Analyses the significance of names in the context of Avatip ritual, and shows how the Avatip system of names parallels the gift-exchange systems of many other Melanesian societies.
Among the people of Avatip, a community in the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, the most prestigious and valued forms of wealth are personal names. In this intriguing study, Simon Harrison analyses the significance of names in the context of Avatip ritual, cosmology and concepts of the person, and shows how the Avatip system of names parallels the gift-exchange systems of many other Melanesian societies. In ritualized debates, which form the public arena of Avatip political life, rival leaders and the groups they represent struggle in oratorical contests for the possession of strategic names, and, as they do so, continually manipulate possibilities of this symbolically constituted economy, these competitive processes over the past century have been progressively egalitarian type to one based on hereditary inequality and rank. The author offers a critique of the analytical arguing that it obscures the processes of political evolution in Melanesia and disguises the fundamental similarities underlying the sociocultural diversity of the region.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
List of tables
1. The Manambu
3. Magic and the totemic cosmology
4. Ceremonial rank
5. Male initiation
6. Treading elder brothers underfoot
7. The debating system
8. The rise of the subclan Maliyaw
9. Symbolic economies in Melansia