Accepted Papers:

Grounded structuralism, gender, and weighting: lessons from the Massim  


Patrick Glass

Paper Short Abstract:

The Trobriands and Sewa arepuzzles.Binaryoppositions are weighted (+/-) and encoded in artefacts. etc. Ideology raises the F and stigmatises elsewhere: underestimated and different to Weiner‘saccounts.GS explicates tacit ground rules and ties them to experience; andenhances theorising at home.

Paper long abstract:

The Massim, and Malinowski’s works in particular, have been central to anthropology’s engagement with the public. Recently, however, even within the discipline, the focus of interest is limited and largely confined to the Kula. I want to spark a more general interest.

The polarisation of the sexes and the construction of kinship and gender in the Massim have lessons for the widest study of gender. My focal points are the Trobriands and Sewa of Normanby Island: two neighbouring, mythologically linked, and puzzling matrilineal societies. Tacit rules are manifest in symbolism, beliefs and practise, and grounded in everyday life - notably, in the relations between the sexes and religious beliefs. Overt and covert binary oppositions need to be weighted, plus and minus (F+ : M ; F++: M- ; etc), and these are encoded in buildings, the landscape, and elsewhere (Glass 1986, 1988, 1996). The kinship ideology elevates the female principle, while stigmatising women elsewhere. This has been underestimated, and is seemingly predictable; and is very different from Annette Weiner ‘s popular Trobriand accounts (1976, 1988). I suggest traditional Trobrianders were essentially enveloped by four psychological complexes (Tudava, Delilah, Dokonikan, and Vaiaba).

Anthropologists demythologise the exotic, humanise it, and bring it back home. Grounded structuralism spells out representations’ tacit ground rules and ties them to experience. I suggest Massim insights help us to understand our current body-image obsession, enhance our theorising, and engage with Orbach, Wolf et al.

panel P11
Engaging anthropology and archaeology: theory, practice and publics