The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia

By Marilyn Strathern | Go to book overview

10
Cause and Effect

There is a final concreteness to be discarded in approaching Melanesian societies from the viewpoint of Western/European ones. To concentrate on the objectifications of Melanesian cultures appears to eliminate subjectivity. The acting agent is seemingly not required in my explanation of how people manage their affairs—and I write as though cultures proceed independently with their reifications, persons appearing only as the reflex of relationships. In fact, the individual subject has been present in my account all along; she/he just does not take the shape we are used to seeing.


LOCATING THE AGENT

Leenhardt (1979 [1947]) faced this problem in New Caledonia. With brilliance he charts the extent to which persons appear through their relationships. But then at their center all he sees is emptiness.

As he analyzes local symbolization, the body is simply a support for the living being (‘personage’); it has an individuating effect, but it is not otherwise a source of identity. He discovered that bodies were interchangeable; they act as replicas of one another, by which he meant I think both that like persons are replicated and that those differentiated from a particular ego elicit its different roles. A living entity (kamo) “knows himself only by the relationships he maintains with others. He exists only insofar as he acts his role in the course of his relationships”

-268-

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The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in Melanesian Anthropology ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Anthropological Strategies 3
  • 2- A Place in the Feminist Debate 22
  • Part One 41
  • 3- Groups- Sexual Antagonism in the New Guinea Highlands 43
  • 4- Domains- Male and Female Models 66
  • 5- Power- Claims and Counterclaims 98
  • 6- Work- Exploitation at Issue 133
  • Part Two 169
  • 7- Some Definitions 171
  • 8- Relations Which Separate 191
  • 9- Forms Which Propagate 225
  • 10- Cause and Effect 268
  • Conclusion 307
  • 11- Domination 309
  • 12- Comparison 340
  • Notes 345
  • Notes 347
  • Bibilography 385
  • Bibilography 387
  • Indexs 407
  • Author Index 409
  • Subject Index 413
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