South Coast New Guinea Cultures: History, Comparison, by Bruce M. Knauft

By Bruce M. Knauft

South coast New Guinea has lengthy been a spotlight of ethnographic awareness, with its diversified cultures, its popularity for flamboyant sexual practices, and its traditions of headhunting. Dr. Knauft examines earlier ethnographic fabric to reanalyze the region's seven significant language-culture components, overlaying quite a number subject matters together with sexuality, social inequality, the prestige of ladies, faith, politics and violence. Ethnographically wealthy and theoretically refined, this ebook should be crucial examining for all these attracted to Melanesia, and may be learn by means of somebody interested in the issues of cultural comparability.

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These writings remain disconnected from Williams' monumental work on "traditional" ceremonies among the Elema and the neighboring Purari (Williams 1923b, 1924, 1939a-c, 1940; cf. 15 For one part of the Trans-Fly area, an exceptional account of local developments from an indigenous perspective has been published in article format by the Papua New Guinea researcher Billai Laba (1975a,b). Further ethnographic data have been presented more recently from the Trans-Fly area by Ayres in an unpublished thesis (1983) and in a confined ecological study by Ohtsuka (1977a,b, 1983).

Although dividing the south coast region into these component areas has a linguistic and cultural as well as scholarly "reality," we must not lose sight of the legitimizing impact of discrete culture and associated ethnographer designations. Thus, for instance, the "Kiwai" region of the early colonial era is often considered to be archetypally described by Landtman (1917, 1927, 1954). Yet Landtman's fieldwork was conducted in the western sector of the Kiwai language family and his account deals almost not at all with the many groups in the eastern half of this large area (see Wirz 1934b; Beaver 1920:chs.

As exemplified in subsequent chapters, analysis of the south coast New Guinea ethnography illuminates issues of central concern to theories of culture and practice as discussed earlier. My purpose in part 2 of this book (chapters 3-6) is to evaluate existing generalizations about south New Guinea and to elucidate general properties and pitfalls of comparative analysis. This exercise entails detailed and critical ethnographic reassessment. My goal is to illuminate the process by which regional analyses are themselves elaborated, refined, and transcended over time.

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