To Sing with Pigs is Human: The Concept of Person in Papua New Guinea

To Sing with Pigs is Human: The Concept of Person in Papua New Guinea

by Jane C. Goodale
     
 

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Melanesia has been the research focus of some of anthropology’s legendary names. In the best tradition of Melanesian scholarship, Jane Goodale writes here of the Kaulong who live in the deep forests of New Britain, an island in the vast territory of Papua New Guinea. Even in the last half of the twentieth century, the Kaulong’s contact with the outside

Overview

Melanesia has been the research focus of some of anthropology’s legendary names. In the best tradition of Melanesian scholarship, Jane Goodale writes here of the Kaulong who live in the deep forests of New Britain, an island in the vast territory of Papua New Guinea. Even in the last half of the twentieth century, the Kaulong’s contact with the outside world through government patrols and missionaries has been minimal. Their story enhances our understanding of Melanesia and adds new and significant material to the comparison of Oceanic cultures and societies.

In the course of her fieldwork with them, Goodale recognized that everything of importance to the Kaulong—every event, every relationship, every transaction—was rooted in their constant quest for recognition as human beings. She addresses here questions central to Kaulong society: What is it that makes an individual human? How is humanity, or personhood, achieved and maintained?

In their consuming concern with their status as human beings, the Kaulong mark progress on a continuum from nonhuman (animal-like) to the most respected level of humanity—the political Big Men and Big Women. Knowledge is the key to movement along the continuum, and acquiring, displaying and defending knowledge are at the heart of social interaction. At all-night "singsings," individuals compete through song in their knowledge of people, places, and many other aspects of their forested world. The sacrifice of pigs and distribution of pork to guests completes the ceremonial display and defense of knowledge and personhood.

While To Sing with Pigs will be welcomed by anthropologists and area specialists, it will appeal on a broader level to anyone interested in this still remote part of the world. Goodale's analysis of songs and their ritual context adds unusual depth to the ethnography. Fascinating field photographs and readable text prove again that anthropology can be both scholarly and lively.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The Kaulong of Papua New Guinea devote their lives to moving from the lowest status to political "big men" and "big women," displaying their accumulation of knowledge at all-night singing competitions ending in pig sacrifice and feasting. Goodale (anthropology, Brywn Mawr College) examines the tribe and its members' quest for recognition and status as human beings within their own society during the period 1962-1974, describes rituals for events such as marriage and first menses, and analyzes ceremonial songs. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780295974545
Publisher:
University of Washington Press
Publication date:
07/01/1995
Pages:
252
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.59(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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