Accepted paper:

Mythologizing myth: A linguistic anthropological analysis of Fijian chiefdom

Authors:

Yuichi Asai (Keio University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to analyze the Fijian chiefdom as a dialectical process of mythologizing myth and re-regimenting political reality among clans (yavusa) through the chief coronation ritual. In this endeavor, the paper focuses on the long-term discussion process about the past or myth of the land, namely performed by the elders in the Dawasamu district in Tailevu, Fiji, and examines how its narrative conveyed and visualized the prototype of the land past by re-identifying who the quintessential owners of the land were to install a chief. It also asks how the basic contrastive valued schema of "here and now" and "there and then" was analogically construed to the relationship between the supporters and opponents of the chief installation through highlighting that the chief coronation ritual was enacted as an icon of the re-interpreted schema of the mythical past of the land as an "orthodox" myth of the land, toppling down the current political regime among clans by eliminating the opponents (or devils). In this way, the paper attempts to integrate the two analytical points of view in Oceania cultural anthropology: 1) the semantic analysis of myth by Sahlins and others, whose ultimate focus is placed on denoting the symbolic structure as epitomized in the chief coronation ritual, 2) the pragmatic analysis in the recent discussion about kastom, which examines the ordinary narrative process of re-defining the criteria of orthodoxy on "tradition". In doing so, it applies the theoretical perspective of linguistic anthropology, which explicitly identifies the two different levels of event (praxis), i.e., the semantic (ritual) and pragmatic (narrative) aspects by re-identifying the problem in Sahlins' concept, "mytho-praxis", which displays reductionism in his semiotic viewpoint of acculturation as the dialectics of "structure" (myth) and "history" (event).

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims to analyze the Fijian chiefdom as a dialectical process of mythologizing myth and re-regimenting political reality among clans through the chief coronation ritual. In this endeavor, the paper focuses on the discussion process about the mythical past of the land in the Dawasamu, Fiji, and examines how its narrative visualized the prototype of the land past by re-identifying the quintessential owners of the land to install a chief. It also asks how the contrastive valued schema of "here and now" and "there and then" was analogically construed to the relationship between the supporters and opponents of the chief installation through highlighting that the chief coronation ritual was enacted as an icon of the re-interpreted schema of the mythical past of the land as an "orthodox" myth. In this way, the paper attempts to integrate the two analytical points of view in Oceania cultural anthropology: 1) the semantic analysis of myth by Sahlins and others, whose ultimate focus is placed on denoting the symbolic structure as epitomized in the chief coronation ritual, 2) the pragmatic analysis about kastom, examining the ordinary narrative process of re-defining the criteria of orthodoxy on "tradition". In doing so, it applies the theoretical perspective of linguistic anthropology, which explicitly identifies the two different levels of event (praxis), i.e., the semantic (ritual) and pragmatic (narrative) aspects by re-identifying the problem in Sahlins' concept, "mytho-praxis", which displays reductionism in his semiotic viewpoint of acculturation as the dialectics of "structure" (myth) and "history" (event).

panel WMW17
Language, linguistics, and culture