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Saltwater Sociality

Saltwater Sociality: A Melanesian Island Ethnography

Katharina Schneider
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Saltwater Sociality
    Book Description:

    The inhabitants of Pororan Island, a small group of 'saltwater people' in Papua New Guinea, are intensely interested in the movements of persons across the island and across the sea, both in their everyday lives as fishing people and on ritual occasions. From their observations of human movements, they take their cues about the current state of social relations. Based on detailed ethnography, this study engages current Melanesian anthropological theory and argues that movements are the Pororans' predominant mode of objectifying relations. Movements on Pororan Island are to its inhabitants what roads are to 'mainlanders' on the nearby larger island, and what material objects and images are to others elsewhere in Melanesia.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-302-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  8. INTRODUCTION Pororan and Buka, 2004
    (pp. 1-24)

    After my first visit to Pororan, I returned to Buka Town, packed my belongings and moved to the island, taken in already by the prospect of working with people who ‘don’t know much about our culture’, as Pascal had said. However, things weren’t that simple. A long and hard ‘hungry season’ was just coming to a close in Buka at the beginning of my fieldwork. Food was extremely scarce on Pororan. So I took the advice of my hosts on Pororan and spent two months moving back and forth between the island, Buka Town and Lontis and Gagan Villages, trying...

  9. CHAPTER 1 Fishing People
    (pp. 25-50)

    Pororan is a fishing place, as Roselyn told me on my first visit. At Pororan Village, the proximity of the sea and the importance of fishing to the inhabitants were apparent everywhere in 2004–05. Spear guns and paddles leaned against house walls, and fishing baskets usually had to be cleared off benches and tables before meals. Large, store-bought fishing nets were hanging between trees in some hamlets. The beach and the canoes¹ on it provided the visual background to most Pororan domestic scenes, and the smell of smoked fish hung over the village in most evenings. Men and women,...

  10. CHAPTER 2 Kin on the Move
    (pp. 51-79)

    One afternoon in Buka Town, in the shade on the veranda at the hotel owned by his uncle Albert, the Pororan workman Kevin was conversing, mostly in Tok Pisin, with his baby daughter Roberta, two months old, who was sitting on his lap: ‘Roberta! When you arrived here this morning, where did you come from? Eh? Where had you gone?’ On Roberta’s behalf, her mother, sitting on a chair some metres away answered: ‘Roberta was at Ieta [Ieta Village, close to Buka Town], she was with her relatives there, with her grandfather [MF] and her grannies [MFZs] and aunties [MZs].’...

  11. CHAPTER 3 Mobile Places
    (pp. 80-100)

    The previous chapter was concerned with the relations between mothers, fathers and their children and their objectification in movements. This chapter is concerned with places and the groups of people that inhabit them. Thetsunon, the male hereditary leaders in Buka, are the persons responsible for ‘looking after the place’ [pinapu,ples] and the people who live there [areban ipinapu, lit.: people at the place] What exactly this task of ‘looking after the place’ involves was demonstrated in a highly entertaining way once on a journey from Town by truck to the beach at Karoola and then by boat to...

  12. Image section
    (pp. 101-106)
  13. CHAPTER 4 Pinaposa
    (pp. 107-135)

    Thetsunon’s ‘looking after the place’ is at the same time a ‘looking after’ hispinaposa: by ‘pulling’ people and ‘putting’ them somewhere, he defines the boundaries of thepinaposaand cuts the multiple relations among women supporting each other off, depending on his own purposes. Nowadays he does so especially in the context of feasting, but also for business. Those whom thetsunonconsiders to be, or wants to come inside hispinaposawill be asked to contribute to the food and money given away by thepinaposaon a particular occasion. All those people are said to be...

  14. CHAPTER 5 Marriage and Mortuary Rites
    (pp. 136-163)

    In the previous chapters, I have followed Pororan movements, especially the standardized hand movements of different shapes that the islanders use to comment on relations in the past and present. Two questions will be addressed now that have arisen in the course of this investigation of the Pororans’ objectification of relations in movements. One has already been stated explicitly: What roles do other modes of making relations apparent play in this heavily movement-centred mode of objectification, especially human bodies? Secondly, how exactly can we understand the relation between the hand movements in which relations are depicted in a ‘finished’ (see,...

  15. CHAPTER 6 Movements and Kastom
    (pp. 164-185)

    Pororan interests in keeping relations open-ended will be held up here against the Bougainvillean government’s suggestions of ‘reviving kastom’ in 2004–05. My purpose in doing so is three-fold. Firstly, I aim to draw together my argument about Pororan Islanders’ mode of objectifying human relations in movements up to this point. Secondly, the political implications of this mode of objectification for Pororan Islanders will be highlighted. Finally, the contrast between Buka mainlanders’ mostly positive responses to the government’s suggestions and the Pororans’ reservations offers a perspective from which to explore what precisely it is about the objectification of social relations...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 186-198)

    The purpose of this conclusion is, firstly, to sum up my argument from previous chapters. It may be read as one of the hand movements that Pororan Islanders use to describe particular movements and relations: a summary after the fact, and of a particular form that has been achieved at a certain moment. Needless to say, this form will change as movements go on. Secondly, I will point out some connections between my findings on Pororan and different sets of anthropological literature that may offer starting points for future research.

    The ethnographic stimulus for and throughout my research with Pororan...

  17. GLOSSARY. Hapororan and Tok Pisin Terms
    (pp. 199-202)
  18. APPENDIX A. Pororan Travel Routes, 2004–05
    (pp. 203-206)
  19. APPENDIX B. Some Fishing Terms
    (pp. 207-208)
  20. APPENDIX C. Tok Pisin and Hapororan Kin Terms
    (pp. 209-210)
  21. APPENDIX D. Stories and Solomon
    (pp. 211-214)
    (pp. 215-226)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 227-234)