Jun Yang
Professor
Cultural Anthropology
1 December 2017
The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea
The book of “The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea” is a study in the growth of ethnography directed by Annette B. Weiner. Who was a pre-doctoral work in the study of Trobriand island begin in 1971- 1972 and in the year of 1974, she earned her Ph. D. This novel expresses over fifteen years of study on a deep investigation about Trobriand society, culture, and behavior. Her casework started with the fieldwork of Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski, who was the first discovered the importance as a field of study.
Malinowski was born in Poland, in 1884 and died in 1942. In his lifetime he has researches Trobriand island for many years. He concentrated on the activities of the male Trobrianders, observing the way they went about their daily duty. One approach Malinowski used to study the men and turns himself into one of the residents. In that time, he was departing himself from the other white men and spending the majority of his time with the villagers. Malinowski learned that being an ethnographer does not mean to only observe, but to “put aside camera, notebook, and pencil, and to join in himself in what is going on”(pg60). As the time past, the Trobrianders viewed him less as just a ‘white man’ or a ‘celebrity’, but as an equal.
On the other side, Dr. Weiner mainly discovered on the women about their value and power in the island. She has extended where Malinowski breaks off and filled in some of the holes. She found that the Trobriander community is structured as a matrilneage. Which it cause Dr. Weiner mainly focused is on “women’s productive activities” or property, whereas Dr. Malinowski handles men’s wealth. “By taking seriously the importance of women’s wealth not only brought women as the neglected half of society clearly into the ethnography picture but also forced me to revise many of Malinowski’s assumptions about Trobriand men” (pg.5) The study is in the late 80’s.
In the beginning of the section, the writer mentions the basic of principals about the Trobriand culture in the years of study. At the same time, New Guinea was working on self-government and national independence, as the author covers in the book “this particular time period provided important insights into the past history of the island while underscoring Trobriander impressive resistance to foreign intervention” (p.13). The efforts by the Trobriander was to follow the traditional economic and natural process that was associated to the wealth of the females and the part of wealth as it associates to the political growth and political economy of the men.
Next will be discussing the death and birth ritual of the culture. For the topic of culture is one of content that we talk in our first discussion. The purpose of the culture is a way to developing people’s view of the society. Different country has their own culture. For people in Trobriander the death was resisted by the citizen in the country. It has been developed in material wealth, land, social and political relationships. The Trobrianders society is different from ours, for them is based on matrilineal descent. When a woman is ready to give birth she will move to her mother house and stays there for a few months after the birth, in order allow her mother to help with the baby. In their society, the bond between mother’s blood and child is strong, but the man’s part in the procreation is not identified.
Adolescent sexuality is very valuable to the study of Trobriand. It explains how children at the age of seven or eight begin playing games and imitating adult sexual attitude. At the age of 11-13 the “children” pursue sexual partners, they frequently change partners after experimenting with each. The situation gets serious when a female meets the same male repeatedly. Must of time enter his home around midnight and before others awaken. Lovers must never eat food in the company of one another. When deciding on mates, the father determines if the woman is appropriate, and mother has the central position in determining for a daughter. Spouses can’t come from the related matrilineal band, for the best chance is to marry someone from father’s side. There are no traditional wedding ceremonies, they’re officially recognized as they eat yams together. Usually, after they’re married they will leave their parents house and have a smaller house nearby their parent’s house. During this time their parents will lead the young adults to complete their needed.
One of a contest what we discuss in the fourth discussion is the science and religion. Which I don’t accept that the science would eliminate the needed for the region and supernatural, but I believe the statistics. The people in Trobriander believe the Chiefs has the magic spell can control the weather. Which in this Island, the chiefs must prove that he understands magic spells. People on the island are paying close attention to the sorcery to kill, and controlling the weather. The reason they give close attention to the weather is for yams. Yams are so important to the villager because yams are symbols of status change and their life ahead in marriage. Also, it plays a major role in their society.
“A commoner, with only one wife, can never hope to outdo a chief in yams.”(p.106) Chief has the ability to accept polygamy in order to develop the wealth, but for Trobriander most are monogamous. Only a lower ranking chiefs had one wife. without multiple wives, his status is lower than a chief with many wives. Massive amounts of productive and expenditures of resources are obligatory for this culture. And even the death of someone, “transforms a harvest of youthful energy and excitement into a productive effort of a different order in which men’s resources are needed to procure women’s wealth.”(p.117)
This research deals with how objects from the significant position of a person’s culture and what is valued in that culture show how powerless of social and political relationships in. But it also describes people understand what the position on. The sociological struggle between individual will and societal pressures are explained clearly in this study.
I found this book is very clear and easy to read with the information on the culture. I think the ethnographic work is very important to the world, it can be very benefits to people view the world differently. It can let us understand who we are and where we come from, it also gives us clues what other country look like. From Dr. Weiner’s researchers, it is very clear, easy to understand, and it will be very useful for future studies. I would be higher recommend this book to anyone who will be interesting in the cultural anthropology.

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