Property, Kin, and Community on Truck

Property, Kin, and Community on Truck

Property, Kin, and Community on Truck

Property, Kin, and Community on Truck

Excerpt

The techniques of field work upon which this study is based have been set forth by Dr. Murdock in the Foreword. Of special importance was the use of the "genealogical method" developed by Rivers (1906) for the investigation of kinship. Its application to the study of property relationships was likewise first recommended by Rivers (1914, I: 55). The method was fully exploited on Truk for both purposes. The responses elicited from informants respecting the use of kinship terms, the patterns of behavior between kinsmen, and organization of kin groups, and the rules governing marriage and the transfer of property were regularly tested against the behavior of specific individuals in the genealogical framework. This led to progressive refinement in the definition of cultural norms and to exposing the specific conditions under which alternative modes of behavior occur.

The initial period of intensive investigation on the island of Romonum yielded a degree of insight into Trukese social structure which enabled us to check our data against the situation on other islands with maximum efficiency within a relatively brief period. By the time we were ready to survey the other islands our presence was generally known throughout the atoll, as was the fact that we spoke Trukese and were persons of good will who would not abuse cooperation. The personal relations we had established with the people of Romonum enabled us to receive hospitality and help from their kinsmen on other islands. Negotiations with local authorities were thus made easy and informal during the last few weeks of traveling about.

In the final phase of his field work on Romonum, the author became a "brother" to a native informant of about his own age, Jejiwe, thereby increasing his participation in the social system of relationships and enabling him to test the conclusions which he had tentatively drawn. A happy result was the discovery of another type of kin group, one for which there is no specific name in Trukese and which will be referred to as a subsib in this report. It was to the subsib mates of his "brother" and his "brother's" wife that the writer was sent when making final checks on other islands. Discovery of this group immediately cleared up a number of false impressions of, and contradictory statements about, the named sibs on Truk.

Our attempts at participation also revealed unsuspected aspects of the internal organization of the extended family. Rules of conduct which informants had given frequently turned out to be inaccurate generalizations or approximate rules of thumb when the responses which the writer's behavior evoked proved quite different from those he had been told it would evoke. While in this way the writer unquestionably made a fool of himself in native eyes on more than one occasion, his faux pas provided a basis for straightening out many misconceptions which no amount of straight interviewing would have clarified. They revealed that many of his questions of informants had been beside the point, had failed to allow for necessary distinctions, or had left a confused impression as to what he was driving at.

Although "participant observation" enabled us to enhance the validity of some of our conclusions about Trukese social organization, a large proportion of the conclusions . . .

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