genre. L’histoire politique ambiguë d’un outil conceptuel », L’Homme, vol. 3-4, no 187-188, pp. 395-392.

Fausto Sterling, Anne, 2012, Corps en tous genres : la dualité des sexes à l’épreuve de la science, Paris, La Découverte et Institut Émilie du Châtelet.

Giami, Alain, 2011, « Identifier et classifier les trans : entre psychiatrie, épidémiologie et associations d’usagers », L’information psychiatrique, vol. 87, no 4, pp. 269-277.

Hacking, Ian, 2005, La connaissance des choses : définition, description, classification, Paris, Delagrave and Toulouse, IUFM Midi-Pyrénées.

Hell, Bertrand, 2002, Le tourbillon des génies. Au Maroc avec les Gnâwa, Paris, Flammarion.

Houbre, Gabrielle, 2014, « ‪Un “sexe indéterminé” ? : l’identité civile des hermaphrodites entre droit et médecine au xixe siècle‪ », Revue d’histoire du xixe siècle vol. 1, n° 48, pp. 63-75.

Kraus, Cynthia et al., 2008, « À qui appartiennent nos corps ? Féminisme et luttes intersexes », Nouvelles Questions Féministes, vol. 27, no 1.

Manoori, Ukmina. (with the assistance of Stéphanie Lebran), 2013, Je suis une bacha posh, un jour mon père m’a dit : tu seras un garçon ma fille !, Paris, Michel Lafon.

Piquart, Julien, 2009, Ni homme ni femme : enquête sur l’intersexuation, Paris, La Musardine.

Saladin d’Anglure, Bernard, 1985, « Du projet « PAR.AD.I » au sexe des anges: notes et débats autour d’un « troisième sexe »” Anthropologie et Sociétés, vol. 9, no 3, pp. 139-176.

–, 2006, Être et renaître Inuit, homme, femme ou chamane, preface by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Paris, Gallimard.

–, 2012, « Le troisième genre », Revue du Mauss, no 52, pp. 197-217.

–, 2014, « Hermaphrodisme, lubricité et travestissement, ou les immenses malentendus sur la sexualité et le genre, dans les relations entre Occidentaux, Inuit et Amérindiens », in Gilles Havard and Frédéric Laugrand (ed.), Éros et tabou. Sexualité et genre chez les Amérindiens et les Inuit, Septentrion, Québec, pp. 297-319.

–, 2015 (in press), « Du Sila inuit (angut/arnaq) au Qi (Yin/Yang) chinois, par les chemins de traverse du chamanisme et de la christianisation », in Chenwen Li, Frédéric Laugrand and Nancheng Peng (ed.), Missionnaires, chamanes : rencontres et médiations culturelles entre la Chine, l’Occident et le monde autochtone, Québec, Presses de l’université Laval.

Serres, Michel, 1991, Le Tiers-Instruit, Paris, Éditions François Bourin.

Towle, Evan B. and Morgan Lynn M., 2002, Romancing the transgender native: Rethinking the use of the “third gender” concept., GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 8, no 4, pp. 469-497.

Trexler, Richard C., 1995, Sex and Conquest, Gendered Violence, Political Order and the European Conquest of the Americas, Ithaca and New York, Cornell University Press.

–, 2002, Making the American berdache: choice or constraint?, Journal of Social History, vol. 35, no 3, pp. 613-636.

Young, Melanie, 2004, Peter (A Young English Girl): Visualizing Transgender Masculinities, Camera Obscura, vol. 19, no 2, pp. iv-45.

Zaganiaris, Jean, 2014, Queer Maroc : Sexualités, genres et (trans)identités dans la littérature marocaine, Paris, Des ailes sur un tracteur.


Initially, contributors should send a proposal of about two pages (approximately 5,000 characters) to the editorial board (, indicating the subject area and research findings, accompanied by a bibliography, by October 31, 2015. The proposal should be sufficiently detailed that the editorial board may clearly understand the research materials on which the article is based, as well as the argument and the author’s intellectual approach, the principal hypotheses, the research findings, the central concepts, and the references.

If the proposal is accepted by the editorial committee, the article, about 30,000 characters in length (including footnotes and bibliography), should be sent to the journal by January 31, 2016 at the latest. It will then be sent out for peer review by the journal and to external reviewers.

The author should make a special effort to use a writing style that will make the article easily understandable to the educated layperson and not simply a small circle of specialists.

The authors should follow, as much as possible, the recommendations available at the journal’s web address:


[1] The original, more evocative French title is Les garcons et Guillaume: à table! – or “Boys and William: Come for Dinner!”.

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