Chapter 3: The Social Design
John Barker is a Canadian anthropologist, and author of the ethnography
Ancestral Lines; The Maisin of Papua New Guinea and The Fate of The
Rainforest. Chapter three, deals with the idea of gender roles and how from a
very young age children in the Maisin village of Uiaku are put in these roles, and
furthermore looks at how the children are brought up and some of the parenting
methods that Barker saw first hand while living there. Also the chapter looks into
kinship and descent, and marriage.
Gender Roles and the Upbringing of Children
From a very young age the Maisin children are put into gender roles,
starting much early with females.
Upbringing of a child
The Maisin people believe that a ‘moral’ person is somebody who
interacts with other people and shares what they have, therefore if a child
is refusing to share food, or grabs it, usually get told the phrase “saa
tamatan ka” meaning “not human”.
In that sense a newly born baby is not “socially human” because it doesn't
know yet the basic social conduct that the Maisin follow.
Also the Maisin people believe that a newly born child is considered very
vulnerable to attacks from spirits because its soul is not fully attached to
A tradition every time a baby is born is the Maisin will take the Umbilical
cord and placenta, wrap it in tapa cloth and put it up a tree, if these are
eaten by animals it is said that the child will not grow healthy and will
suffer from madness.
Also the person who takes the items to the tree must return by the same
path acting as a spiritual guide for the baby.
After a week, if all goes well the baby is carried out into the garden on a
pillow in a string bag and for every fork or cross road the mother finds on
the way to her garden, a token is placed to help the baby’s spirit find its
These tokens are the first examples of a gender role, it the baby is a girl
the token will be grass rings, which symbolizes the straps used to carry
And if it is a boy it will be crosses sticks which represent a spear.
From a week old we can see that there is already a gender role/
stereotype placed on the children saying that the girl will gather and the
boy will hunt.
T he baby is said not to be ‘fully human’ for a time upwards to a year, in
this time the baby will actually remain nameless, for to name your baby is
to have confidence he/she will survive/ be healthy. The Maisin tend not to instruct their children a