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The Poetic Power of Place

The Poetic Power of Place: Comparative Perspectives on Austronesian Ideas of Locality

Edited by James J. Fox
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Poetic Power of Place
    Book Description:

    This collection of papers is the fourth in a series of volumes on the work of the Comparative Austronesian Project. Each paper describes a specific Austronesian locality and offers an ethnographic account of the way in which social knowledge is vested, maintained and transformed in a particular landscape. The intention of the volume is to consider common patterns in the representation of place among Austronesian-speaking populations.

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-86-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Chapter 1. Place and Landscape in Comparative Austronesian Perspective
    (pp. 1-22)
    James J. Fox

    The papers that comprise this volume examine ways in which social knowledge is framed and vested in particular landscapes. Each paper describes a specific Austronesian locality and considers both the cultural creation of this setting and the ways in which knowledge is maintained, transformed and remembered in relation to it.

    Each account is focused on a separate Austronesian-speaking population. These populations are located over a wide area stretching from Madagascar to Melanesia with languages representative of currently recognized major subgroups of the Austronesian language family: West Malayo-Polynesian, Central Malayo-Polynesian and Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, including speakers of both the Southwest Halmahera-West New...

  5. Chapter 2. The Water That Blesses, The River That Flows: Place And The Ritual Imagination Among The Temanambondro Of Southeast Madagascar
    (pp. 23-42)
    Philip Thomas

    Not long after beginning fieldwork in the village of Manambondro in coastal southeast Madagascar, I was called one evening to the house of the ʺheadmanʺ of the house-group in which I was domiciled. Gathered together there in the encroaching gloom of dusk were several men, to whom the purpose of my visit was being explained. When one man heard that it was my hope to learn to speak the dialect of Malagasy spoken thereabouts he interjected to the effect that I would learn the language as quickly and easily as I drank the water of the Manambondro River.

    As I...

  6. Chapter 3. Remembering Origins: Ancestors And Places In The Gumai Society Of South Sumatra
    (pp. 43-62)
    Minako Sakai

    The notion of ʺoriginʺ is a key concept for comparative studies of the Austronesians.² Two ways of tracing origins have been observed among the Austronesians. One is represented by a genealogy or succession of personal names, demonstrated by various societies in eastern Indonesia. The other is what Fox (this volume) calls ʺtopogenyʺ, which consists of a succession of place names related to the journeys of their ancestors.³

    This paper aims to illustrate a notable variation on Austronesian origin concerns through an analysis of Gumai ideas about origins. These people trace their origins through a succession of ancestral names. This succession...

  7. Chapter 4. The Contested Landscapes of Myth and History in Tana Toraja
    (pp. 63-88)
    Roxana Waterson

    In the English language ʺlandscapeʺ is a word that comes, as Olvig (1993:308) reminds us, with many layers of ʺconcealed, congealed meaningsʺ, but having a predominant association with the visual, specifically with the idea of topography as seen from a particular viewpoint; its original seventeenth century sense was of a painting of natural scenery, only subsequently of the vista itself, or of the landforms of a particular area. For anthropologists the effort to comprehend an unfamiliar way of life leads to a different kind of concern with landscape: an attempt to understand the involvement of people with the land that...

  8. Chapter 5. Genealogy and Topogeny: Towards an ethnography of Rotinese ritual place names
    (pp. 89-100)
    James J. Fox

    Initially, I wish to introduce the notion of ʺtopogenyʺ. By ʺtopogenyʺ I refer to an ordered succession of place names. I see the recitation of a topogeny as analogous to the recitation of a genealogy. Both consist of an ordered succession of names that establish precedence in relation to a particular starting point — a point of origin. In the case of a topogeny, genealogy, this is a succession of personal names; in the case of a topogeny, this is a succession of place names. Whereas considerable attention has been directed to the study of the significant genealogies, little attention...

  9. Chapter 6. Mapping With Metaphor: Cultural topographies in West Timor
    (pp. 101-114)
    Andrew McWilliam

    I recall having a discussion some years ago with a group of farmers in the mountains of West Timor; a discussion concerning East Timor and their knowledge of that area. During our conversation I was intrigued by an old womanʹs comment referring to that part of the island as ʺthe head of the landʺ (pah in a nakan).

    This phrase seemed to imply a system of orientation according to parts of the body, and I later confirmed that, indeed, body symbolism for compass direction was a cultural convention in West Timor. In this system the east, which the Timorese call...

  10. Chapter 7. Knowing Your Place: Representing relations of precedence and origin on the Buru landscape
    (pp. 115-130)
    Barbara Dix Grimes

    People on Buru use several strategies to refer to geographical features on the landscape of their island. As on other eastern Indonesian islands, certain places are designated anthropomorphic metaphors, conceptualizing the island as a body. On Buru the large bay in the east (Kayeli Bay) is the ʺfaceʺ of the island. The range of mountains running east-west just to the south of the lake is called the ʺbackbone of Buru islandʺ. Kak Pala Madat, the tallest mountain, towering 2,735 m high in the north-west of the island, is a ʺkneeʺ.

    Another strategy is to name places after some characteristic feature....

  11. Chapter 8. Speaking of Places: Spatial poesis and localized identity in Buli
    (pp. 131-162)
    Nils Bubandt

    This paper seeks to explore the nexus between language, space and identity.¹ It does so by focusing on the frequent use of orientational or deictic words in Buli language and relating it to the processes of identification. Spatial deixis seems to be relevant to the processes of identification at two levels: those of individual subjectivity on the one hand and those of cultural identity and differentiation on the other. In this discussion of the relationship between the perception of space and forms of identification I hope to suggest a possible connection between the numerous descriptive analyses of orientational systems in...

  12. Chapter 9. From the Poetics of Place to the Politics of Space: Redefining Cultural Landscapes on Damer, Maluku Tenggara
    (pp. 163-172)
    Sandra Pannell

    For a number of years, the people of Amaya and Wulur, two villages respectively situated on the western and eastern coast of the island of Damer, have been locked in dispute over the line demarcating their adjoining territorial domains. Soon after my arrival (in 1986) this altercation reached one of the many climaxes in what has become a major struggle over the appropriateness and appropriation of certain forms of knowledge. Redefining the cultural landscape on Damer amounts to more than just shifting the position of boundaries. It shakes the very foundations of social identity, engendering as it does tectonic epistemological...

  13. Chapter 10. Seating the Place: Tropes of body, movement and space for the people of Lelet Plateau, New Ireland (Papua New Guinea)
    (pp. 173-194)
    Richard Eves

    In this paper I explore the relationship between people and place. My aim is to show how space is transformed into lived space or place. I explore the way that people conceive of themselves through the space that they imaginatively create around them. In particular, I show how this relationship is constituted through the body and through tropes of the body.

    My discussion is based on ethnographic research among the Austronesian-speaking people of the Lelet Plateau in the New Ireland province of Papua New Guinea. The Lelet are the only remaining residents of the mountainous backbone of New Ireland, having...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 195-196)