Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village

By H. Ian Hogbin | Go to book overview

2
Kin and Community

THE Busama often say that they live and work together because they are related, and certainly each one of them can trace some sort of tie with all his neighbours. Yet a person's kinsfolk are never confined to his place of residence, and he generally recognizes upwards of a score in several other settlements. Indeed, it might be argued that the members of the community are related because they live and work together. If a stranger wishes to be admitted he must first find a sponsor who is prepared to accept him as the equivalent of a brother. The rest of the villagers, should they approve, then work out their relationships accordingly.

To the native in the traditional setting there are but two kinds of people, kinsfolk (nga'leng) and strangers (laudung). With the former he co-operates, with the latter he has no close contact, except perhaps that of enemies. During his period of European employment he may refer to some of his fellow labourers from distant areas, men whom formerly he would never have met, by the pidgin-English terms meaning 'friend' or 'acquaintance', but on his return home such expressions drop out of his vocabulary. Once again all his companions are relatives. Even trading with other villages is based on kinship. The exchanges of goods take place as free gifts between pairs of men who regard each other by courtesy as nga'Leng. They inherit their partnerships from the father or an uncle and when visiting not only offer presents but also provide mutual hospitality and protection.

It follows that if people who have collaborated cease doing so for some reason, they tend to ignore the kinship connection between them. Numbers of Busama-Lutu and Busama-Awasa, because of the present ill-feeling, deny that they are cousins despite the evidence of the pedigrees that they themselves supply. They shrugged their shoulders at me, saying, 'Never mind your papers: we are now laudung.' Similarly, if a person can manage without the help of the marginal kin of his parents he dismisses them as strangers.1

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1
Cf. the situation among the Tikopia and the African Nuer and Tonga. In Tikopia 'the survival of kinship bonds is dependent upon active social contact between the persons concerned. Tikopia is too small a community for kinship ties to be entirely lost. . . . Here there are no strangers; there are merely peripheral kinsfolk' ( R. Firth, 1936, p. 266). To a Nuer native 'ultimately and potentially everybody is kin, or can be made to appear so if circumstances demand. This is understandable in a society where kinship values are the only guide to interpersonal relations. When

-13-

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Kinship and Marriage in a New Guinea Village
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Contents viii
  • I - The Setting 1
  • 2 - Kin and Community 13
  • 3 - Kinship Terms 38
  • 4 - Birth and Early Childhood 53
  • 5 - Later Childhood and Adolescence 72
  • 6 - Awakening of the Sexual Impulses 94
  • 7 - Marriage 103
  • 8 - Husband and Wife 124
  • 9 - Supporting a Family 138
  • I0 - Fulfilling Obligations 154
  • II - The Last Years 164
  • References 171
  • Index 174
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