Asiwinarong: Ethos, Image, and Social Power among the Usen Barok of New Ireland

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Professor Wagner's study of Barok social and ritual life pays special attention to the men's-house feasting cycle. The kaba. or culminating death feast" of that cycle, is invoked by the word "asiwinarong," which symbolizes the leadership succession on which Barok claims to ethical integrity and precedence rest

    Originally published in 1986.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6103-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xx)

    Whether they have approached the study of Melanesian peoples in a self-justifying quest for the “primitive other,” or in an honest search for the social “basics,” Western social scientists have seldom been disappointed. They have generally found the Enigma that is all things to all. And if reciprocity turns out to be something subtler than mechanistic, nonabstract economics, gender conceptions somewhat differently situated than where the current craze would have them, “big men” and millenarian movements rather more complexly contextualized than expected—all the more reason to pursue them with renewed vigor. Melanesia lends itself to ethnographic clichés and eclectic...

    (pp. xxi-xxiii)
    (pp. xxiv-2)
  7. ONE Bakan Village
    (pp. 3-23)

    According to local tradition, at a place called Selpuspusuk (“pull it and it breaks off”) just south of the Barok area, where New Ireland is barely more than five kilometers wide, stands a tree called Adi’. The tree blocks the sea, holding New Ireland together at a point where it might otherwise be cut in two. The Barok people inhabit the narrow isthmus of land to the north of this point. It is a low, hilly land, with the highest crests rising over the west coast; on the east coast, the land rises in cliffs (o-gono wat,“rockheads”) and steplike...

  8. TWO The Barok World
    (pp. 24-48)

    The long, slender expanse of New Ireland, extending more than two hundred miles northwest-southeast, lends itself very easily to a unidimensional mode of reckoning. The poles of the continuum, at least for the bulk of the population, which lives between them, are the provincial capital, Kavieng, to the northwest, and the modest center of Namatanai, in the south-central portion of the island. This polarity has completely supplanted the “right/left” frame of reference familiar to Westerners: a driver, backing his car along a difficult stretch of village road, is told to go “Namatanai! Namatanai!” by anxious onlookers; an old man, fiddling...

  9. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  10. THREE Moiety and Relationship: The Core of Kastam
    (pp. 49-78)

    The core of UsenBarok kastam,in its conceptual as well as behavioral elicitation of ethos, is the system of mutually and dialectically opposed moieties, and the system of key relationships that their existence and interaction bring about. The moieties are counterposed against one another in a conflictive and even paradoxical manner: each claims the absolute propriety of its own matrilateral membership, but also claims the inception and nurturance of the membership of the other—“what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable.” The moieties are mothers to their own, and fathers to each other; they both contain and...

  11. FOUR The Clan: Exchange and Alliance
    (pp. 79-98)

    The sets of relationships elicited through the interaction of the moieties, including same-moiety relationships, provide the substance for Usen Barok social and ritual life. As I have suggested, these relationships, the attendant means of eliciting them—avoidance, respect, and joking—and their generalized expression asmalumandmalili,constitute an ethos, a collectively held and collectively felt motivation and code for the conduct, expression, and experience of social and ritual life. Usen Barok are conscious of the individual performance and experience of this ethos through a social sense of embarrassment, or self-consciousness, which is glossed in Tokpisin as sem (“shame”)...

  12. FIVE A Tadak
    (pp. 99-120)

    The tokpisin termmasalaicovers an astonishing variety of native conceptions, generally “bush spirits” of one sort or another that are associated with particular places. In some cases, however, as among the Barok, and perhaps in New Ireland generally, the term has a much more specific and exclusive application. No one would think of using it with reference to agilam,for instance, even if thegilamwere known to be associated with a particular pothole. Among Barok the termmasalaiis restricted to manifestations and beings that are known in the indigenous language asa na tadak(sing.:a...

  13. SIX Pidik and Power
    (pp. 121-145)

    The “world” or “world view” of the Usen, as well as the generic facility of accomplishing things in the world,a la lolos(Tokpisinpaua ologeta), is something of an unglossable expression or, at best, a realm of possibilities only partially encompassed by human convention. Yet it is understood as the broadest or most extensive field of relations within which human effort accomplishes its ends. Any human enterprise is a realization ofa lolos,requires it, and may be hindered by an adversary’s use of it. Marianne George, who undertook a study of the conceptualization of power at Kokola, reports...

  14. SEVEN The Icon of Containment
    (pp. 146-175)

    Thetaunand the feast in thetaunare two intrinsically related aspects of a single consensual image, which is theconstitutiveimage of Usen Barok culture. Thetaunis essential as the visual matrix of meaning for the feast—not only its setting, but also its icon; not only its container, but also the container of the previously interred dead (the “ancestors”) and of the pigs’ jaws and other carefully preserved relics of previous feasts that lend the weight of precedent and authority to the occasion. A valid feast cannot be held except in ataun,¹ and the feast...

  15. EIGHT Asiwinarong: Preemptive Successorship
    (pp. 176-213)

    As a basic focus of human culture, ethos may be approached theoretically from a number of viewpoints. It was introduced in Chapter 3 as the object of creative elicitation along the lines of Bateson’s “This is play” to emphasize that the most elemental relations of culture may be cogently understood as being continually invented or synthesized out of one another. This is the perspective of “innovation,” of the dialectic creation of iconic symbolizations out of one another that I have explored elsewhere,¹ and that provides a foil for the modern folk tenet of the a priori imposition of order, structure,...

  16. NINE Conclusion
    (pp. 214-222)

    The analysis of cultural meaning, of the interpretive constructions and perceptions that are collectively known and acted upon by the people under study, has become a fairly well-known and accepted anthropological approach. It contrasts in method and theory with other explanatory approaches (such as functionalism) which are concerned to show how indigenous usages operate to fulfill basic human or social needs, constitute a native realization of “enlightened self-interest,” and so forth. In its primitive stages, the study of indigenous meaning did in fact borrow an explanatory rhetoric from functionalism, attempting to show how certain meaningful constructions helped to integrate the...

  17. APPENDIX: Reciprocity and the Orong
    (pp. 223-226)
    (pp. 227-230)
    (pp. 231-234)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 235-238)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)