Review of the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea

The book. “The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea” . is a survey in the fieldwork of descriptive anthropology conducted by Annette B. Weiner. This survey is her pre-doctoral work in the survey of Anthropology ( 1971 & A ; 1972 ) . and in 1974 she received her Ph. D. This work represents over 15 old ages of survey of the Trobrianders. Her caseworks began with the fieldwork of Bronislaw Malinowski. who was the first to make any type of survey of these people. Main attributes to Dr. Weiner’s work is that it continued where Malinowski left off and filled in some of the spreads in understanding or misinterpretations he had and some things that were overlooked.

Dr. Weiner’s work gives the reader an inside expression at the Trobrianders civilization and behaviour. It helped to clear up significance of some of the imposts these people used in this civilization such as matriliny. gender. and chiefly power. One of the chief focal point Dr. Weiner had was on “women’s productive activities” or wealth. where as Dr. Malinowski dealt with men’s wealth. Dr Weiner wrote. “My taking earnestly the importance of women’s wealth non merely brought adult females as the ignored half of society clearly into the ethnographic image but besides forced me to revise many of Malinowski’s premises about Trobriand men” ( p. 5 ) . This survey was conducted before external alterations of the 80”s influenced alteration in the civilization of the Tribrianders.

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In the first chapter the writer discusses the basic principals that were factors of alteration for the Tribriander civilization during the old ages of survey in the late 70’s and early 80’s. At this clip New Guinea was working on self-government and national independency and as the writer wrote. “this peculiar clip period provided of import penetrations into the past history of the island while underlining Trobriander impressive opposition to foreign intervention” ( p. 13 ) . The attempts by the Trobriander was to maintain the traditional economic and activities that was linked to the wealth of the adult females and the function of wealth as it relates to the political life and economic sciences of work forces.

Monogamy is a regulation practiced by most Trobrianders but if the head want to go powerful they must take more than one married woman. These multiple matrimonies involve a long term exchange of yams. which in this civilization is wealth and aid to set up a more drawn-out political confederation with other folks or households.

During a period of clip before World War II many missionaries tried to alter the economic construction of the Trobrianders. “They wanted work forces to halt their yam garden work for heads and to bring forth hard currency harvests such as copra” ( p. 25 ) . Over the following twosome of old ages the missions and authorities did non make what they set out to make. Even though some heads promised functionaries that they would halt taking any more married womans they continued in the manner of their civilization.

Chapter two entitled Death and the work of mourning trades with something the Trobriander’s resist more to alter than any other external force per unit area. The rites that are performed when person dies are difficult driven in this civilization. When person dies their material wealth. land and societal and political relationships are divided between the life. While the individual is deceasing there is normally a show of household and friends that lament and shortness of breath aloud. When the individual dies the message is sent with astonishing velocity to other small towns.

“Each individual has a function to play that will alter the way of his or her work for at least half a year” ( p. 33 ) . No 1 is to demo or expose any sort of felicity during the period of mourning. This period is really drawn out. but the existent decease events go on really quickly. Trobrianders believe that if a enation is weakened through the decease of a adult male so person is intentionally seeking to weaken the liberty of the matrilineage’s head taking away is protagonists and possible inheritor. The men’s portion in bereavement is to sing hereditary vocals.

No one sleeps the whole dark after the decease. Tuma is where the deceased is to travel after decease. This is an island turn 20 stat mis from Kiriwina and it is here where they will run into up with other liquors of dead Trobrianders. When making this island they will go immature and strong once more. “Villagers believe that on making Tuma. the spirit is revitalized by returning to a province of young person and therefore continues to populate. Sorcery and decease work as one in this cultural belief.

The functions and positions of work forces and adult females are discussed in the 3rd chapter. The focal point is on the birth procedure and the political effects. When looking at the decease beliefs and so analyze the birth procedure decease is resisted by the Tribrianders. This opposition to alter was apparent in material wealth. land. societal and political relationships. But birth had a much different yet complimentary function in the household and decidedly with political effects. To the Tribriander matrilineal individuality. “revolves around the belief that construct occurs through adult females and their hereditary spirits” ( p. 56 ) .

When there is a matrimony a adult female traditionally goes to populate with her hubby. but shortly before birth she goes back to her mother’s house where she lives for several months before and after the birth. Within the small towns there are smaller crossroadss that are expressive of the enations. Trobriand babies acquire a batch of attending. They are continually touched and caressed.

Work force and adult females along with kids are all caretakers of these babies. But in the eyes of the Trobriander civilization public duty for the economic attention of the kid is the father’s duty. “His capablenesss and committedness to supply his kids with nutrient and wealth are observed by his married woman and her family and other villagers as well” ( p. 58 ) . Work force are besides responsible for heightening their children’s beauty.

Adolescent gender that was discussed in chapter four was one really of import factor in this survey. It describes how kids seven or eight Begins playing games and copying grownup sexual attitudes. In four or five more old ages they really look for spouses. They change spouses frequently experimenting with each other. They will go forth their parents place and have a little house normally following door or a few doors down. This gives freedom to the striplings to do their ain sleeping agreements.

During this clip the seniors in the small town will watch and steer the immature people to carry through their possible as productive grownups. “Is a immature adult female capable of doing all right skirts? Does a immature adult male show his increasing cognition of yam cultivation? ” ( p. 67 ) . These are merely a few of the inquiries that the seniors are doing certain the stripling knows about. Their productive abilities are non pressured upon the striplings. their duty is limited at this clip. and much freedom is given to prosecute their ain escapades are stressed. Lovers in the adolescent’s life will assist when the immature individual decides to come in into matrimony.

“Gaining lovers is non simply a frivolous stripling interest. It is the first measure toward come ining the grownup universe of marriage” ( p. 78 ) . Yams and women’s skirts are symbols of position alteration and their life in front in matrimony and play cardinal functions in their society. There is no traditional matrimony ceremonial. Just one twenty-four hours alternatively of go forthing her lover’s house and before dawn the immature adult female decides to remain. In the forenoon the two sit together and wait for the bride’s female parent to convey them cooked yams. The ground that there is such a strong tabu exists about lovers being seen together in the same house or eating nutrient together is because these Acts of the Apostless make a matrimony functionary.

Marriage and the political relations of yams. chapter five. trades with what happens after matrimony and the power of one’s beauty is removed from a physical sense to a show of wealth by bring forthing and commanding of the yams grown. The yams are used to rise their position with others. This along with the circulation of the wealth among blood relations and relations by matrimony that secure webs of societal and political relationships that normally will cross coevalss. After the first twelvemonth of matrimony a woman’s male parent makes her yam garden. Then in approximately five or ten old ages subsequently her brother takes over that duty. “Annual yam presentations non merely represent matrimonies and economic potency but besides the grade of political position that each adult male has achieved” ( p. 91 ) . By the clip that a adult male has his ain yam house built his girl will most probably be ready for matrimony.

Chiefs chief web are added to though their polygamous matrimonies. but the villagers decide if the head in inquiry has adequate influence to hold them back up him. “Wealth and the power of persuasion return on even greater importance as chiefs effort to win celebrity and consolidate their resources” ( p. 14 ) . This is what is discussed in chapter six. Since political currency of the head is measured in yam production the adult females that the main marries takes on a function of great significance in their political callings. A common villager with one married woman can ne’er trust to accomplish more than a head in yams. Chiefs must besides cognize how to command villager’s lives and turning powers of yams with charming enchantments. The most unsafe enchantments trade with control over conditions.

This type of power makes them feared by the villagers and that fear creates the power of the heads. Yams and yam production is economically instrumental in the Tribriander society. Merely low ranking head had one married woman even if his crossroads had work forces assisting to turn gardens. without multiple married womans his position is lower than a main with many married womans. Large sums of productivenesss and outgos of resources are required for this civilization. Even the decease of person. “transforms a crop of vernal energy and exhilaration into a productive attempt of a different order in which men’s resources are needed to secure women’s wealth” ( p. 117 ) .

Women’s wealth is given more attending in chapter eight. This wealth is a critical force in Trobriand society. In the exchanges of these yams that mark the terminal of a bereaved period one can see how dependent work forces and including the heads are on the adult females and their wealth. In this chapter and the undermentioned chapter nine the issues of laterality and hierarchy are raised and the possible and restriction for adult females and adult females to accomplish celebrity and liberty with even green-eyed monsters. black magic. and decease.

When adult females die their wealth is distributed by relations throughout the crossroadss. Some adult females will go to the crossroadss to purchase packages in readying for their ain decease. The adult females of the dead person’s enation are helped in the distribution by their brothers married girls. These adult females are members of other kins. Everyone who is associated in some manner with the dead individual is given a package.

History is saved through Kula a giving and taking of one armshell for another. It is a complex set of exchanges between islands and heads to commemorate their lives. This exchange builds strong spouses and valuables. Write on these shells that are exchanged is the history of their chiefdom. In Kula the exchange of the shells must be for one of the same size and value and exact lucifer for what is given. A Kula man’s celebrity is created through the circulation of his name in relation to the largest and most valued shells he has gotten. This type of exchange. armshells and necklaces has been seen for over 2000 old ages but the beginning of Kula may be merely about 500 old ages ago.

This survey deals with how objects form the of import phases of a person’s civilization and what is valued in that civilization shows how weak societal and political dealingss. But it besides defines the people in who they are and where they belong. The sociological struggle between persons will and social force per unit areas are shown clearly in this survey. The significance of this survey to anthropology is invaluable.

When Malinowski foremost began his survey of anthropology it was merely hardly established and his fieldwork was the first descriptive anthropology that gave academic substance to the field. It gives in item a civilization that much of the imposts are now being lost in assimilation. It helps the reader in understanding that descriptive anthropology is the survey of beginnings. history. and imposts of groups of peoples. This was an of import civilization to analyze at the clip because the civilization centered on chiefdoms and was a matrilinear society that was virtually untasted or influenced by external force per unit areas until recent times.

I found the book easy to read with information on civilization that was really enlightening. Mentions that descriptive anthropologies are merely a manner of fictionalising a civilization to assist the reader to understand and somewhat experience what that civilization is sing. Ethnography’s are indispensable in seeing a glance into a civilization in a personal manner and would non be assessable to many people. It gives aid in understanding ethnocentrism. Dr. Weiner’s survey and findings are clearly traveling to be utile in analyzing anthropology for pupils and laypersons. I recommend the book extremely.


Weiner. A. B. ( 1988 ) .The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea.New York. N. Y. : Holt. Rinehart and Winston.

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Review of the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. (2017, Sep 08). Retrieved from