what gender is. In order to make this argument, I will take as a point of departure ethnographies of what I call ‘difference-based societies’ in Melanesia and set up a structural contrast to what I call ‘sameness-based societies’ (see also Rio and
A Reconsideration of the Pentecostal Gender Paradox
Jack London in Melanesia
. Since he had arrived at Nuku-Hiva in early 1908, London and his wife, Charmian, had been systematically buying artworks from various islands and then shipping them home, and during the five months he spent in Melanesia in the summer of 1908 he eventually
'Luck' and Personal Agency in North Mekeo Social Change
Mark S. Mosko
Notions and practices known by the Tok Pisin term laki ('lucky' or 'luck') have for long been widespread across Melanesia. Previous studies have tended to concentrate on laki as 'probabilistic chance' and on its secular (i.e., economic, political, recreational) expressions, most notably in card gambling. Drawing on the perspective of the New Melanesian Ethnography, I focus instead upon the magico-ritual dimensions of laki in a single Papua New Guinean society, North Mekeo, where laki has been adapted to indigenous notions of 'dividual' personal agency that differ radically from exogenous ideas of success through 'pure chance'. On this evidence, I argue that the different perceptions of laki and 'luck' or 'lucky' by North Mekeo and Westerners are indicative of the divergent sorts of agency and sociality that are culturally compatible, respectively, with dividual and individual personhood.
The Poetry and Relationality of Animal Bodies in Kilimanjaro
Knut Christian Myhre
This article extends Malcolm Ruel's notion of 'non-sacrificial ritual killing' to explore the mode of butchering and the sharing of meat among the Chagga-speaking people of Tanzania. It is argued that these processes are forms of elicitation and decomposition that can be illuminated by analytics developed from Melanesian ethnography. However, it is shown that these processes emerge as such only when the language use surrounding and pertaining to butchering is taken into consideration. On this basis, it is argued that butchering constitutes a poetic enunciation that both distorts and expands the mode of revelation and the relational form described from Melanesia. Finally, it is claimed that this entails an alternative relationship between language and life that recasts the relation between vernacular and analytical language, as well as between theory and ethnography.
Toward Multispecies Ethnography in Melanesia
This article reviews two strengths of Melanesian anthropology that could make a significant contribution to anthropological research on human-animal relations, specifically to multispecies ethnography. The first strength is an analytical approach to comparative research on gender developed in response to challenges from feminist theory in the 1980s; the second is a wealth of ethnographic detail on human-animal relations, much of it contained in texts not explicitly concerned with them and thus largely inaccessible to nonspecialist readers. The article sets up an analogy between the challenges faced by feminist anthropologists and those currently faced by multispecies ethnographers. It demonstrates how pursuing the analogy allows multispecies ethnographers to draw together analytically, and to reinvestigate a broad range of ethnographic resources containing details on human-animal relations, whose convergence so far remains hidden by divergent theoretical interests.
A recent experience of ‘returning’ photographs to acquaintances in Mt Hagen, Papua New Guinea, leads to questions about the recognition of character. People acknowledge characteristic ways of acting or behaving, but it is not at all clear that these are simply attached to individual persons. To what entity might such characteristics be attached, and what are the ethical repercussions? There seems something of a parallel between the way English‐speakers bundle together the elements of someone's character and how they might compose a portrait; indeed to the various senses of ‘character’ as specification of qualities, intrinsic nature or customary habit, one might add the work it does in ‘painting a portrait’, as the metaphor goes. A completely unlooked‐for response on the part of Hagen friends to my proposal to seek out people in order to give what in some cases I had thought of as portraits, namely photographs of themselves and close kin, forced me to think afresh about what it means to have pictures of persons. This in turn might throw some light on character as analytic.
The Mark of Ritual
Over time, anthropology has lost the notion of ritual within the framework of exchange and of the ‘total social fact.’ Sahlins as well as Mauss interpreted the Maoris’ hau as a paradigm of exchange in which any event comprising a circulation of objects is but an exchange. The notion of ritual thus vanished, leaving in its place a long chain of logically equivalent transitive exchanges. Drawing on Orokaiva (Papua New Guinea) material relative to the competitive attempt of several religious factions to establish a comparative view of customary and Christian ritual, the Maori hau is revisited. This reading shows a clear contrast between what we must call ritual, comprising a hierarchic and mediated form of exchange wherein gifts are equated by virtue of the ‘spirit of the gift,’ and exchange per se, constituted by a face-to-face transaction of goods wherein equivalence is posited between prestations.
Rights, Networks, and Ethnographic Comparison
Harri Englund and Thomas Yarrow
The relationship between theory and place has remained a central problem for the discipline of anthropology. Focusing on debates around the concepts of human rights and networks, specifically as these traverse African and Melanesian contexts, this article highlights how novel ideas emerge through sustained comparison across different regions. Rather than understanding places as sources of theories to be applied to other contexts, we argue that anthropologists need to recognize how new concepts are generated through reflexive comparison across different regions. This analysis leads us to question a widespread propensity to understand places as the sine qua non of anthropological theory, proposing instead that place emerges retrospectively as an artifact of comparison. We conclude that while it is therefore necessary to acknowledge the analytic construction of Africa and its sub-regions, there remain compelling reasons to recognize its analytic utility.