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Sagali and the Kula: A Regional Systems Analysis of the Massim

Persson, Johnny LU (1999) In Lund monographs in social anthropology 7.
Abstract
This thesis is concerned with developing a consistent regional perspective on the Massim peoples of southeastern Papua New Guinea, a task largely neglected by earlier anthropological studies, it is claimed, or, when sometimes attempted, unsuccessfully accomplished for a number of reasons, both methodological and theoretical.



The author uses a comparative approach for investigating a selection of Massim societies. Any differences in social and political organization are understood as variations on a common theme or underlying logic, which implies, of course, that they are linked in a transformational sense. What distinguishes his approach from the main current of structural analyses, however, is its focus upon those... (More)
This thesis is concerned with developing a consistent regional perspective on the Massim peoples of southeastern Papua New Guinea, a task largely neglected by earlier anthropological studies, it is claimed, or, when sometimes attempted, unsuccessfully accomplished for a number of reasons, both methodological and theoretical.



The author uses a comparative approach for investigating a selection of Massim societies. Any differences in social and political organization are understood as variations on a common theme or underlying logic, which implies, of course, that they are linked in a transformational sense. What distinguishes his approach from the main current of structural analyses, however, is its focus upon those mechanisms responsible for generating concrete local forms and how the latter may select for a wide spectrum of alternative political strategies. Fundamentally important in this respect is the relative position of each particular society within the larger kula network, which allows for different opportunities to control crucial wealth objects for internal transactional purposes, such as marriage and mortuary payments. Variations on more centralized and decentralized modes of political organization are considered a consequence of the articulation of general structural and local positional factors. However, it is argued that, because of the larger dynamics of the kula ring, there is a tendency for individual societies to feature an oscillatory pattern similar to that which is characteristic of most Melanesian big-man systems. Cosmological beliefs and ritual mechanisms are used to account for the way Trobriand chiefs have been more successful in stabilizing their positions than other leaders within the area. What results finally is an explanation of Massim regional variation as based on a structural model of social reproduction.



To attain its empirical goals, this book makes use of a wide variety of published and non-published sources, ranging from early missionary reports to contemporary monographs by professional anthropologists. Its main purpose, however, is analytical rather than ethnographic. It is argued that a consistent regional framework has much to contribute to the general field of social anthropology when it comes to explaining how local societies might operate as component parts of larger systems. (Less)
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author
opponent
  • Directeur d'Études, Godelier, Maurice, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
political organization, exchange systems, structural transformations, reproductive models, regional analysis, kula, Trobriands, Massim, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, Cultural anthropology, ethnology, Kulturantropologi, etnologi
in
Lund monographs in social anthropology
volume
7
pages
245 pages
publisher
Department of Sociology, Lund University
defense location
Edens hörsal
defense date
1999-12-11 10:15
external identifiers
  • other:ISRN: LUSADG/SAAN-99/1006-SE
ISSN
1101-9948
ISBN
91-89078-87-X
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
ae764044-d479-4a2d-bdfa-c75a5e846079 (old id 19170)
date added to LUP
2007-05-25 08:24:57
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:44:57
@phdthesis{ae764044-d479-4a2d-bdfa-c75a5e846079,
  abstract     = {This thesis is concerned with developing a consistent regional perspective on the Massim peoples of southeastern Papua New Guinea, a task largely neglected by earlier anthropological studies, it is claimed, or, when sometimes attempted, unsuccessfully accomplished for a number of reasons, both methodological and theoretical.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
The author uses a comparative approach for investigating a selection of Massim societies. Any differences in social and political organization are understood as variations on a common theme or underlying logic, which implies, of course, that they are linked in a transformational sense. What distinguishes his approach from the main current of structural analyses, however, is its focus upon those mechanisms responsible for generating concrete local forms and how the latter may select for a wide spectrum of alternative political strategies. Fundamentally important in this respect is the relative position of each particular society within the larger kula network, which allows for different opportunities to control crucial wealth objects for internal transactional purposes, such as marriage and mortuary payments. Variations on more centralized and decentralized modes of political organization are considered a consequence of the articulation of general structural and local positional factors. However, it is argued that, because of the larger dynamics of the kula ring, there is a tendency for individual societies to feature an oscillatory pattern similar to that which is characteristic of most Melanesian big-man systems. Cosmological beliefs and ritual mechanisms are used to account for the way Trobriand chiefs have been more successful in stabilizing their positions than other leaders within the area. What results finally is an explanation of Massim regional variation as based on a structural model of social reproduction.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
To attain its empirical goals, this book makes use of a wide variety of published and non-published sources, ranging from early missionary reports to contemporary monographs by professional anthropologists. Its main purpose, however, is analytical rather than ethnographic. It is argued that a consistent regional framework has much to contribute to the general field of social anthropology when it comes to explaining how local societies might operate as component parts of larger systems.},
  author       = {Persson, Johnny},
  isbn         = {91-89078-87-X},
  issn         = {1101-9948},
  keyword      = {political organization,exchange systems,structural transformations,reproductive models,regional analysis,kula,Trobriands,Massim,Melanesia,Papua New Guinea,Cultural anthropology,ethnology,Kulturantropologi,etnologi},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {245},
  publisher    = {Department of Sociology, Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  series       = {Lund monographs in social anthropology},
  title        = {Sagali and the Kula: A Regional Systems Analysis of the Massim},
  volume       = {7},
  year         = {1999},
}