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Chapter 1

Trobrianders - Intro and Chapter 1.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Robert Brym

Trobrianders Introduction A Sacred Place  Place: Trobriand Islands of PapuaNew Guinea  Anthropologist: Annette B. Weiner  Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski first researched these islands. He planned to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in Australia and the mainland of Papua New Guinea. While in Australia WWI broke out, and being of Polish origin needed to seek refuge. This is when he travelled to Trobriand Islands and stayed for two years.  Malinowski - argued against conceptions of primitive societies made by armchair anthropologists.  Argonauts of theWestern Pacific - importance of ethnographic fieldwork for a year or more. Research done before was short-termed - focus on surveys, before the culture changed.  Goal: the native’s point of view Ethnographic Comparisons  Although, the research was 60 years apart, it was similar  historical development  Weiner - focused on women’s productive work  distributed their own wealth (bundles of banana leaves and banana fiber skirts) that they exchanged with other women after a death  Malinowski - noted the high status of Trobriand women in the matrilineal society. BUT he never saw that this was because of women’s own wealth, he focused on men’s wealth.  Malinowski – Trobriand kinship in matrilineal society. A father was called “stranger” and had little authority over his own children. A woman’s brother was the commanding figure and exercised control over his sister’s sons because they were members of his matrilineage. They believe that man has no role as genitor. A woman becomes pregnant when an ancestral spirit enters her body and causes conception. When the child is born, the mother’s brother presents a harvest of yams to his sisters so that the child will be fed with food from its own matrilineage. The father is seen as a different matrilineage; cant give objects of lasting value, thus only giving them love.  Weiner – father is not a “stranger”, he a powerless figure as the third party to the relationship between a woman and her brother. The father is one of the most important persons in the child’s life. The father’s procreative importance is incorporated into the child’s growth and development. They give his child many opportunities to gain things from his matrilineage; resources that last beyond death. Father and son relationship worked out through extensive cycles of exchanges.  Malinowski – didn’t clarify if chief had supreme autonomy or were egalitarian. Research on Kiriwina  didn’t know about variations and women politics  Weiner – o Kiriwina – chiefs had extensive authority and power o Vakuta Island – chief has little advantage o Kaileuna Island – chief has little advantage (much less than Kiriwina) o Kitava Island – no inherited positions of chiefs  Weiner – Exchanges of women’s wealth establish stability in the exchange relationships between men and women’s wealth when someone dies requires men’s resources. Women’s wealth  men are NOT totally dependent on their valuables at a death. These exchanges determine the level of hierarchy chiefs maintain, and limiting their gain of power  Malinowski - women ignored because of gender roles, and lack of participation in public.  Primitives – mechanical beings without individual personalities, who as a group, merely followed the same customs without change  Malinowski – exposed ethnocentrism BUT looked for practical meaning  NO true meaning.  Malinowski - people’s expectations of primitive’s false science  used in uncontrollable situations  Weiner – they do use magic in calm waters when they need a large catch for an important exchange that has social and political consequences  magic is used for dominance and autonomy  people obey if there’s magic  chief’s dominance depends on power of magic  Kula – an overseas network of exchange relationships that link Trobrianders with people living on other islands in the Massim region  Malinowski – men travel by canoe to obtain highly values from exchange partners on islands. Armshells circulate counterclockwise, necklaces clockwise. primitive economics  give to give.  Weiner – Kula transactions for men create their own fame by circulating objects that accumulate the histories and names. Trobriand History, Geography and Language  1793 – French explorer D’Entrecasteaux named Trobriand Islands  1894 – Europeans settlers  Language: K
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