Culture in a Netbag (M. Strathern

February 6, 2018 | Author: Eduardo Soares Nunes | Category: Anthropology, Kinship, Marriage, Woman, Ethnography
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Culture in a Netbag: The Manufacture of a Subdiscipline in Anthropology Author(s): Marilyn Strathern Source: Man, New Series, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Dec., 1981), pp. 665-688 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: . Accessed: 27/09/2011 14:54 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

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A creativeroleis suggestedforMalinowski's'strawmen',and by analogyforthestrawmanof male bias which informsmuch feminist-inspired anthropology.However, theiruniversalising seductivenessis taken to task. The idea thatparticularsymbolicrepresentations speak to a universal womanness' is examined criticallyin relationto two Melanesian societies. The metaphorof'manufacture' pointsto certainimplicationsfortherelationship betweenanthropology and itsobjectofstudy;italso underlinesthesuggestionthatnotonlydoes womannessin these two societieshave different symboliccontent,but thereis difference also in the techniquesof symbolconstruction.

The Trobriand Islands have been named 'one of the most sacred places in anthropology'(Weiner 1976: xv). That over the last ten years at least six anthropologists have spenttimethereatteststo thedrawingpower of thatfirst fieldworkwhichestablishedTrobriandMan as a paradigm.Malinowskiwas the authorof thisentityin a double sense. It is largelythroughhiseyesstillthatwe know theseislands-Sahlins (I976: 76) remindsus how he privatelyrecorded one Saturdayafternoonapproachingthem by sea: 'I get ready; littlegray, pinkishhuts. Photos. Feelingsof ownership:It is I who will describeor create them' (Malinowski I967: I40). And fromhis understandingof Trobriand behaviourhe developedwhathas remainedsomewherebetweenan assumption and a hope in the mindsof manyfieldworkers since,that-however facileit sounds (cf. Young I979: I0)-out of particularculturesgeneralisations can be manufactured. It is customaryforgiversofthisLectureto touchon thatparadigm;I dwellon a featuregenerallyconsideredsomethingof an embarrassment. My intention howeveris lessto assessMalinowskithanto assessourselves.Forall oursenseof modernitywhat we experienceas going forwardmay, in an epistemological sense,muchmoreresembleMalinowski'sboat bobbingbetweentheislands,a continuousdialecticaltacking'betweenstandpointsothershave held, leftand retakenagain. Tapper has statedthat'In thelasttenor twelveyears,developnientsin [both Marxist anthropologyand] women's studieshave influenced many anthropologiststo re-examinethe basic premises of the discipline . . .marking theend of a certainanthropologicalcomplacency'(I980: 7).2 Yet in spiteofthesuggestionofestablishedpositionsleftbehind,some ofthecourses * MalinowskiMemorialLectureforI980, givenat theLondon School ofEconomicson i i March. Man (N.S.) x6,665-88



nowadays set by anthropologistsinterestedin the study of women follow closelythoseofMalinowski.

Strawmen and has been a sourceof embarWhat apparentlyirritatedhis contemporaries He rassmentsinceis themannerin whichMalinowskicasthis generalisations. was fond of a device-Fortes calls it a compulsionwhich warped his work (1957: 157); Kupercharacterises it as 'outrageously irresponsible' (I973: 35) bestdescribedthus: discoveriesin theformof Malinowski'scompulsionto presenthis theoriesand his ethnographic an assaulton theancienregimewas as tiresometo hislistenersas itis preposterousto thereadersof writing his books . . . whetheror notthebattlesweremoreimaginedthanreal,hisethnographic was vitiatedby theparadeof grotesqueAuntSallysand therustleofstrawmen (Young I 979: 6).

In Argonauts theSavage appearsPrimitiveEconomic Man; in Crimeandcustom, slavishto law, and so on.3The receivedview is thatwe stomachthesestrawmen as thepriceforMalinowski'sgenius.They drovehim 'to wrap up some of his ideasand observationsinlabouredparadoxesandprolixrepetition' mostoriginal (FortesI957: I57, myemphasis).Yet perhapstherewas moreto thestrawman syndromethan the projectionsof an egoist. If we considerit seriouslyas a techniquewe mightlearn somethingabout the techniqueswhich, without thinking,we use ourselves.It is Malinowskiwe make intoa strawman ifwe simplyset him up as an example of assumptionsbelongingto an outgrown culturalbackground.4We shouldask whatinstrumental purposewas servedby thosestrawmen. The firstis prejudice:theyrepresent Strawmenare made oftwo ingredients. theyrepresent bias, fallacy,mistakenassumption.The second is uniformity: stereotypes, universallyheld opinion,thereceivedidea. Not quitethesame,in the strawman theseare bundledtogether.In knockinghim over one knocks overnotjust bias butbias in theformofuniversalgeneralisation. in cross-cultural observedthatMalinowskiwas littleinterested Itis frequently Even as otherethnographies becameavailableNadel observedthat comparison.5 'He never thoughtstrictlyin comparativeterms.His generalizations jump straightfrom the Trobriandersto Humanity, as undoubtedlyhe saw the instructive Trobriandersas a particularly speciesofHumanity'(I957: I90). For the device of the strawman obviatedany need fora comparativeview. The aboutthecharacterisstrawmanis alreadyuniversal,a bundleofgeneralisations tics (in this case) of PrimitiveMan (cf. FirthI957: 2I7-I8). In substituting Trobriand Man for Straw Man, real for fake, the domain to which these refer-universaltruths-can be takenforgranted.The procedureis firstto identify bias, whichis bias in themindsofthosemakingtheoriginalgeneralisations. If everyonebelieves, in the words of Frazer(I922: X), thatPrimitive Economic Man 'is apparentlyactuatedby no othermotivethanthatof filthy on Spencerianprinciples,along thelineof lucre,whichhe pursuesrelentlessly, leastresistance',thentheone well establishedinstancewhichshowsthiscreation up forthe 'fanciful,dummycreature'he is (Malinowski I922: 6o) does more



than show one case where a generalisationfailsto apply. It blows away the whole edificeupon which the generalisationwas built,and replacesit with a freshconceptualisation ofthegeneralnatureoftheprimitive(MalinowskiI922: 96). Bias is thusa powerfulingredient.If generalisations can be shown to result is drawnaway fromthematerial fromthebiasesofpreviousthinkers, attention itselfto theattitudesof thosepresenting it. Iffurther thosebiasescan be shown to be universallyheld then a comparableuniversalismattachesitselfto the substituting proposition.Some of theworkbeingdone todayundertherubric of 'women's studies' employs preciselythis technique. Indeed thereis an ofMalinowskito thedisciplinehe saw himself analogybetweentherelationship of women interested in thestudyof as foundingand theself-consciousefforts one's premissesis women to redefineanthropology.The conceptofre-thinking of thenew premissupon which exhilarating.But to be aware of thecreativity6 some of thenew anthropologyof women is based, is also to acknowledgethe of thosestrawmenofMalinowski. creativity It has become fashionableto rediscoverthe factthatthe anthropologistin presentingaccountsof othercultureswill also presentculturalvalues of his or her own. The contemporaryprojectis perceivedas an effortto eliminatethat bias. I say rediscoveradvisedly.Ifthestrawmansyndromeis in facta markerof paradigmaticshifts,then the historyof our subjectin its various turnsand ofbias. Malinowski'sown conviction coursesis punctuatedby thisformulation was thatsomewherelurking-theirauthorsfrequently unnamedor ancientin his time,butsinisternonetheless-was a massofassumptionsand valueswhich could no longer be taken as the foundationfor generalisationsabout the conditionofmankind.Anthropologyas a sciencewas tobe builtup inthefaceof prejudice.In threespecificways thenew anthropologyof women retakesthis methodologicalpremiss,utilisingas itsstrawmantheanthropologist suffering frommale bias. First,forall theperceptiveness withwhichsufferers fromthisbias areseento be productsoftheirown culture,itis sometimesclaimedthatthenew approach is exemptfromrelativism.Huizer and Mannheim(I979) devote a sectionto 'viricentrism'(or 'androcentrism').One contributionconsidersthe different accounts of AustralianAboriginallife coming fromthe hands of men and women anthropologists.'It is evident that the androcentrismof the male scholars resultsin a perspectivewhich blinds them to the actualrealitiesof aboriginallife'; and women anthropologistsare able to bring'a double consciousnessto theirresearchwhichresultsin holistic, accurate, andobjective studies' etal. I979: I27, I28, my emphasis).At one stroketheold is (Rohrlich-Leavitt dissolved as subjectto prejudice,and the new supplantsit as explanationfor phenomenaexistingin the real world.7The purportedindependenceof this realityis significant (cf.StuchlikI976: 3-9). The objectofstudyis reconstituted bothas separatefromand onlyaccessibleto thenew approach.8 is theuniversalising The secondMalinowskiancharacteristic mode,one ofthe in factmake generalisations strawman's tricks.Few fieldworkers fromtheir particularstudiesto thewhole of mankind.But ifin treatingtheworksofother anthropologistsas biased one can show that theyall share similarvalues,



generalisationscan certainlybe made about the universeof anthropologists themselves.The new appraisalcastsout theold as a worldview-and manages conceivedview of thetotalworld. Hence to suggestthatin itsplace is a freshly universal,the the claim may be made thatwe have been ignoringa significant fromthestanceof thenew category'woman'. Universalismis thustransferred practitionersonto theirsubject of study. In spite of criticalevaluation (cf. ArdenerI975a; Caplan and Bujra I978; StolerI977; WallmanI978), it is a

inMiltonI979 andQuinnI977) thatthereis a persistent premiss(documented

social categorywhose dimensionsare knowableon a priorigroundssuch that ofa universalwomankind. studiesofparticularwomen exemplifyattributes itselfas a reversalofthefirst. manifests The thirdMalinowskiancharacteristic That was the notion that social realityexists outside the investigator.In anthropologicaldiscourse this can be renderednot just by a self-conscious distancefromthe subjectof studybut a self-consciousproximityto it (Asad 1979). Realityis seen 'fromthepointofview' ofthosewho aresaid to constitute it.

It has alwaysbeena paradoxin Malinowski'sworkthathe who saw so clearly oftheintelligent observerin 'creating'Trobriandculture(Leach thesignificance

MalinowskiI935: 317) shouldalsohaveputsuchstresson 1957: 134, andciting fromtheTrobriand pointofview(I922: 25).9 Thissecondposition seeingthings

prefiguresthe claim thatthe new anthropologyof women is validatedby its articleon 'Viricentakingup women's pointsof view. Schrijvers'sthoughtful trismand anthropology'starts,'The sciencesarestillpenetrated by valuesbased on male superiority. . . There are exceptionsof course:a handfulof ethnogpoint'(I979: 97). Yet thereis a raphieswiththeviews ofwomen as theirstarting Malinowskineverpretendedhe was a Trobriander-seeing crucialdifference. thingsfromtheTrobriandviewpointwould simplygive insightintoa general conditionhe sharedwith them(common humanity)or theysharedwithlike others(primitiveculture).Some women writers,on the otherhand, suggest theirgendergivesthema specific,non-replicable insight. etal. spell out what is meantby thedouble-consciousness Rorhlich-Leavitt women can bringto theirresearch.

the'anthropologist's of theAustralian categories' preIn themaleethnographies aborigines withwomenin a subordinate, as male-dominated, dominate;the societiesare represented degradedstatus.However. . . PhyllisKaberry(I939) andJaneGoodale(I971) succeedin withthoseofthenative. .. As womenina society the'anthropologist's categories' combining ofsubordinated thatmembers andGoodalehavethespecialsensitivity thatisalsosexist, Kaberry thosewhocontrol atthesametimeas them, developto[wards] groupsmust,iftheyaretosurvive, oftheiroppression; a qualitythatthesuperordinate reality theyarefullyawareoftheeveryday andGoodaledevelopethnographies fromtheactuallivesandworld groupslack.Thus,Kaberry as wellas fromthe'anthropologist's viewofthepeopletheystudy, categories' (I979: I 19).

Seeingthingsfromtheviewpointof thefemalepeople studiedis thusideologiin her perceptionsofthefemaleanthropologist callycontinuouswiththecultural own society,and it is thisprivilegedpositionwhichallows value-commitment to inform'objectivity'(Omvedt I979: 375). Milton (I979: 47) points to the 'overwhelmingfemale bias' lying behind such judgements. Taking up a ofsociety,much woman's pointofview replacesmalebiasin ourunderstanding



as Malinowski put forwardthe Trobriand view as replacinguninformed westernbias about PrimitiveMan. But if Malinowskialso saw himselfas the culturedauthorofthisview, some women'swritingsgivetheimpressionthatin theircase the continuitiesbetweenauthorand subjectof studyare 'naturally' grounded.

Subcultures andsubdisciplines There is of course no single 'anthropologyof women' in the sense of an agreed-uponbody ofknowledgeor analyticalapproaches(see GlennonI979 on typesof feminismin general).I use the phraseto denotewhat has become a widely accepted basis for anthropologicalstudies of women, that we take seriouslywomen's participationin social life. Quinn, reviewingthe current crescendoof books and articleson women, notes 'the mushroomingnumber of claimsto bias in theethnographic literature. . . attributed to thecombined and theirmale informants'(I977: distortionsof male-orientedethnographers I 83 overviewsof a body ofliterature definedin suchtermsare givenin Rogers 1978;

Tiffany 1978; Shapiro1979). Alongwithsuchanapproach, thetenetthat

women are thebestqualifiedto studywomen fromthewoman's pointof view comprisesa kind of mentalethnicity(Shapiro I979: 269; Wallman I978: 37). Milton (I979) has pointedto problemsin therelationship betweenthegenderof theanthropologist and thegenderofhisor herideas. Ultimatelyitis thegender of theideas whichis at theheartof bias-for women's experienceof western 'patriarchy'(Rorhlich-Leavittet al. 1979: 128) can give them not doubleconsciousnessbut male blinkers.Thus some femaleanthropologists are said to exhibitmale bias. Nevertheless,thereis a generalbeliefthatit is easier for women than for men to approach women's studieswith objectivity.These threepropositions- 'women' area categorysuitableforstudy;women anthropologistsobviatecustomarymale bias in a self-conscious focuson women, and women anthropologists are likelyto have a sensitiveinsightintothecondition of women elsewhere-are tantamount to themanufacture ofa subdiscipline. When 'women anthropologists focuson women's activities'(Leacock I979: I 35) a divisionis made bothin theobjectofstudyand in thedisciplineforming itselfto carryout sucha study.Takin,gup a femaleperspective is simultaneously

toperceive a domainakintoa subculture (cf.ShapiroI979:



woman's pointofview withinanthropology formsan orientation as discreteas a subdiscipline.The endeavourmay be towardsa completereorientation of the whole discipline-and societiesshould'be seenas creationsofmenandwomen'

(Schrijvers I979: I IO, original emphasis). Yetdiscussion frequently proceeds in

explicitdialogue with a male point of view which necessarilyrecreatesthe conditionsfordiscourseat a superordinate level.Methodologicallytheresultis a 'subdiscipline' [my term],10although to its practitionersit may also be a metonymforan entirereinventedanthropology. I have deliberatelyused the imageryof materialculturein referring to the manufacture ofthissubdiscipline.Thereis a necessaryparallelbetweenconceptualisationofwhatis 'out there'forstudyand perceptionsofour craft.It is after



otherpeoplesas possessall we who manufacture cultures,bothin representing

offfromother ingthem(WagnerI975; I978a; Asad I979), andin separating

stylesofknowledgeanthropologyas a culturesubjectto itsown logic. A retreat uneasewithan overallgloss;notonlydoes something to a subculturerepresents in dominatedor obscuredin the past seem real, we are able to divide further I havelabelledtheanthropology of termsoffreshcategories.In thesubdiscipline women, theprocessis givena double edge. Womenas thesubjectforstudyare notmerelythroughordinary'scientific' discoursebutin a symbolic represented equationwhichringsmuchmoreofthescienceoftheconcrete,in thegenderof themselves. anthropologists Women's activitiesare thus takenas a coherentpoint of departurefor an of 'humankind'(Reiter1975: I6; Slocum I975: 50). Such anaunderstanding lyticalsubculturesrevealedin thecourseof studyplay a role in relationto the emergentsubdisciplineverysimilarto thatplayed by 'culture'in relationto 'anthropology'as such." To see things'fromthepointof view of' x marksoff as possessinginsightoftheirown. Hence claimsto 'see' are thenew practitioners most stronglyput on the groundsof some qualityinherentin the observer. Malinowskirepeatedlystressed(Kuper I973: 40) thattheconnexionsbetween different aspectsof Trobriandculturedependedfortheirelucidationupon the is made on the special skill of the scientistin himself.Where identification quasi-ethnicgroundsof common gender,thehomologyis setup: thewoman :: women in the cultureunder anthropologist:restof her culture/discipline study:restofthatculture.IfforMalinowskiTrobriandMan was a paradigmfor with.12 'Perhapsthrough PrimitiveMan, he was also in a senseto be identified realisinghumannaturein a shapeverydistantand foreignto us, we shallhave shed some lighton our own' (I922: 25). In the writingsof a woman anthropologist to whom I now turnthe ultimateobject is to understandand value 'universalwomanness' (Weiner I976: 236), 'femineity'in factin Ardener's (I975b: 46) sense.

I havesuggestedthatstrawmen,thosecreaturesofbias,appearat momentsin the subject'sdevelopmentwhen a self-consciousattemptto make a subdisciplinestandforthewhole is accompaniedby theview thatpastworkpurporting theanthropologist's to be about 'othercultures'has in factreflected own. The logicalconsequencesofthisdiscoveryofculturalbias forthenew view itselfare necessarilyblockedoffin theexperienceofthenew orderofreality(subculture) therebydiscovered. In this, straw men have a significantand energising function.It is theirfurther tendencyto promotea misplaceduniversalismthatis not entirelya good thing.Two aspectsof thestrawman of male bias shouldat leastbe scrutinised.The firstis thatthemotivationto see in previousworkssets of values or assumptionswhich vitiatetheirfindingscan, when used insensitively,parade as a substituteforcomparativeanalysis.The second lies in the furtherclaim sometimesmade that the way in which other culturesvalue women speaksmore trulyto whatis essentialin womannessthando our own culturalformulations.Particularstudies can thus yield universalsabout the conditionof womankindas such.



andnetbags Woman,skirts Trobriand One of the most compellingreappraisalsof old ethnographyfroma female viewpointhas been carriedout in theTrobriandsitself.AnnetteWeinerwentto thesesacredislandsintendingto studystylesof wood carving;on herfirstfull day she became involved in an elaborateceremonystagedby women which changed the whole course of her study. She looked in vain in Malinowski's accounts for informationconcerningthe women's wealth she had seen displayed. 'From thatfirstday I knew thatwomen were engagedin somethingof importancethatapparentlyhad escapedMalinowski'sobservations'(1976: 8). Her attentionwas thusdivertedto thearea of women's exchanges.These gave herinsightsintotheway menin Westernsocietiesact: Does [Western]men's clutchingafterimmortalitythroughobjects incapableof regeneration merelyserveto devaluehumanbeingsand women's rolein theperpetuationoflife?In thedrive separatethemselvesfromwomen and fortheonly kindof power theycan get, men effectively powerofwomen,preventingwomanness therebycontributeto a myththatdeniesthefundamental frombecoming publiclyvalued as being equal to or superiorto the power of men. Only by withina socioculturalcontext womanness unmaskingthatmyth,by placingthevalueofuniversal of recognizedas powerfulwithinitsown right,will theimportanceattachedto theperpetuation humanlifehave a chanceto be restored(I976: 236, myemphasis).

From thevalue which Trobriandersplace upon women's controlover human reproductionWeinerderivesher formulationof this 'universalwomanness'. andtechnologically removedfromthe 'The Trobriandislanders,geographically mainstreamofthehistoryofhumansocieties,recognizethevalueofwomanness and by extensionthe value of humanbeingsand thecontinuityof life' (I976: our notionsof Humanity;and in TrobriandWoman a 236). Here are recharted model forWomankind. The pointto pursueis whetherindeedthereis any such universalessencein womanness(cf. Ardener1978: 34-5; Winslow I980). From Weiner'saccount, Trobriandislanderssee in women a symbolof social continuity:'childrenare kingroup]andbytheirfather createdand nurtured by theirown dala[matrilineal dala throughtime' (I976: I30, I23, and his dala', yet'only women recapitulate original emphasis).13 What is importantto them about women is not-as Weiner'sown castigationof Westernsocietytellsus-valued in thesame way everywhere.Yet it is to mistake symbol for index to imagine that what Trobriandersmake out of women identifiessomethingessentialaboutwomankind.We merelylearn,surely,how it is thatculturesconstitutethemselves. Weiner's authorityto speak for Trobriandwomen lies partlyin the selfacknowledgementthat 'unlike the earlier Trobriand ethnographers,this ethnographeris a woman' (1976: ii). Her accountspecificallyopposes other approaches that follow a male-dominatedpath. Here are elementsof the subdisciplineI have been discussing. The notion that perspectivescan be changedand thatanalysisdoes nothave to be boundby prejudiceis validatedin thesuppositionthatthenew perspectivebearsa closercorrespondence to reality; if it describessomethingreal, it must be real itself.There is also the simulbased validationthatlocates the abilityto taneouslypresentedbut differently 'see in a special qualitypossessed by the beholder:readinessto take women



thattheauthoris ofthesame seriouslyis powerfullyconcretisedinthestatement sex. In discardingthe chauvinisticpast Weineractuallyreproducesas analytical of his radicalview of primitiveman. Of techniqueMalinowski's presentation ofTrobriand particularinterestis thepartwhich'culture'playsinherdefinition Woman. The new approachis seen as correspondingto a view Trobrianders ifnotmadeverballyexplicit.In theprocess, themselveshavealreadyobjectified, I myselfbecome one of Weiner's straw men, among those castigatedfor propagatinga maleview ofthesocietystudied(Hagen intheHighlandsofPapua New Guinea). I fall into the 'traditionalmale trap' of not takingwomen's exchangesseriously(I 976: I 3). Her own discoverywas ofthecrucialrolewhich ofdala Trobriandwomen's bananaleafbundlesand skirtsplayin thedefinition identity,and theprominenceaccordedto women throughtheseitems.Hagen ceremonialexchangeis largelyin thehandsofmen;butshe suggeststhatI have of thenetbagsthatwomen give to one completelyoverlookedthesignificance in turningto the therefore, anotheron variousoccasions.Thereis someinterest, topic of women's exchangesin the Highlands. I do not propose to compare Hagen directlywith the Trobriands"4but to introduceanotherHighlands society,Wiru,similarin termsof descentideologyand divisionoflabour. The comparison raises some interestingquestions about the constructionof 'womanness' (cf. Bujra I978: I9) It also seemed that theremightbe some methodologicalprofitin notmerelyrustlingbut,notpossibleforMalinowski's strawmen,speakingformyself BuiltintoMalinowski'stheoryof anthropologicalscienceis thebeliefthatit

founded(I960: mustbe pragmatically


Culture,too,is to be identified

throughits materialbase. Given his beliefin thecreativerole of theanthropologist('we reactand respondto thebehaviourofothersthroughthemechanism of our own introspection'),the questionarises'of what it meansto identifya culturalfact'(I960: 7I). This meaningis to be soughtin thegeneraltheoryof needs. At thesame time,attentionto materialand concretephenomenayieldsa key to thenatureof institutions. Any traitof materialcultureor standardised way of behaviourcan be placed withinorganisedsystemsof human activity in thingsor actswhichlead the (I960: I60). In otherwords,cultureis manifested to seektheorganisationbehindthem.It isa matterof perceptiveanthropologist is notnecessarilyimmediatelyapparent. perception,becausetheirsignificance Afterher statementabout her womanhood, Weinercontinues:'A critical betweenmyselfand my male predecessorsis thatI took seemingly difference bundlesof banana leaves as seriouslyas any kindof male wealth' insignificant (I976: ii). Women's wealthbecomes the culturalkey. In theTrobriands,she argues, wealth objects manipulatedby women tangiblyrepresentintangible womanly qualities.'The 'power' of women is thusan 'objectified',culturally

constituted fact(cf.I976:


also I978:


andis recognised alikebymen

and women. It is a power, moreover,linkedto universalfeaturesof thehuman deniedboth condition;she regardsour Westerntraditionas having'effectively thebiologicaland culturalpowersofwomen' (I976: 23 5). Her stepstowardsthis conclusion include a discussion of the depersonalisationand alienationof 'things' and people in the West. It is not just thatTrobriandobjects carry



different values,butthatWesternotbjects singularlyfailto 'carryanysubjective referentto human life in termsof continuityand perpetuation'(I976: 235). ofwomanlyvalues,andwiththevalue Thereis no vehiclefortherepresentation of women in decline goes a declinein the value placed on lifeitself.By the meanthecapacityofwomen to 'culturalpowers' of women she musttherefore say thingsabout theiressentialselves throughcertainmaterialsymbols. In suggestingthatour own culturedeniesthevalue ofwomen, she also positsthat at issue is a universalqualitywhich some culturesproperlyattestand others ignore.

Those skirtsand bananaleafbundles,then,become theclue to a whole setof values bound up withwomanness.Weinerarguesnot only thatto understand Trobriandnotionsabout women special attentionmust be paid to women's is theculturally wealth,but thatwhatwomen exchangeeverywhere objectified key to theirpower. Introducingsubject matterthroughsome item whose is thenrevealedis a commonliteraryploy. Yet thereis a difference significance of thewhole analysis,a betweenusingsuch an itemto standfortheorientation kindof metaphorforwhat has afterall been alreadyworkedout, and arguing thatthe substanceof such clues is of intrinsicimportance.The firstchapterof inbetween Women betweentheway (M. Strathern I972: I3) endswitha contrast Hagen women arenormallyburdenedby thenetbagsslungfromtheirforeheads in whichtheycarrygardenproduceand youngchildren,whilea man's head is tacticleadsintoa description leftfreefordecoration.This stylistic ofhow a bride bringsnetbagsto distribute among thegroom'swomenfolk.Here I appendthe fatefulremark,'Women's thingsare divided among women; men are not in thenetbags'(1972: I5). This is theobservationWeiner interested particularly takesup. Those netbagscouldhavebeenthecrucialclueto women'spower. We are thusdeflectedaway froma comparisonbetweenHagen and theTrobriands as myown approachto to thesuggestionthatI tookHagen men'slackofinterest thenetbags,and accordinglydevaluedthosecontextsin whichwomen act out centralto thesociocosmicdimensionofMelpa their'powerwhichis structurally [Hagen] realities'(WeinerI976: I4). We haveknownfora long timethattheworldofgoods is culture;yetitwould in one contextwill have identical be unwise to predictthatobjectsmeaningful meanings in another-even when the objects are so generallydefinedas of 'women s wealth' and are to be correlatedwithunspecifiedmanifestations 'women's power'. Weinerbypassesthe question,imputinga male bias into accounts which have not dwelt on such items. By introducinga double universalism-a prevalentmale bias on theone handand universalwomanness on theother-she is able to implya third:thatifwe looked perceptively enough we would findeternalfemalevalues, women's concernwith life,death and regeneration(I976: 236), made concretein resourceswhich women control (I976: 228-9). 'This discussion',she adds, 'is not merelypolemicto bolsterthe feminist factthatthenaturalvalue pointofview; itcomesfromtheethnographic ofwomen is made culturally explicitin a varietyofprimarysocialand symbolic contexts'(I976: I7). The bananaleafskirtswhichTrobriandwomen give away at mortuaryceremoniessymbolisethe power of being female,while the leaf bundles are a symbol of milk and nurturance.'As bundlesare rewoven into



skirts,theskirtitselfcan be analyzedas an embodimentof all thatis "woman-

and nurture'(I976: ness": sexuality,reproduction,


These itemsof

women s wealthfurther comprisea 'cosmic statementof regeneration of pure dalasubstance'(I976: I 20). In Hagen, netbags certainlystand for womanness;it is what womanness

standsforthatwe shouldask (cf.ForgeI966:


Godelier1976). Forwhile

women s netbagscarryassociationswithsexuality,reproductionand nurture, the furtherquestionremainsas to the overall relationshipof theseto Hagen social representations.

Women's partinexchange: Hagenand Wiru Hagen netbagshave some value as objectsof exchangeamong women. They can be used as compensationpayments;a bridegivespresentsofthemtohernew affines;and when shehas a babythesewomenin turnmaygiveherold netbags so thatherown do not getsoiled. Netbagsdo not,however,have thestatusof wealth objects comparable to the valuables which are the focus of public exchange.Women manufacture onlyenoughfortheirpersonaluse. They are a source of pride;but as symbolstheyrepresentas much therestricted lives of women spent in child-bearingand gardeningas they do women's roles in valuablesfromone setofkinto another.The womannesstheyembody carrying is not conflatedwith clan continuityand social regenesis:these themesare set of symbolicmechanisms(A. Strathern handled througha quite different 1979). Fromthispointofview,Hagen womentakethemno moreseriouslythan Hagen men do. Netbags remainreceptacles-bothforthingswomen produce have an interestin some of and forporkand shellvaluables.15Women certainly the wealth items men exchange. Indeed a proper considerationof Hagen women's roles in exchange would take us away from objects over which women have primarycontrolto domainsof maleactivity. Exogamous patriclansand theirsubdivisionsare the social unitsin whose name Hagen prestationsare generallymade, whetherthe contextis a funeral, cult performanceor ceremonialexchange (moka) as such. At public moka displays,the male donors celebratetheirachievementin amassingthepigs or shellsor nowadays money laid out forall to see. Entranceto the ceremonial groundis staged,so theycome in as a body ofclansmenand danceas a group.If itis livepigsbeinggivenaway, women tendto themfromtimeto time.A short line of donor's wives may also dance. There will be many ties of marriage betweenclanson thedonorand on therecipientside, and each wealthitemnot to thecorporatedisplaybutwill be individuallydestinedfora onlycontributes particularexchange partner.Exchange partnersare likely to be connected relatedkin. Speeches, througha woman and thusto be affinesor matrileterally made always by men, dwell on the implicationsof the giftforlocal political relations(A. Strathern1975). The words pointto the creativityof the transactionsininfluencing groupalignment.Not mentionedinthespeechesarethose numerousties of personal friendshipand kinshipwhich also bind together individualson the donor and recipientsides. These ties, which depend upon



women marryingfromone clanintoanother,arein thissensetakenforgranted (A. Strathern1978: 87-8). and marginal. Women are 'in between'themale partners,bothfundamental For all theirculturallyacknowledgedimportancein production-gardening, pig-raising-only a handfulwill have danced. For all theimportancegivento the factthatclans who regularlymake mokaare those with multipleties of intermarriage between them, these ties are not themselvesthe rubriciinder which giftsare given at clan level. For all thatwomen are involvedin men's menaretheformal exchangesand mayfeelpossessiveovertheitemstransacted, donorsand recipients.And forall thecarethatHagen women bestowupon the feedingand maintenanceofthepig herd,no morethanothermokavaluablescan pigs be considered'women's wealth'.16 Now if pigs are not countedspecificallyas 'women's wealth' theyare not men s wealth' either. Shell valuables on the other hand may certainlybe regardedas 'men's wealth';thereis notthesameproductiveinputintothese,and standforpuretransaction itselfFor itis above to some extentshelltransactions all theactivitywhichis sexed. Thereis no simpleprogressionfromthe'genider' of the object to that of the activity-as in the Trobriandswhere womlen female.In Hagen it manipulatewealthobjectsthemselvesregardedas primarily is theactsof 'production'and 'transaction'thatare givengender,such thatthe productionofwealthin theformofpigs is seenas dependentupon women and itspublicmanipulationand displaytheprerogativeofmen.This is significant to any estimationof what value is at stake in transactionsof this kind. It also indicatesthe absurdityof looking forwomen transacting with netbags.The littlegiftsthatpass betweenwomen carrythesame meaningas similargiftsthat pass betweenfriendswho aremen.Hagen womendo notpubliclytransactwith netbags,becauseHagen women do notpubliclytransact. kill pigs ratherthanhand themover The Wiruin the SouthernHighlands"7 alive. Ribcages,porklegs,alongwithshells,arethemainobjectsinvolvedilnthe periodicpig kills'.These are stagedby villages,non-exogamouscongeriesof smallindependentagnaticlineagesseverallyconnectedto dispersedphratries.In Hagen it is the donors who are most elaboratelydecorated;here it is the recipients,who enteras a body and standin a row as individualdonorsfromthe hostvillagethrowdown legs of pork at theirfeet.In additionthevillageplaza will be dotted about with separategatherings;donors call out to personal partners-some seatednearby,othersacrossthesite-to receivethisribcageor thatshell.At no pointaretheselattergiftsamassed;at no pointformalspeeches made. During a Hagen mokaone can countthevaluablesbeinggivenaWay,as one can countthelineofdonorsdancingshoulderto shoulder;duringa Wirupig killitis impossibleto keeptrackofthesimultaneousand clamoroustransactions thatcrossone another(cf.LeRoy I979). Wiru recipientsmay arriveat a pig kill in a block; subsequenttransactions fragmenttheminto theparticularmaternaland affinalkin of thedonors.Men are theprominenttransactors, butit is women who give themtheirdefinitioti. Valuables may be givento women, withthestylisedcrythatmarksthemas a payment'forthechildren'.Thus a woman sometimesreceivesa shellto pass on to herbrother,or a ribcagein returndestinedforherhusbandshe mayhand to



him herself.And the rubric under which these giftsare given expressly aremediatedbya woman. acknowledgesthefactthattiesbetweenmalepartners centredon the Many of the giftswill be instalmentson variouslife-payments factthatit is women who give birth.Maternalkin receiveshellsforthe 'skin' (body) of theirsister'schild,and as thechildgrowsup he or she takeson these paymentsto the maternalrelatives.Thus a man can be makinggiftsto his mother'sbrothersforhis own skin,and to hiswife'sparentsor brothersforthe skin of his offspring.Skin paymentsdevelop into exchangesas the shellsare reciprocatedwith ribcages. Men play the prominentpart, but the rationale remains a conceptualisationof bonds of substanceimplied in the fact of motherhood.Wiru quite clearlyplace a value on femalenesswhich is being in theselife-longtransactions. Moreover,as actorsWiruwomen ceremonialised have somethingof a partin promotingthem. It is possiblefora woman to stimulatea flowofpaymentstowardsherselfby enteringinto exchanges with younger male relatives.She will give them vegetables;theyreciprocatewithshellvaluablesor money,as a skinpaymentfor themselvesor theirchildren.The woman sometimespassesthewealthon to her kinand thus'pays forherself'.Whena man givesto his wife's own matrilateral can receive kinhe may give to herfatherand mothertogether.A grandmother paymentsforherdaughter'schildren.Some women,withapparentpride,keep valuablesgainedin thisway in theirpersonalpossession;theyin any case may regardthemselvesas 'recipients'ofskinpaymentsevenwhenthevaluablesgo to men. inreturn Wiruwomen mayalso initiatefoodgiftsto theirhusband'sbrothers, forwhich theyreceivesmall wealthitems.Hagen women would neverinsert themselvesbetween brothersin thisway. But thenit would be mistakento a moreculturally valued thisinvolvementofWiruwomen as reflecting interpret role of intermediary.Indeed, the very metaphorof being 'in between' is inappropriate.What,then,is thevalue ofwomannessin Wiru? An initialpointmustbe clarified:value put on womannessis notnecessarily to be equated with value put on women. Althoughwe 'see' Wiru women initiatingcertainexchanges,and othersbeing givenin referenceto them,this does not mean thatas personswomen are axiomaticallypaid high regardby Wiru men and women. We cannot read offfrom theirsubstantialpart in a notionofprestigeor respectforall women. Indeedto some extent transactions actualWiruwomen arerenderedhelplessby theverysystemwhichvaluestheir womanness. Skin paymentsare obligatoryin thatpaymentmust always be in thatitis notpredictablewho therecipientsof such made, yetnon-obligatory wealth will be. One may choose to make skin paymentsto classificatory maternalrelativeslivingin one's villageratherthanto morecloselyrelatedkin away. Itdoes notfollow,then,thateverywoman's motherhoodis livingfurther celebratedin the same way. Moreover thepaymentsare seen to be verylittle ofthewoman herself.Itis worthexpanding contingentupon thecircumstances thispoint. Wiru bridewealthis relativelysmall, the expectationsof the bride's kin focusing on the possibilityof later payments'for the children'. Whereas bridewealthsolicitedby Hagen affinescarriesan interestin futureexchange



so thatfroma man's pointofview thereis a mergingofindividual transactions, alliance with group relationsand women become intermediariesbetween affinally linkedclans,Wirumarriageslack thispoliticaldimension.It is oflittle significanceinto which village a woman marries;indeed,of littlesignificance which man she marries.Futurepaymentswill restnot only on the kind of themen will build but also on thewoman's capacityto exchangepartnerships have children.Ideally,wealthwill flowautomaticallyfromthisphysiological fact.Thus skinpaymentsdo not dependupon a marriageenduring.A husband continuesto makethemto hiswife'speople evenifhiswifeleavesor dies,as his childrenwill continuein turn.At thesame timetheydo not have to go to the immediatematernalkin of the child:in the case of remarriagepaymentsmay insteadbe made to thekinofa child'sfostermotheror to theman's secondwife. There is no definite'other' to whom the child mustbe related: ratherthese claspaymentsmake statementsabout the child's skinthatany matrilaterally sified'other'will symbolicallysatisfy.Recipientsare categorically'thosewho motheredyou', butsociologicallycomprisea variedsetofrelatives. Divorce is dramatically high. It is less thebreakup of a unionwhichworries Wirufathersand brothersthanthepossibilityof a woman havingno husband forfuturechildren.One mighthave thoughtthattremendousemphasiswould but thisis not apparentlythecase. Whatseems be placed upon femalefertility, crucial is that a woman should be attachedto some man willing to make do notcountenancetheirdaughtersreturning paymentsforherchildren;fathers home, and put great pressureon them to marryor remarry.For all that womannessis valuedin Wiru,beinga woman bringsitsown difficulties. More so than in Hagen wives are beaten up, and suicide or the threatof it is commonplaceamong girls.And forall thatpigs pass in theirname, consumptionpatternsaresuchthattheyactuallyreceive-relativeto whatHagen women consume-less porkto eat.

Womanness intechnical contrasts manufactured: style in Hagen and Wiruwomen's rolesin exchange;womanThere are differences nessin thesetwo societiesis also constructed alongratherdifferent lines.Neither the attributesassociatedwith womannessnor thetechnicalprocessesof symbolisationarethesame. I takemycue froman essayby Schwimmer(I974) inwhich,duringthecourse ofanalysingtheway in whichOrokaiva use coconut,arecaand taro,he refersto metaphoricand metonymicgifts.These conceptsarenow ratherworn,butitis in thespiritof mypresentation notto be afraidofold fashioneddeviceson those groundsalone. The contrastarisesin Schwimmer'sdiscussionof a mythin which a man and a woman exchange various items. The objects of social exchangeare male and femalesexuality,and theobjectsof mediationcoconut and areca. At one pointtheintentionis to establishsymbiosis,and herethegift and the recipientare identified.Thus the femalegives coconut to the male, because coconutis male and appropriateforhim. In thisexchangecoconutis metaphorfortheman-and an interdependence is establishedbetweenthesexes




in so faras theone dependson theotherfora giftthatis himself.Atanotherpoint in thestorymanand woman transactwitheachotheras separateentities.Where the partnersin a social exchangeare of different natures,each uses his or her distinctiveobjectof mediationas giftto theother.The femalewhose natureis arecagivesarecato themale;hisnatureis coconut,whichhe givesto thefemale. is established Here relationsareconductedbetweenpartnerswhose constitution priorto the giftand is not changedby it. Each metonymically gives a partof himselfor herself,butretainsa distinctidentity.In themetaphoricgiftarecaand betweenthepartners;in themetonymicgift coconutsetup an interdependence theirdiscretenaturesare stressed.These proceduresare found side by side withinthe one Orokaiva myth.I liftthemout of contextand suggestthatin constructingwomanness in relationto mannessWiru employ the logic of metaphor,Hageners the logic of metonymy.In other words, there is a fundamentalcontrastbetweenthesetwo culturesin theverymannerin which symbolsare generatedout ofgender. The sociologyof thetwo situationsis relevant.Hagen clansmencombineto makejoint prestationsto otherclansundervariouspoliticalrubrics.Marriages follow the patternsof politicalamity,and women are the 'roads' for men's to andfromtheirown kin.Emotionallycommittedas theymaybe transactions, to thesuccessof an exchange,theyhave littlecontrolover thefinaldisposalof valuables and no part in speech making. Unlike Hagen men, women have divided loyaltiesand cannot expresspoliticalcommitment.Like Trobriand men, rather,who are a sourceof exogenousnurture,Hagen women represent outside origins.Thus womannessis definedas 'in between'. As a figurative construction, standingforitself(cf.WagnerI 977; I 978b),18 malenesssymbolises values associatedwith collectiveaction. In same-sexcontexts,malenessthus refersto solidarity,the common aims of prestige,and so on. In same-sex femalecontexts,however,muchlessis builton whatwomen havein common, and 'being sisters'by contrastwith 'being brothers'is of weak illocutionary force.Whatwomen do have in commonis theirin-between-ness. This characteristic,however, always puts them into a relationshipwith men. Values associatedwithwomannessthustendto be broughtintorelationship withthose associatedwithmaleness;in a cross-sexcontextHagen genderconstructs point to difference. Women are differentiated fromone anotherby thehusbandand brothersto whom theyhave firstloyalty,as muchas a man is differentiated fromhis clan brothersthroughhis personal affinal-maternal network. With a cross-sex in a That is, ideasaboutthesexesareconstructed referent, genderdiscriminates. relational(conventional)mode, such that the subject of the symbol is the differencebetween them. Wheneverstatementsare made which call upon is to pointto oppositionor genderin a cross-sexcontext,thesymbolicintention antithesis.Thus constituted, a contrastbetweenmale and femalemay stand,in the eyes of Hagen men and women alike, forcontrastsbetweenprestigeand rubbishness,betweengroup and individualorientation,and so on. As actors, women can replacemenon certainoccasions,and mencan behavelikewomen. But when male and femalevaluesareat issue,thelogic ofthesymbolallows no substitution.



Each sex contriThis structure of difference is also thatof complementarity. butesits own attributeto an enterprise.Sexualityitselfmay thusbe used as a symbolof mutuallyorientedbut distinctlybased co-operation.Neithermale nor femaleloses any part of his or her identityto the othersex, but each is givenand a gender-specific contributes portion.Physiologicalsexualidentity mediate relations between men (sets of absolute;and Hagen women socially clansmen)whose natureis alreadyconstituted.When males exchangethings withfemales,thenatureofthegiftis metonymic.Womengivewomen's things and men give men's things.Productiveactivitieson the partof women assist men's transactions,as men throughthesetransactionsaugmentthe basis for production.The spheresremaindistinct,forthemetonymicgiftestablishesno exchanges identity betweenthepartners,onlyequivalence.Thus in male-female neithersex loses itsgenderto theother,and donorand recipientaresustainedas entities. innatelydifferentiated I suggested that in Hagen pig exchanges it is the activity(transaction, production)and not the objects (pigs) which are, as it were, sexed. Shells, however,are regardedas belongingespeciallyto men,and netbagsto women. withothermales,in the Men give away partsofthemselvesin shelltransactions same way as women give away netbags to persons like themselves,other but are not women. Such exchanges can indicate same-sex identification, creativein cross-sexcontexts.Unlike Trobriandskirts,shellsand netbagsdo not have thepower to constitutecross-sexidentity.Netbags arereceptaclesfor and not constitutive ofmalewealth;shellsaredifferentiated frommenas things butareinvariablyusedin mediationsbetweenmen,andnotalso 'on theirskin',19 betweenmen and women. It is pigs whichfigurein transactions betweenthe sexes, and these are neutral,unsexed mediators.Pigs are neither'male' nor ofpurposeand 'female';iftheystandforanythingitis forthatcomplementarity each other. joint productionwhichis one basisupon whichthesexesinfluence in theirhusband'saffairs in general,and AlthoughHagen wives areinterested in particular,theydo notbothermuchmoreaboutwhatmen in pig transactions do withshellsthanmenbotherabouttheirgiftsofbags. In cross-sexexchanges giftsthus take one of two forms.Eitherwomen contributewomen's things and men men's thingsto each other'sendeavours;or else men and women are mediated by a giftsuch as pig not itselfgiven gender. However they are in othercontexts,symbolsthatbringthesexesintoconjunctionturn structured and employthelogic of metonymy:each sex on relationsbetweendifferences in a priormannerand not transactswithpartofitself,witha natureconstructed in thetransaction itself to be reconstructed Wiruis verydifferent. Marriagepatternsdo not followrelationsof political alliance,and it is not possibleto visualisethemovementof women as a symbol ofinter-village ties. Individualrelationsbetweenaffinesremainlargelydisconnectedfrompolitics:thereis no grouprationalefortheskinpaymentsthatare thefocusof Wiruexchanges. These skin paymentsare made explicitlyto the one who 'bore the child'. Emphasisedhereis women's role in givingbirth,and thefactthatthemother makeschild'sbody ('skin'). It was notedthatwomen participatein themaking of these payments.At pig kills a woman may hold the shells and give the



appropriatecries of presentationwhen handingover the item to a fatheror brotherforher children'sskin. Or she may visitthevillageof hernatalkin to obtainribcagesdue to herhusband.Thereis an equationbetweenthewoman as motherand thebody of thechildwhichtheseexchangescelebrate.It is striking thatwhile a man will continueto pay forhis own skin throughouthis life,a woman generallyceases at the point at which she becomes a mother.Her interestbecomes much more on seeing thather husbandmakes properpaymentsfortheiroffspring. Paymentsforown skinandpaymentsforherchildren thusmerge-it maybe ambiguouswhetheritis thewoman or herhusbandwho donatesshellsto herkin. Sometimesa woman talksaboutherselfas beingat the centreof an elaboratenetworkof exchanges:yetultimatelyat thecentreis her bodilysubstance. In this sense Wiru women defineand constitutean aspect of 'the person', whereHagen women areproducersand carriers.MaternalsubstanceinHagen is exogenous (of extra-clanorigin)and small giftsto maternalkin made at birth recognisethis.But ifHagen womenremain'in between',Wiruwomen areonly themselves(logically,theycannotbe objectsof mediationbecausethereare no entitiesbetweenwhom theymightpass). Ties tracedthrough differentiated Wiruwomen arecreatedbyan actofparenthood,notalliance,whichmeansthat themotheris as it were alreadyherown child.This is truewhetherthechildis maleor female.Males foreveracknowledgethefemaleelementin theirmakeup; femalesareforeverabsorbedin theirown progeny.Giventhatotherfiguresmay be substitutedforthe genetrixas recipientsof thesepayments,the notion of progenyitselfis generalised. as a metaphoris self-signifying Womannessin Wiruis thusself-signifying, (Wagner I978b: 76; pers. comm.). Womanness is valued as reproduction, manifestedin its own products.Aspectsof parenthoodare certainlydifferenis annihilated,a transformtiatedby gender;yet throughtimethisdifference ationnot conceivablein Hagen. Wiruskinpaymentsin theformof shellsrenderto themother'skinwhatis of the childis not offsetby thesegifts-groups do not theirs.The affiliation definethemselvesthroughexchange,as Wagner (I967) suggestsforDaribi. Maternalkin are not layingclaims which have to be 'opposed' (A. Strathern from his maternal I97I). Indeed, far from the person being differentiated withthem:theseoriginsareconstantly reaffirmed. origins,he or sheis identified In one sense thegiftsrecreatewhatis alreadycreated.Yet in anothersensethe childwhichreplacesthewoman is also morethanthewoman. This is a culturein whichlineagetiesare composed throughmales,so thatthewoman's substance is reconstitutedthroughpaternity.When the child gives back shells to its mother'skin,it gives back itselfin an alteredmanner,individuatedthroughits paternalconnexions. Shells in thissense representthe creativityof the father also. In thecourseof Wirubridewealthtransactions thereis an importantpointat forherto take whichshellvaluablesareloaded intothegirl'snetbagbyherfather to thegroom's kin. A man of statusis concernedto fillhis daughter'snetbags well. The groom has alreadygivenhimpigs undertherubricof payingforhis bride'sskin(A. Strathernig80a: 62). Now up to thispointthewoman's father



has been chieflyresponsiblefor makingskin paymentson her behalfto her maternalkin;herhusbandfromnow on will assumethisrole. He will sendgifts to thewoman's same maternalkin; in additionhe will give to herown father, partlyin anticipationof thegirl'seventualstatusas a mother.These exchanges in socialrelations. marka significant transformation This truismtakes on meaningif we considerexactlywhich relationsare changed. The bride herselfonly sometimeschangesvillage of residence.No greatstressis put on herpassage fromone lineageto another,and notuntilshe has had childrenwill she be an explicitvehiclefortheflowof wealthbetween affines.Even heremotherhoodsimplyacknowledgessomethingshehas always thepigs paid by thegroom as containedwithinher-indeed one can interpret signifyingthe factthatin a sense the woman is alreadywith child (her own substance).2OItis lesswomen's statuswhichis changedbymarriagethanthoseof the men around her. Wiru marriageforeshadowsparenthood.The groom's whichwill replacenothisown substancebut a paternity is prefigured, paternity aspectsof his individuality.It is femaleswho are bodily replaced,and in the processmenare feminised. This is whathappensto thebride'sfather.In ordinaryskinpaymentsshellsgo to thematernalkin,who returnribcages(pig). These giftsof pork followand may be seen as part of the originaldevolutionof substance.At bridewealth, along withseveraltypesof gift,live pigs are givenforthebride'sskin,and the makesis ofshell.This I interpret as thefather'slast returnthefatherso carefully he will ceasegivingshells act of individuationtowardshis daughter.Thereafter in respectof her and insteadbecome the recipient of them. He will in turn slaughterthe verypigs thatwill provideribcages,symbolsof the daughter's of substance,to sendback to herhusband.Althoughmenfigureas therecipients skin payments,the parenthoodat issue is conceptualisedas female.Women speak of givingto theirmothersand mothers'mothers,and mayexplicitlysay thatwhen theygive to theirparents,theythinkof theirmother.In bridewealth is to be transactions we are 'seeing' themomentat whichthefather'spaternity swallowed up in a more generalisedand feminisedparenthood. Once his daughterhas borne children,he and his wifejointly receive paymentsas 'maternalkin' to thechild.In so faras he acceptswealthforthe undifferentiated transmissionof (female)substance,he becomes identifiedwiththedaughter's motherand thushis own wife.Her childrenobliteratehis paternity.Certainly the momentseems to be of some psychologicaldifficulty forboth fatherand to getdaughtersto leave daughter.21 Fathersmaybecome violentin theirefforts home, while the daughter'scustomaryreluctancemay be in response to a setofmessagesfroma fatherat thesame timereluctantto lethergo. conflicting Gender symbols are in Hagen used in a cross-sexcontextto talk about in Wiruthereis a sensein whichone sex candefine(substitute for)the difference; other.Hagen symbolisationconstructsthesexes in termsof dialecticand conWiru employ a selftrast,resolved throughoppositionor complementarity; signifying, metaphoricalmode in whichtheone can collapseor mergeintothe other.The metaphoricgiftin Schwimmer'susage establishesan identification between giftand recipient,and a dependencyon the source of thatgift.In receivingskinpaymentsforhis daughter'schildren,a Wirufatherreceivestwo




things.In so faras theshellsrepresent individuatedpaternity, itis anotherman's immediatepaternitythathas replacedhis own; in so faras theyrepresentthe substancein whose name theyaregiven,itis a remoter,feminisedparenthood, to be convertedback into more substancein theformof theribcageshe must return.Wherethe giftis maternalsubstanceitself,and where womannessis thenthereis a sense in which theWiruwoman is a conflatedwith maternity, metaphorforthisaspectoftheperson.

as woman No suchthing We can take an itemof materialculturesuch as a netbagand see in it cultural meaning.We can even agree thatin both Hagen and Wiru thenetbagtellsus of some somethingabout womanness.But we are not dealingwithrefractions some culturesvalue and others universalWomannesswhose essentialattributes bothin thequalitiesattributed to womanhoodand do not. Therearedifferences in themannerin whichsymbolsaregeneratedout ofa male-femaledichotomy. On thesegroundsTrobriandWoman cannotbe a paradigmforWoman. As soon as theconceptis givenculturalvalue-for example,thatessentialwomanness is concernedwith social regenesis-the proper focus for comparative analysisbecomesnotwomen butthevaluesso assigned.Thatin theTrobriands women have controloverthegenesisofhumanlifeshouldnotbe confusedwith our own biologism (women are nearerto nature;cf. MacCormack and M. norshouldwe fallintothetrapofimaginingthatfromsucha set Strathern I980), of images we learn in the end more about women than we do about the Trobriands. ofwomannessarecomparableto thoseof In some respectsWiruformulations the Trobriands.Motherhoodis highlyvalued; women contributeto the substanceof persons,and thatcontributionis perpetuallycelebratedin life-long transactions.Yet thereis a crucial contrast.If I understandthe Trobriand situationaright,thereis a remarkablesymbolicconsistency:what Trobriand thedailyroutineof carealso women do as individuals,theeventsofchildbirth, andnurtureofand forthe becomewritlargeon thesocialscreenas reproduction kin group. Trobrianderschoose to see in women's partialcontributionto human reproductiona total phenomenonwhich embracesthe regenesisof society.Trobriandwomen reproduceclanship.Wiruwomannessis a substance which shows itselfin the make-upof men as well as women, yetin the end women reproducenothingbut themselves.Wirulineagesare not matrilineally conceived. It is not in terms of group membershipthat women transmit substance,and thistransmissioncannotbecome a metaphorforgroup continuity.Womannessrefersto an aspectof theWirupersonwhichfora woman is and fora man with thatof his submergedwith theidentityof her offspring, A male-femalecontrastcan in certaincontextsbe used mother/wife/daughter. withdifferentiating effect;butthechiefcelebrationsofwomannessturnnoton thisbuton itsconstitutive, metaphoricstatus. Hageners, however,use male and femaleas perpetualsymbolsof contrast when theyare broughtinto conjunctionwitheach other.Furthermore, since



group continuityis conspicuouslyassociatedwith same-sexrelationshipsbetween males, femalenessas such is also individuating.Women's part in reproductionis acknowledged:but what does thisreproductionitselfsignify? On theone handHagen ideas aboutsexualitystressthecombiningofessentially distinctmale and femalecontributions;on the otherhand motherhoodis a narrowlybased symbolofdomesticity andnurture, bothcomplementary to and in oppositionto malegroupinterests.In thislattersense,feminine reproduction butis symbolisesthehouseholdproductionthatunderpinspoliticaltransactions not to be mergedwiththem.The dualismof male and femaleis constructed in such a way thattheone nevercollapsesintotheother.Sexuality,reproduction and nurturemay be bound up withthevalue of Hagen women, but as purely femaleelementsarenota culturalkeyto Hagen sociallife. Unlike Trobriandbanana leafskirtsand bundles,then,we cannotseek any immediatecontinuityof meaningin the objects Highlandsmen and women manipulate.Those itemsofwomen's wealthwhichWeinerdescribesarearticles theirfeminesexualityandfertility, manufacTrobriandwomen wear,reflecting turedand exchangedin publicby them,symbolsof clanshipand matriliny.In thiscontinuumof meaning,fromthepersonalto thecosmic,each transformationis informedby thekeynotionof womanness.In Hagen we are facedwith Womannessis thefoundationnotofsocietyand cosmictimebut discontinuity. of particularexchange partnerships,exogenous connections,fertility individuallymanifested,productionat the householdlevel. When thisdomain is broughtinto antithesiswith politicallychargedalliances,internalsolidarity, clanperpetuity and grouptransactions, valuesthusassociatedwithmalesareset againstfemaleones. Given thesesymbolicconstructs thereis no sensein which publiclyyetexclusivelyfemaleexchangescouldhavemeaningin Hagen; and no senseinwhichwomen'spartin reproduction couldstandforsocialreproduction in general. So it is not enoughto 'see' Hagen women carryingarticlesfromone man to anotherin theirladen netbagsor walk into a Wiruvillageand hear a woman recountthe exchangesbehindthe shell she is wearing.What it means to be a woman in thisor thatsituationmustrestto some extenton theculturallogic by which gender is constructed.Analysis of women's participationin events shouldbe informedby conceptsoftheperson,individuality, willand so forthto be readfromthedataand notintothem.This shouldequallybe trueforconcepts ofwomannessas such. In challengingprejudiceMalinowskinevertheless putin theplace ofhisstraw man another ratherungainly creature,Trobriand Man. Those who with comparableinspirationsee male bias as shadowingthe assumptionsof much pastanthropologysometimesruntheriskofa similarMalinowskiancreationin theirpostulatesaboutwomannness.In thesameway as Malinowski'sdefinition ofculturewas a metaphorforthedisciplineofanthropology, so thoseconcerned withrevolutionising thesubjectin termsof studiesfocusedupon women may make out of women's activitiessomethingofa subcultureand out of theirown endeavourssomethingakin to the subdiscipline.Thus thereis the idea that women's social interestshave to be shown in activitieswhichinvolvewomen alone, and thatsymbolsof womannessare to be foundin whatwomen do and



whattheyconstructthemselvesandforthemselves.This maybe anilluminating strategyfor understandingrhetoricalreferencesto values in particularsocial contexts.IndeedI haveused theterm'creativity' inacknowledgingthepowerof thesamestrategy forourselves-notions suchas malebiasor thewoman's point ofview can be tremendously productive,and certainly altertheway we 'see', as fortheTrobriands.Yet thesounds of our own Weinerhas done so effectively industryshouldnot deafenus to thepointof forgetting thatothersare creative too. Anthropologycannotreallyparadeas an innocentchildof culture.It is true thatthereseems no way to controlthe factthatat one pointwe are satisfied withexplanationsof one order,and at anothertackback to a promontorythat view. Neverthelessin so faras anthropologyis a craft,in will yielda different are aware of their theothersense of theword, and in so faras anthropologists manufacturing role,certainchoicesdo presentthemselves.In lookingat objects women have at theirdisposal, various courses are open. We may see the predicamentofHighlandswomen as (metonymic)extensionsofour own, their netbagsself-evident symbolsof a continuousfemininity; or ratherwe may see in an analogousmanner,andpresentthenetbagsas (metaphorthatpredicament ically)standingforan aspectoftheirpositioncomparableto ourown; or we may frameoff the experiencesof Highlands women and insteadjuxtapose their artefactsand ours. There is no way to obviatebias (cf. Slocum I975: 37). But surelywe should be reasonablywell equipped to perceiveat leastsome of our own symbolic strategies.By the same token,whateversymbolicstatusthe experiencesand constructsof othershave in our accounts,we also know that, mercifully, theywill live out mostof theirliveswithoutour creativeintervention. NOTES

This is the textof the lectureas delivered,with some modifications.I am gratefulto Andrew Strathernand GillianGillisonforan earlierreading,and to Shirleyand Edwin Ardener,Jonathan Benthall,Paula Brown and Rena Ledermanforsubsequentcomments. ' The phraseis Geertz's (I976: 235), thoughhe was speakingof a ratherdifferent movement, between'themostlocal oflocal detailand themostglobalofglobalstructure'.'Dialectic'hererefers to the mannerin whichapparentlyopposingviewpointsin factinformand receivetheirdefinition fromone another(cf. Wagner I977). Such oppositionsare of coursea sourceof greatenergyand production(Ortner I974: 67): perhapsthe sensationis not unlikethe vertigoproducedby ritual swingingin Muria-inducing a sense of realityoutsidetheactors(Gell I980). Tiffany(I978: 47) refersto one setof them;Wallman(I978: 2I) to another. 2 Though one might ask if that complacencyitselfis not of a rathermythicalnature-old (A. Strathern positionsareonlyworthleavingbehindiftheyare seenas entrenched ig80b). 3 However,thestrawmanis notalwaysan unnamedandabstract entity.In Crimeandcustom (I 926) Malinowski makes explicitreferenceto the works of particularauthors,and in The sexuallifeof formulations of Trobriandand European cultures.Malinowsavages(I929) refersto the differing ski's originalstrawman, of course,was fictionin itsown time.In his famousPrefaceFrazer(1922) tellsus thatthePrimitiveEconomic Man againstwhom Malinowskirailedwas a kindof bogey,a horriblephantom,a dismalfiction.This raisesthequestionofwhyhe persistedin callinghimto his aid. 4 I am not suggestingthatwe erectstrawmen everytimewe become consciousof culturalbias, butthatthereis a tendencyto do so ifwe takea scholaronlyforwhathe or shetellsus abouthisorher culturalbackgroundwhichis alreadydeterminedas a matterof prejudice.




terms(I960: i8). In spiteofhis acknowledgingthecomparativemethodin theoretical approaches There is no doubt about the verysubstantialcontributionthatfeminist-inspired have made to anthropology.Not all women anthropologistswho have writtenabout women would, however,identifywithsome of theassumptionsspecifiedhere;myintentionis to pointto certainconcomitantsofideologicallybased premisses.It goes withoutsayingthatI simultaneously hold thatideologiesareinescapable. I Cf. Schrijvers(1979: 104): 'As a resultofthecurrentmale-centered approachmostwritingsare ofreality'(myemphasis). biasedor distortedrenderings 8 The propositionthatthe anthropologist like a male orlike a femalerecreatesa mustact either male-femaledichotomywhichis mirroredin a subjectmatterthatcanno longerbe describedexcept froma male or femalepointofview. 9 An aspect of this Sahlins takes up in his critique,in referring to the contradictionbetween value. Malinowski'sdesiresto see fromthenativepointof view and to reducethingsto utilitarian 'Rather than submit himselfto the comprehensionof a structurewith an independentand ofitspurpose-and so autonomousexistence,he understandsthatstructure by his comprehension makesitsexistencedependon him' (I976: 75). 10The factthatwomen's studiesas suchfrequently assumea 'crossdisciplinary' character does not contradicttheanalyticalpoint.Subculturesaredefinedby valuesin responseto othersetsofvalues, and/or by discrete social interestssimilarlycontained, even though those interestsmay be conceptualisedas 'autonomous' (cf.Ardener1975a). 11Malinowski comparedtheluckyethnologist[fieldworker] withthe [armchair]anthropologas his istof his day who had to relyon historicalmaterialand thus'had to functionsimultaneously sources';theethnologistwas in themore own chroniclerand as themanipulatorofhisself-produced fortunatepositionof being 'able to envisageculturesas a whole and to observe themintegrally throughpersonal contact' (I960: 12). The notion of an integratedculturewas the basis for an integrateddiscipline-the meetinggroundofall branchesofanthropology(I960: 4). 12 In hergeneralstudyoffeminism based'idealtypes'.In Glennon(1979) pointstofourdifferently withbeing'male' or 'female';at thesametime threeofthembeing'human'replacesan identification theseapproaches'use as an organizingdevicethenotionthatall women aresisters;thefactofbeing femalecarrieswith it a common bond thatis not available to males, at least not untilthe social advocatecome intobeing' (1979: I75). changesthesefeminists 13 Elsewhere (1978: i83) Weiner writesthatit is properto view 'both [Trobriand]men and ofdalamustbe nurturedwithexternal women as reproductiveforces. . . The cyclicalregeneration [male] forcesas much as it mustbe conceivedthroughwomen'. Weinerdoes not intendto eclipse men's reproductivecapacities (cf. 1979: 330) but their contributionis to be understood as fromthatof women-'male provisioning'as opposed to 'femaleessence' qualitativelydifferent 6

(1976: 130).

14 Weinermakessome attempt at comparingtheTrobrianders'matriliny and divisionof labour based on male yam productionwith the Hageners' clan connexionsreckonedthroughmen and in thehandsofwomen,butdoes notpursuethesedifferences. Some productivelaboursignificantly in press. comparisonsare developedin M. Strathern meansof carryinggoods, slungfrompoles. 15 Men have theirown distinctive 16 In some contextswomen are likenedto pigs, an associationintendedto bringto mindcertain qualities aligned with femalenessby contrastwith malenessand men's likenessto birds; thisis ofpigs as wealthobjects. separatefromthesignificance 17 This accountoftheWiruis takenlargelyfromtheworkofAndrewStrathern (I968; I97I; I978;


18 The formulation which follows owes much to the work of Roy Wagner. I must make it the two culturesas different in respectof absolutelyclear,however,thatI am not characterising symbolformationin general,norevenin respectofsymbolsforgifts.Hagen andWirualikeemploy bothwhatWagnercallsconventional[metonymic] on theone hand,and on modesofsymbolisation theotherfigurative or metaphoricmodes. (The formerimposesboundaries;thelatterassimilatesits contextto itself.)My intentionis to pointto a contrastin emphasisin themannerin whichmaleness and femalenessare conceivedin relationto each other.In Hagen 'male' and 'female'are constantly as innatelydiscretecategories.(Thatin theirsocial comparedand broughtintoexplicitrelationship, behaviourpeople to some extent'achieve'a placementoftheirsexualidentity in termsofprestigious



or rubbishactions(M. Strathern1978) is to be understoodas theircreating'a universeof innate conventionbyconstantly tryingto change,readjust,andimpingeuponit:. . . an effort to. . . make themselvespowerfuland uniquein relationto it' (WagnerI975: 87-8)) In Wiru,on theotherhand, thereis a sensein which'male' and 'female'constantly substitute foreachother,suchthatat anyone betweenmalenessor femalenessis takennotas innatebutas constructed. pointthedistinction '9 In thissense shellsare both to be identified withmen as indicativeof men's supremerole in ceremonialexchange,and to be separatedfromthemas itemstheypossess and transactwith. To thesameobjectis botha metaphor(fortheactor)and a metonym(forwealth pushtheterminology, and power). 20 Compare the Gimi of the EasternHighlands(Gillison I980: I 56): Gimi fathers put bamboo tubesintothedaughter'snetbagat marriage-equated by menwiththeflutesthatsymboliseboth penisand child.Wirudo not,however,use genitalidiomsto theextentthatGimi do. 21 This statementis not as extravagantas one mightsuppose in the lightof evidence about father-daughter incestand homicidalaggression(and see A. Strathernig80a, 63n). Ambiguities also arisein thebrother-sister relationship, butI do notdiscussthesehere. REFERENCES

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