See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.

SPECIAL ISSUE

SPECIAL ISSUE: SPIRITS OF UNCERTAINTY: EVENTOLOGIES OF NATURE ON CHINA’S FRONTIERS
(Guest Editor: Giovanni da Col)

  • Giovanni Da Col: Spirits of Uncertainty: Eventologies of Nature on China’s Frontiers
  • Stéphane Gros: Nature De-naturalised: Modes of Relation with the Environment among the Drung of Northwest Yunnan (China)
  • Magnus Fiskesjö: People First: The Wa World of Spirits and Other Enemies
  • Koen Wellens: Resilient Cosmologies: Water Deities and Divine Agency in Post-Mao China
  • Charles F. McKhann: Crimes Against Nature: Kincest, Cosmology, and Conservation in Southwest China
  • Admet Yuet Chau: Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology

 


SPECIAL ISSUE

SPIRITS OF UNCERTAINTY: EVENTOLOGIES OF NATURE ON CHINA’S FRONTIERS
Guest Editor: Giovanni da Col

Giovanni Da Col

SOAS, University of London

Spirits of Uncertainty: Eventologies of Nature on China’s Frontiers

pages 307-320

Studies of the environmental spirit world have been pursuing two main lines of inquiry: (1) that indigenous claims on ecological thought, including beliefs in chthonic spirits and mountain deities, are the outcome of a global process of abstraction and the commoditisation of nature which acts as technology of governmentality for the production of discursive formations through which neoliberal environmental subjectivities can emerge and (2) that the pitfalls of the nature/culture dualism can be avoided by giving priority to nonhuman subjectivities and positing sociologies of nature as subordinate to ontologies of the self-other divide or action-orienting cosmologies of local ‘nature’. The contributors of this collection engage with the spirit worlds and other invisible agents that constitute the everyday landscape of a number of ethnic groups in western China. While declining to engage with the notion of animism or subscribing to totalising ‘cosmologies’, the authors prefer to extract the eventfulness of haphazard and radically uncertain interactions with spirits or wondrous signs apt to be transformed into marvels and rumours. The ethnographies presented in this collection reveal an eventology of spirit worlds and landscape on China’s borderlands, an inquiry that – unlike history – does not study ‘events’ as such but the relation between what is deemed to be an event, a surprise, or a manifestation of wonder and what is deemed to be the innate, natural, ordinary, everyday life.networks.

 

Stéphane Gros

Center for Himalayan Studies, CNRS, France

Nature De-naturalised: Modes of Relation with the Environment among the Drung of Northwest Yunnan (China)

pages 321-339

This article is about the ways the Drung (Dulong), a minority inhabiting a remote mountainous valley of Northwest Yunnan province (China), view the ‘natural world’ as part of a cosmological order in which human society is integrated. The article explores the principles of differentiation that preside over the modes of relation between the diverse components of this world, by paying close attention to subsistence activities. Until recently, the Drung people practised swidden agriculture, and hunting and collecting remained important secondary sources of food. These activities imply specific relationships with natural forces, deities and spirits, which constitute a socio-cultural means of accessing natural resources and obtaining prosperity, or ‘good fortune’. Four mutually non-exclusive modalities of transaction with these entities are identified, which capture the variability of peoples’ attitudes toward natural resources and ideas of social reproduction. Recent socio-economic reforms that have brought traditional cultivation to an end, threatening Drung people’s livelihood and culture, seem to influence the dominance of a certain modality of economic transaction.

 

Magnus Fiskesjö

Cornell University

People First: The Wa World of Spirits and Other Enemies

pages 340-364

The Wa spirit world implies a certain rootedness. Knowledge of the location and propensities of spirits is necessary to engage their capricious menace through divination diagnostics and sacrificial remedies. Even as outsiders have attempted to introduce modern medicine, spirit neighbours and enemies continue to figure prominently in Wa health, disease and death. I outline how these practices for managing the menaces of the spirit world survived the demise of the political autonomy of the Wa in the 1950s and 1960s, when the ancient Wa lands were divided and annexed by the nation-states of China and Burma. Finally, I discuss the disastrous consequences of recent forced displacements of large numbers of people, which caused many unnecessary deaths by disrupted the victim’s established ways of dealing with disease as anchored in the local landscape.

 

Koen Wellens

University of Oslo

Resilient Cosmologies: Water Deities and Divine Agency in Post-Mao China

pages 365-381

This article explores ritual practices among the Premi people in Southwest China at the beginning of the new millennium. Living in the periphery of Tibetan, Han Chinese and other Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, Premi villagers have continued to keep an understanding of how the world works that is markedly different from their neighbours. The all-encompassing economic development of China is posing new challenges to the intangible entities in Premi cosmology. In its management of forests, waterways or birth control, the Chinese state is increasingly interfering with Premi ways of dealing with their surroundings. The chapter proposes to focus on the way one category of intangible entities of Premi cosmology, the lwéjabu or water deities, are seen as acting towards these challenges, rather than on the underlying ontological changes. An event where a member of a neighbouring ethnic group becomes an unwitting participant in a Premi medium séance makes the case for approaching extra-human forms of agency by beginning with the ‘work’ or ‘effect’ of the divine entities.

 

Charles F. McKhann

Department of Anthropology, Whitman College, Walla Walla

Crimes Against Nature: Kincest, Cosmology, and Conservation in Southwest China

pages 382-401

The post-Mao era (1976–present) has seen a number of great changes in China. Two of these – the revival of religion and the emergence of a nascent, but powerful environmental movement – have come together in a unique way in the revitalisation of dongba religion among the Naxi nationality (pop. 300,000) of northwest Yunnan and southwest Sichuan provinces. This paper examines the relations between indigenous Naxi and outside tourists (mainly Han from other parts of China) through multiple lenses, including traditional Naxi cosmologies and theories of kinship and hospitality, as well as contemporary ideas concerning tourism development and environmental protection. The aim is to show that: (1) Naxi theories of alterity occur at multiple levels simultaneously – gods/demons vs. humans, kin vs. non-kin, native vs. stranger, host vs. guest, etc. – but that a unified logic underlies the relations, transactions, and interpenetration of these groups and (2) this logic is a productive force in its own right, that is, capable of harnessing new situations to it, even as it itself evolves as novel meanings are engendered in the process of intentional action. In all of this, one figure stands out: the dongba, a traditional shaman-priest viewed as a kind of mediator or facilitator in interactions and exchanges involving a wide range of human and non-human subjects.

 

Admet Yuet Chau

Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge

Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology

pages 402-421

Since the 1980s the northern part of Shaanbei (northern Shaanxi Province) and neighbouring areas of Inner Mongolia have been experiencing a huge economic boom, thanks to the discovery and successful extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas. While conducting fieldwork on the revival of popular religion in this region in the mid- and late 1990s, I came across various stories relating to suspicions of human organs being transported in large oil tank trucks going out of Shaanbei. Could there have been a link between what is invisible that lies underneath the surface of the earth (coal and oil) and those that lie within human bodies but then allegedly taken out and transported in oil tank trucks (human organs)? This article proposes an ‘extractological’ approach that brings together yet diverges from the methodological and theoretical concerns in anthropological studies on extractive industries and the commercialisation of human organ transplants. In analysing the image of ‘human organs in oil tank trucks’ in juxtaposition with various other pertinent extractological scenarios, an analytical tack emerges, crucially drawing upon Carlo Severi’s work on images and pictography, that goes beyond (or by-passes?) the anti-extraction politics of indignation and points towards an anthropology of conceptual interfacing and articulation (through investigating various kinds of ‘conceptual clutches’).

 

 

 

 

 

 

See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.

SPECIAL ISSUE

GERMAN MISSIONARIES AND AUSTRALIAN ANTHROPOLOGY
(Guest Editors: Peter Monteath & Matthew P. Fitzpatrick)

  • Peter Monteath & Matthew P. Fitzpatrick: German Missionaries and Australian Anthropology
  • Felicity Jensz: ‘Anthropological Investigation has Very Little Interest for Me’: Notes from Moravian Missionaries in Australia
  • Peggy Brock: Evangelism, Ethnography and Linguistics: Carl Strehlow and J. R. B. Love
  • Peter Monteath: Erhard Eylmann’s Missionary Position

RESEARCH ARTICLE

  • Tanya Jakimow: Becoming a Developer: Processes of Personhood in Urban Community-driven Development, Indonesia

SPECIAL ISSUE

GERMAN MISSIONARIES AND AUSTRALIAN ANTHROPOLOGY
Guest editors: Peter Monteath & Matthew P. Fitzpatrick

 

Peter Monteath and Matthew P. Fitzpatrick

College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

German Missionaries and Australian Anthropology

pages 197-208

In their primary task of converting Indigenous Australians to Christianity, German missions active in various parts of Australia through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century recorded relatively few successes. On the other hand, their endeavours in observing and recording Aboriginal languages and cultures have left a rich – and yet frequently overlooked – anthropological legacy. A common element in that legacy is their work in the area of linguistics, which they understood to be a necessary foundation for their evangelical work. Nonetheless, caution must be exercised in evaluating the German missionary contribution to Australian anthropology according to either national or religious paradigms. German anthropology, as practised within the community of missionaries and outside, evinces a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. Moreover German anthropologists, including missionaries, were by the late nineteenth century connected into international knowledge networks.

 

Felicity Jensz

Cluster of Excellence for Religion and Politics, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany

‘Anthropological Investigation has Very Little Interest for Me’: Notes from Moravian Missionaries in Australia

pages 209-223

As some of the first people to spend extended amounts of time with Indigenous peoples, missionaries were well placed to provide information to European and colonial audiences on non-European peoples. Moravian missionaries arrived in Australia in the mid-nineteenth century and over the next six decades worked amongst numerous Indigenous groups in the south-eastern part of Australia, in the interior, and in northern Queensland. This paper will trace the contributions made by German Moravian missionaries to anthropological and ethnographical knowledge both in the colonies as well as in Germany. It will particularly focus upon the connections forged in religious and scientific networks through anthropological work. The paper contends that a unified German identity was forged through scientific work that transcended denominational boundaries. Moreover, the ability to disseminate ethnographical knowledge within secular circles, both in the colonies and in Germany, provided legitimisation to missionary work and embedded missionaries within global knowledge networks. Through examining the work of one individual missionary, Friedrich Hagenauer, the fragility of these global knowledge networks is explored.

 

Peggy Brock

Edith Cowan University - Mount Lawley Campus, North Adelaide, South Australia

Evangelism, Ethnography and Linguistics: Carl Strehlow and J. R. B. Love

pages 224-239

This article considers the intersection of evangelism, ethnography and linguistics in the work of two missionaries living among Aboriginal communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Carl Strehlow was one of several German missionaries working in central Australia in the 1890s and into the twentieth century. J. R. B. Love met Strehlow briefly in 1913, but did not become a fully committed missionary himself until the 1920s. This paper first considers Strehlow’s evangelical, linguistic and ethnographic interests in relation to some of his German contemporaries, before comparing his approach to that of the younger, Presbyterian, Love to elucidate the inter-relationships between evangelism, linguistics and ethnography in the 1890s and early twentieth century in Australia.

 

Peter Monteath

College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

Erhard Eylmann’s Missionary Position

pages 240-255

The German anthropologist Erhard Eylmann relied heavily on assistance provided by missionaries when he undertook fieldwork in Australia. During two periods at the Hermannsburg mission he developed a strained relationship with Carl Strehlow. In his major work Eylmann wrote a damning critique of missionaries. While there was a level of personal animosity between Eylmann and Strehlow, at the heart of the antagonism were fundamental differences concerning the nature and function of the discipline of anthropology. The missionaries sought anthropological knowledge to promote mutual understanding, above all through language, as a prelude to conversion to Christianity. They proceeded from the assumption that the future of Indigenous Australians would be within the context of the adoption of Christian belief systems. Eylmann in contrast took the view that the differences between Europeans and Indigenous Australians were physical, essential and insuperable. Sceptical about the possibility of achieving mutual understanding, he devoted his fieldwork primarily to describing, recording and collecting for the purpose of assembling a detailed record of a population he believed destined for extinction. Eylmann and German missionary anthropologists such as Strehlow had in common that they stood outside the paradigm of British social evolutionistic thinking which dominated Australian anthropology around the turn of the century at the time. At the same time, the differences in the anthropological endeavours of Eylmann and Strehlow indicate the great breadth of approaches opening up within German anthropology. In particular they point to the emergence of an ‘antihumanist’ turn at the end of the nineteenth century.

 

RESEARCH PAPER 

  

Tanya Jakimow

School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia

Becoming a Developer: Processes of Personhood in Urban Community-driven Development, Indonesia

pages 256-276

Community-driven development in Indonesia requires the recruitment of volunteers: local residents with the will to develop themselves and others. By revealing the processes of personhood in light of volunteers’ own theories of self, I aim to disrupt simple readings of subjectification in the anthropology of development. Local volunteers understand their recruitment as having the opportunity to occupy a social position that is aligned with their jiwa (nature), and their participation as satisfying their hati (seat of emotion). Rather than assess the success or failure of state actions to regulate or constitute citizens through discursive and affective means, I take seriously this understanding of development as a process of locating and recruiting people predisposed to becoming the subjects of state development. Doing so prompts new lines of enquiry that have been overlooked in understanding processes of subjectification in development: namely the reason why some people are recruited as development subject, while the majority are not.

 

BOOK REVIEWS

 

Margaret Lock and Gisli Palsson. Can Science Resolve the Nature/Nurture Debate? (Jocelyn D. Avery)

Julian C.H. Lee.Thoughts: On Malaysia, Globalisation, Society and Self.(May Ting Beh)

Abhijit Guha. Tarak Chandra Das: An Unsung Hero of Indian Anthropology (Roma Chatterji)

Barbara Glowczewski. Desert Dreamers: With the Warlpiri People of Australia.(Georgia Curran)

Shane Greene. Punk and Revolution: 7 More Interpretations of Peruvian Reality (Jim Donaghey)

Maurice Godelier. L’Imaginé, l’imaginaire & le Symbolique (Laurent Dousset)

Stephen Gudeman. Anthropology and the Economy (Keith Hart)

Elisabeth Schober. Base Encounters: The US Armed Forces in South Korea (Masamichi Inoue)

Victoria Stead. Becoming Landowners: Entanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.(Stuart Kirsch)

Emma Kowal. Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Aboriginal Australia (Jasmin Korte)

Emily Martin. The Meaning of Money in China and the United States: The 1986 Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures (Lara McKenzie)

Brad Weiss. Real Pigs: Shifting Values in the Field of Local Pork.(Adele Millard)

Carlo Severi. The Chimera Principle: An Anthropology of Memory and Imagination (Roger Sansi)

Frederick H. Damon. Trees, Knots, and Outriggers: Environmental Knowledge in the Northeast Kula Ring (Paul Sillitoe)

Loretta Baldassar, Graeme Johanson, Narelle McAuliffe and Massimo Bressan. Chinese Migration to Europe: Prato, Italy, and Beyond (Mette Thunø)

 

 

 

See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.

  • Yasmine Musharbash: Telling Warlpiri Dog Stories
  • Stephanie Ketterer Hobbis and Geoffrey Hobbis: Voter Integrity, Trust and the Promise of Digital Technologies: Biometric Voter Registration in Solomon Islands
  • Frederic Pain: Local versus Trans-Regional Perspectives on Southeast Asian ‘Indianness’ 

 

Yasmine Musharbash

Department of Anthropology, The University of Sydney


Telling Warlpiri Dog Stories

pages 95-113

Ostensibly about dingoes and dogs, this paper explores aspects of the contemporary social world of Warlpiri people in the camps of the central Australian settlement of Yuendumu (Northern Territory) through canines. Analyses of dog socialisation, kinds of domestication, and the roles that camp dogs perform (such as protector, family, and witness) provide insights into Warlpiri notions of moral personhood, and are employed to reflect about the ethical foundations of how the oppositional categories of Yapa (self, Indigenous, Black, colonised) and Kardiya (other, non-Indigenous, ‘whitefella’, coloniser) are conceptualised.

 

 

Stephanie Ketterer Hobbisand Geoffrey Hobbis2

a) University of British Columbia
b) Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, EHESS - CREDO


Voter Integrity, Trust and the Promise of Digital Technologies: Biometric Voter Registration in Solomon Islands

pages 114-134

Drawing on the anthropology of technology, this article examines the introduction of a digital biometric voter registration for Solomon Islands 2014 national election. Four perspectives on biometric voting are brought into dialogue: (1) the technological particularities, strengths and shortcomings of BVR, (2) a global and international embrace of the technology for its perceived ‘universal’ tendency to secure identities, (3) efforts by the Solomon Islands state to showcase its political stability by means of BVR and (4) the ways village-based voters come to understand, interpret and re-imagine BVR as political technology. We show how, within the ethnographic context of North Malaita, debates surrounding BVR reveal a continued distrust and uncertainty in North Malaitans’ relationship with the Solomon Islands state and its representatives. Within the context of this uncertainty BVR is re-imagined as technology that aids voter integrity within rather than beyond patronage networks.

 

 

Frederic Pain

Academia Sinica, Taipei
Laboratoire Langues et Civilisation à Tradition Orale, Paris (CNRS-LACITO, UMR 7107)

Local versus Trans-Regional Perspectives on Southeast Asian ‘Indianness’

pages 135-154

This article is an attempt to define the concept ‘(Southeast Asian) Indianness’ through a comparative approach based on a local vs. trans-regional perspective. I shall analyse the complex relationships that develop between a trans-local, urban and literate Indo-Aryan Great Tradition and a local, rural and oral Little Tradition. First, I shall tackle the question of whether literacy has any socio-religious relevance and endeavour to identify its relationship to orality. I will subsequently analyse the (re-)Indianisation process as a socio-political construct and will finally propose some re-readings of ‘Aryapheresis’ (i.e. ‘Indian [Ārya] Transplant’ [phérein]), which I believe has been applied wrongly in some cases, to some Southeast Asian Indian-based socio-cultural realities. 

 

 

BOOK REVIEWS

  • Sean Brennan, Megan Davis, Brendan Edgeworth and Leon Terrill (eds). Native Title from Mabo to Akiba: A Vehicle for Change and Empowerment? (Paul Burke)
  • Bill Maurer. How Would You Like to Pay? How Technology is Changing the Future of Money (John Cox)
  • Katherine A. Gordy. Living ideology in Cuba: socialism in principle and practice (Marina Gold)
  • Susanne Bregnbæk. Fragile Elite: The Dilemmas of China’s Top University Students (Gil Hizi)
  • Catherine Besteman. Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (Jennifer Hyndman)
  • Jennifer Loureide Biddle. Remote Avant-Garde: Aboriginal Art Under Occupation (Darren Jorgensen)
  • Jared Mackley-Crump. The Pacific Festivals of Aotearoa New Zealand. Negotiating Place and Identity in a New Homeland (Jari Kupiainen)
  • Alison Holland. Just relations: The Story of Mary Bennett’s Crusade for Aboriginal Rights (Marilyn Lake)
  • Alice Street. Biomedicine in an Unstable Place: Infrastructure and Personhood in a Papua New Guinean Hospital (David Lipset)
  • Paolo Gaibazzi. Bush Bound: Young Men and Rural Permanence in Migrant West Africa (Isidore Lobnibe)
  • Ernesto De Martino, translated and annotated by Dorothy Louise Zinn. Magic: A Theory from the South (Fraser MacDonald)
  • Daniel Fisher. The Voice and its Doubles: Media and Music in Northern Australia (Toby Martin)
  • Yasmine Musharbash and Geir Henning Presterudstuen (eds). Monster Anthropology: In Australasia and Beyond (Caroline Joan ‘Kay’ S. Picart)
  • Douglas Rogers . The depths of Russia: Oil, power, and Culture after Socialism (Stephen Reyna)
  • Daniel H. Lende and Greg Downey (eds). The Encultured brain: An introduction to Neuroanthropology (Sally Robertson)
  • Jerry K. Jacka. Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area (Richard Scaglion)
  • Isabell Herrmans. Ritual Retellings: Luangan Healing Performances Through Practice (Anne Schiller)
  • Nils Bubandt. The Empty Seashell: Witchcraft and Doubt on an Indonesian Island (Patricia Spyer)
  • Jean La Fontaine. Witches and Demons: A Comparative Perspective on Witchcraft and Satanism (Phillips Stevens)
  • Caroline Joan S. Picart. Law in and as Culture – Intellectual Property, Minority Rights, and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Tine Suartina)
  • Debra McDougall. Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands (Geoffrey White)

See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.

SPECIAL ISSUE

MATTER(S) OF RELATIONS: TRANSFORMATION AND PRESENCE IN MELANESIAN AND AUSTRALIAN LIFE-CYCLE RITUALS
(Guest Editors: Pascale Bonnemère, James Leach and Borut Telban)

  • Pascale Bonnemère, James Leach and Borut Telban: Foreword from the Editors
  • Pascale Bonnemère: The Materiality of Relational Transformations: Propositions for Renewed Analyses of Life-cycle Rituals in Melanesia and Australia
  • Jessica De Largy Healy: ‘This Painting Becomes his Body for Life’: Transforming Relations in Yolŋu Initiation and Funeral Rituals
  • Marika Moisseeff: Setting Free the Son, Setting Free the Widow. Relational Transformation in Arrernte Life-Cycle Rituals (Australia)
  • Eric Venbrux: How the Tiwi Construct the Deceased’s Postself in Mortuary Ritual
  • Arve Sørum: Bedamini Male Initiation and Marriage as Transformation Sequences
  • Johanna Whiteley: “Feeding the Caregiver”: Internal and External Relations in a Matrilineal Life-cycle Ritual, West Gao

 


SPECIAL ISSUE

MATTER(S) OF RELATIONS: TRANSFORMATION AND PRESENCE IN MELANESIAN AND AUSTRALIAN LIFE-CYCLE RITUALS
Guest editors: Pascale Bonnemère, James Leach and Borut Telban

 

 

Pascale Bonnemère1, James Leach1 and Borut Telban2

1: Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, EHESS — CREDO, Marseille
2: Institute of Anthropological and Spatial Studies Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Foreword from the Editors

pages 1-2

 

 

Pascale Bonnemère

Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, EHESS — CREDO (UMR 7308), Marseille, France


The Materiality of Relational Transformations: Propositions for Renewed Analyses of Life-cycle Rituals in Melanesia and Australia

pages 3-17

This paper introduces this special issue and analyses Papua New Guinea and Australian initiation and death rituals as moments of relational transformations. Although the general argument is not completely new, it has often remained an undemonstrated statement. The paper hence focuses on the specific ways people make these changes effective and express them in their rituals. It is suggested that an invariant modus operandi is in play in which, for a relation to be transformed, its previous state must first be ritually enacted. Towards the end of the ritual, the new state of the relationship is itself publicly enacted through a manifestation of the form the relation takes after the ritual. The paper suggests that a relationship cannot be transformed in the absence of the persons concerned. The relational components need to be either directly present, such as in initiations, or mediated through objects, such as in death rituals.

 

 

Jessica De Largy Healy

CREDO (Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie) (UMR 7308), Marseille, France;
College ofArts, Society & Education, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia;
Département de la recherche et del’enseignement, Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France


‘This Painting Becomes his Body for Life’: Transforming Relations in Yolŋu Initiation and Funeral Rituals

pages 18-33

Among the most striking images produced in north-east Arnhem Land today, are the paintings given to young boys during their first initiation ceremony (dhapi). Skilfully applied on their chest over several hours, while singing and dancing proceeds on the ceremonial grounds nearby, these body paintings act as relational matrixes which locate the initiands within a socio-cosmic web of connections. At the other end of the male ritual life-cycle, the bodies of the deceased undergo a similar process of transfiguration, as they are made to resemble the groups’ most sacred objects, seen to instantiate the powers of specific ancestral beings. In the context of these rituals, the links between clans, places and ancestral beings are expressed by being made visible on and around the body. Pragmatically composed and displayed for all to see, I suggest that Yolŋu ritual images appear as ‘matter(s) of relations’ par excellence, materialising various sets of social relationships. This paper examines the material logics behind this transfiguration process which, by turning people into ancestors, transform the relations between individuals and groups, between humans and non-human beings, and between the living and the spirits of the dead.

 

 

Marika Moisseeff

CNRS, Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, PSL Research University, F-75005 Paris, France

 

Setting Free the Son, Setting Free the Widow. Relational Transformation in Arrernte Life-Cycle Rituals (Australia)

pages 34-48

In Australian Aboriginal society, personal identity is an evolving process whose successive mutations derive from a person’s capacity to enter into new relationships. Both initiation rites and funerary practices act to mediate such relational transformations. Drawing on Spencer and Gillen’s material on the Arrernte, this paper establishes a parallel between the procedures put into effect to render a son autonomous from his mother in the course of male initiation, and those undertaken to emancipate a widow from her deceased husband. Both ritual operations introduce a relational distancing within a totality. This totality is composed of two individuals whose antecedent close physical intimacy could thwart these persons’ ability to become an autonomous agent. The rituals make the person capable of entering a new intimate relationship: marriage in the case of a son, and remarriage in the case of a widow.
Both procedures entail the intervention of ritual objects closely connected to an individual’s personal identity: on the one hand, the churinga a man is joined with at the end of his initiation and which allows him to exercise responsibilities in fertility rites, and on the other hand, the decaying, contaminating corpse a husband leaves behind upon his death. 

 

Eric Venbrux

Centre for Thanatology, Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands

How the Tiwi Construct the Deceased’s Postself in Mortuary Ritual

pages 49-62

In this paper I will discuss Tiwi mortuary rites as a transformative, relational process in which the deceased’s postself is created. The deceased’s self is fashioned and manifested after death through a series of ritual practices performed by specific relatives. This approach allows me not only to stress the concern Tiwi people show about being remembered after death but also how this concern defines each participant’s ceremonial role and constitutes one of the mortuary ritual’s major aims. The deceased will be remembered as portrayed in the final rites.

 

 

Arve Sørum

Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Bedamini Male Initiation and Marriage as Transformation Sequences

pages 63-76

This essay focuses on how certain social relations among the Bedamini in Papua New Guinea are given their form through ritual at selected moments of the life cycle when relational transformations occur. Ritualised moments in Bedamini male initiation and symbolic bride capture are described as a dynamic agency that changes the existential conditions of persons in non-ritual reality. At those important ritual moments, the direct presence of the agents is required, while relations between them are mediated by acts, objects and moods. The effect intended is the formation, or reformation, of a relational field. Male initiation and marriage are consecutive parts of a sequence of transformations beyond its constituent moments, as initiation functions as a prerequisite to marriage.

 

 

Johanna Whiteley

Independent Scholar

“Feeding the Caregiver”: Internal and External Relations in a Matrilineal Life-cycle Ritual, West Gao

pages 77-93

Due to the rule of matriclan exogamy, a West Gao father belongs to a different matriclan to that of his wife and children. During a feast known as fangamu taego, children present their father with gifts to acknowledge his care. Acting as a pivot within the sequence of life-cycle rituals in West Gao, fangamu taego provides a ritual space in which two opposed modes of relationality are brought together. During the exchanges that constitute the feast, relationships flowing internally to each matriclan are weighed against external relationships forged between matriclans. The relational interplay elaborated during fangamu taego is predicated upon ancestrally mediated relationships of emplacement with regard to a specific territory. This comes into focus during a further set of transactions instigated by the feast involving use rights in land and its organic products. The ‘matter’ of these exchanges participate in two distinct relational modes simultaneously: they both activate pre-existing internal relationships and figure as ‘terms’ in the temporary construction of external relationships. Ultimately, fangamu taego captures an interplay between the relative permanence and impermanence of different relational configurations in the West Gao lived world.