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Social Reproduction and History in Melanesia

Social Reproduction and History in Melanesia
Mortuary Ritual, Gift Exchange, and Custom in the Tanga Islands


Part of Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology

  • Date Published: April 1995
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521483322

£ 43.99

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About the Authors
  • In much of Melanesia, the process of social reproduction unfolds as a lengthy sequence of mortuary rites - feast making and gift giving through which the living publicly define their social relations with each other while at the same time commemorating the deceased. In this study Robert J. Foster constructs an ethnographic account of mortuary rites in the Tanga Islands, Papua New Guinea, placing these large-scale feasts and ceremonial exchanges in their historical context and demonstrating how the effects of participation in an expanding cash economy have allowed Tangans to conceive of the rites as 'customary' in opposition to the new and foreign practices of 'business'. His examination synthesizes two divergent trends in Melanesian anthropology by emphasizing both the radical differences between Melanesian and Western forms of sociality and the conjunction of Melanesian and Western societies brought about by colonialism and capitalism.

    • Ethnography of a Melanesian society based on 16 months of extensive fieldwork
    • Detailed description and analysis of mortuary rituals
    • An argument for the combination of ethnographic, historical and comparative perspectives in Melanesian anthropology
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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 1995
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521483322
    • length: 316 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • contains: 14 b/w illus. 3 maps 13 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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.

  • Author

    Robert John Foster, University of Rochester, New York

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