This study describes and interprets the ritual activity that follows upon death in the Tanga Islands, Papua New Guinea. Robert J. Foster shows how the performance of large-scale feasts and ceremonial exchanges both commemorate the dead and regenerate the social relations of the living. He places the rites in an historical context by demonstrating how the effects of participation in an expanding cash economy has allowed Tangans to conceive of the rites as "customary" in opposition to the new and foreign practices of "business."
1. Introduction: history, alterity, and a new (Melanesian) anthropology; 2. Commoditization and the emergence of kastam; 3. Kastam, bisnis and matriliny; 4. Finishing the dead: an outline of Tangan mortuary feasts and exchanges; 5. Replacing the dead: identical exchange and lineage succession; 6. Performing lineage succession: feast giving and value-creation; 7. Performing lineage succession: transformative exchange and the power of mortuary rites; 8. Conclusion.
"Foster offers a powerful and innovative analysis of Tangan notions of personhood, agency, value and exchange through this account of mortuary feasts. His historical perspective provides insight into how these notions have shifted in response to new opportunities for exchange within the Melanesian context. In short, for scholars concerned with the interchange between the crises of modernity and indigenous perspectives of social reproduction, this book is a welcome and essential contribution." Ilana Gershon, Chicago Anthropology Exchange
"Foster's attempt at forging [a] new Melanesian anthropological approach is as subtle as it is courageous, and Melanesian and non-Melanesian scholars alike will find his book an informative read." American Anthropologist
"In short, this book will become a classic, in at least two senses: its innovations are firmly grounded in disciplinary and areal traditions, and it should provide a template for others attempting to situate ritual structures in historical contexts." Richard Parmentier, Ethnohistory