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Anthropology Trobriander

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The difference would be on conception and the belief in conception.  With Malinowski’s study he saw that to the father’s there was no connection to sexual intercourse and kinship.  Malinowski’s study has the father’s not believing they had any involvement with the conception of the child and no connection between fetus and sexual intercourse.  Where as, with Weiner’s study of kinship and birthing she believes that the father’s has an understanding that they do have an influence in the creation of the fetus and how this view of connection is more universally believed by the tribe.

  Malinowski has the father’s as not understanding that sex leads to pregnancy where as Weiner’s show that they understand the outcome of sex (pregnancy), but that the lineage is created by the mother only, “a woman is therefore responsible for the co-mingling of her blood (buyai) with a waiwaia spirit child, thus making the infant a “true” member of her matrilineage, her husband builds up and nurtures (kopoi) the fetus through intercourse without compromising its “true” (mokita) matrilineal identity” (Weiner, 1988 p.

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57).  A man supplies the fetus it’s the connection between the mother’s blood and the spirit child that gives kinship.  Malinowski didn’t have this in his study.  Another difference in Malinowski and Weiner’s study was on the appearance or resemblance of the child to their father.  With Weiner’s theory it would be natural that the child would look like the father.  But with Malinowski theory it had given him the view that because of not understanding conception, then a father believing that the child resembled them was contradictory.

Pt. One Question #2

The discussion that Weiner’s study gave on magic was that belief in magic was not a result from psychological distress over the physical environment that was out of control, but rather to gain something that had social and political consequences.  Magic is used much like praying is to our culture.  “Trobriand magic speaks to the complexities inherent in social interaction” (Weiner, 1988 p. 8).  Malinowski recognizes the logical progression the Trobriander culture has in relation to magic and that they were “capable of exact observation, of sound generalizations and of logical reasoning”.  This understanding connects with Weiner’s findings that they do understand the consequences of sex (pregnancy). Both Malinowski and Weiner gave the belief in magic as a vital and important part of this culture and belief construction.  It is like beliefs in many cultures that religion, like magic, gives them hope in control over something they cannot control.  To me magic and religious practices are almost one and the same.  Trobriander’s magic practices are closely related to dominance and autonomy.  “Trobriand magic speaks to the complexities inherent in social interaction” (Weiner, 1988 p. 8).  The book has Malinowski as a functionalist theorist and that his focus was on cause and effect rather than the cultural belief that the Trobriander give to magic and people around them.  Maybe this would help to explain his findings in this study.  The Trobriander’s feel that through magic they gain a control over powers they feel cannot be controlled any other way.  Such as feeling or mind control these are things that cannot be controlled physically but rather metaphysically.

Pt. One Question #3

Individuals in this culture are assigned at birth a specific descent group which may be traced by matrilineal decent, which is through the female or mothers lineage.  If this was by the father’s lineage then it would be called patrilineal descent. The difference between matrilineal and patrilineal is that matrilineal lineage does not give authority in the culture as it does in patrilineal lineage.  While patrilineal societies are patriarchal, matrilineal societies are not matriarchal.  In matrilineal the mother’s power is shared with men and these are the brothers rather than the husbands.  The work of the Trobriand women is so important gives the key to why this culture is matrilineal.  Brothers and sisters belong to the descent group of the mother’s mother, the mother, the mother’s siblings and the mother’s sister’s children.  The males belong to the same descent groups as their mother and sister, but their children cannot be traced through them.  “Because the fetus is formed by the combination of a woman’s blood and an ancestral spirit (sibububula), it acquires its mother’s matrilineal identity” (Weiner, 1988 p. 54).

One common feature of this lineage is that they are exogamous.  They must find their marriage partners in other clans, and this is to curb potential sexual competition within the group.  With the Trobriander’s this helps to create new alliances between lineages, which helps to maintain them as components of a larger social system.  The clan group of the Trobriander’s is in direct effect to groups of generations that have become too large to be manageable or too much for the lineages resources to support.  A clan is the second decent group from the first group and may regulate how marriage is decided.  “The fundamental principles that shapes Trobriander’s ideas about matrilineal identity, revolves around the belief that conception occurs through women and their ancestral spirits” (Weiner, 1988 p. 56).

One unique feature of the Trobriander’s matrilineal society is that when a married couple has a baby, the claim to the father’s contribution is very important and from what I have read and understand, it is the beauty of the child that gives this such importance. This beauty is usually through wearing earrings and necklaces the father makes and gives to the infant that helps in making the child more socially beautiful.  This beauty that is ascribed is more than cosmetic.  The father’s responsible for this beauty and not the mother represents that they have powerful and wealthy relatives.  “Even for an infant, the potential for social and political advantages is already established through the messages that decorations convey about the infant’s father” (Weiner, 1988 p. 61).  If a child has no father it must depend on the support of the other members of its matrilineage.

Pt. One Question #4

The Trobriander’s own understanding of the rules they share or their notions of the way their society ought to be is important to understanding the social structure of their culture.  This along with the extent to which people believe they are observing those rules or how they think they actually behave and what can be directly observed is another aspect of social structure.  For example, for the Trobriander’s it would be whether or not the rule of suvasova is violated or not.  This is in direct relationship to the way individuals think they should behave, the way in which they think they do behave and the way they actually behave.  These elements help to draw a set of rules that help to show social structuring.

Dominance and hierarchy is very important because in their society is with ranked chiefs and these individuals are given special privileges and powers because of this chiefdom.  But one must remember that these powers do have limits.  “A fragility exists in all social relationships, and even though chiefs have an omnipotent presence, their power, too, may collapse” (Wiener, 1988 p. 13).  Because of uncertainty the ability of someone to control the destiny of others is something to be feared.

When someone is born their social identity is only enlarged by the others who helped to give them their names, spells and wealth in order to give power to that individual.  The society is the group of individuals that live in a specific location such as the Islands the Trobriand and all the little hamlets located on these islands.  They depend on each other for survival and share a common culture.  It is the way in which these people depend on each other can be seen in the trading of shells or their collection of yams.  The way in which these people depend upon each other can be seen in such things as their economic systems and their family relationships.  Members of a society are held together by a sense of group identity.  These relationships that hold a society together are known as it social structure.

Culture and society are very close but there can be no culture without society, and there can be no society without people.  So if I was to state where this social structure comes from and how it came to exist then one would have to look at the geography, history and language in the basic levels and then look to were they are today and how each interacted with the other to come up with a detail of where their society came from.  This look would also have to include everything in-between also such as, birth and death, mothers and fathers, children and sexuality.

Trobriander political and economical functions should be studied to get an understanding of their social structure.  For example, in the Trobriand Islands women’s wealth consists of skirts and banana leave, but when a relative dies most of which must be given away.  Understanding this helps to understand the social structure of this culture.  Groups like the Trobriander would have a common interest, say survival and would develop techniques for living and working together.  But it should be noted that each person of this group would still have his or her own identity and cultural background.  But the whole of the society live with the same basic standards to function.

Pt. 2 Question 1

            The New Zealand high country social organization would first be their land first off and then how they live and work on this land, raising sheep. “I focus on ways in which contemporary high-country families claim, sustain and reimagine remarkable connections to the land: I point to some of the elements constituting high county discourses of authenticity as these families’ affinity to land is voiced in the complex interplay of social practices and linguistic and symbolic forms” (Dominy, 2001 p.20).  The author goes on to list the semiotic qualities of narratives, social cartography of the homestead and station layout, discursive practices of naming and systems of land classification , vernacular topographic idioms and ways of talking about country, Maori land claims, and the emergence of discourses of sustainability.  All of this is part of the social structure of New Zealand’s high country culture.

            “The use of the indigenous term “country” does not presuppose either a geographic or cultural boundary, but is a multivocal term allowing for the imposition of different definitions over time” (Dominy, 2001 p. 33).  The fight for land and the continuity of inheritance patters in station life shows just how important the connection is to this social structure.  Partible inheritance is that the value of the entire estate may be equally divided between siblings with the opportunity to farm the land going to the boys first then the girls.  When the son manages the property for siblings who are also shareholders will create tensions in sibling’s relationships.

            Sheep herding is a very important function of this society.  It is their mainstay of economy and wealth.  Much like the Trobriander’s with their yams.  “implicit and reinforcing farming and life philosophies reflect a sense of having little control over environmental processes and yet of continuously and progressively evolving farming practices in a boxer shuffle with, rather than against them” ( Dominy, 2001 p. 196).  The philosophies and farming techniques shows how the people interact with their stock within their environment that creates and is created by the high country farmer and leads to show the attachment of the land. “When set against the ethnographic record, narratives of loss, embedded in poetry and local oral narratives, as well as in documentary and published materials and the development of stock management practices serve as creative responses to climatic, environmental, biological and market-based uncertainty and assured fluidity” (Dominy, 2001 p. 196).  All of this added to the problems of the indigenous people of that area has given the high country farmer more of a reason to assert their belief of being “people of the land”. They see themselves as being aligned with everything from their stock to their dogs and find their existence to be in direct relationship to the environment and the land.  They attribute their beliefs to be a measure of skill, discipline and of resilience.  “As social action and spatial discourse, property-transfer practices and inheritance ideologies protect family ownership of station freehold and leasehold property, preserve family business continuity and naturalize the attachment of family to country through a cultural logic of sentiment for the station as “home” and through the transmission of epistemologies of country” (Dominy, 2001 p. 105).

Pt. 2 Question #2

            Women in this society take second seat.  They believe that the continuum of loyalty to inheritance practices through the “vehicles of loss, of memory and of sentiment” (Dominy, 2001 p. 125) is vital to the survival of this culture.  Property transfer practices make sure that it is male dominant and that only this can be a way for them to live on with family and farm.  The link between family name and farm is vital and holds the prestige of the family.  “While daughters are schooled in values that disenfranchise them, sons are bound to their birth patch” (Dominy, 2001 p. 125).  Inheritance is what this cultures social structure’s foundation is mainly all there is.  Who owns the land and women aren’t included.  But there is a fire that is brewing with women of this culture and that is feminism.  Many women of that area are upset that daughters cannot stay on the land they were taught to be everything.  To preserve the farm was to maintain the family name and its reputation through the property, so status and property were seen as what was at stake not attachment.  This view is different for the men.

            As with any culture when diffusion occurs the culture change.  This will happen with the farmers of New Zealand’s high country and with their women.  Another factor to look at is with the indigenous people of the area this could be an all out war that will change this culture dramatically.  When one group of the society is discontent then change will happen.  Requirements of discontent and change are changes in cultural values and motivations as well as in social institutions.  The emphasis on individual self-interest, materialism, and production, acquisition and consumption needs to be abandoned in favor of a more human self-image and social ethic, which can be created from values.  This is what is happening with the women of the high country.

            This cultures ideal of family and the station writes their identity with country that shows a grouping of self and family.  Social identity in this case is given to an individual by land ownership and women don’t have that luxury.  I would see in this global world how women are becoming different than their cultural beliefs they once held and held dearly.  But whatever they, the station farmers, instilled in their families is almost backfiring on their own culture.  Women of their culture have now picked up the virtue of land ownership and want to participate in this practice.  They are beginning to question the rights of this belief.  But in my opinion it will be the Maori who will probably win this fight and will change the land and farming community forever.

Cite this Anthropology Trobriander

Anthropology Trobriander. (2016, Jul 03). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/anthropology-trobriander/

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