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Stealing People's Names : History and Politics in a Sepik River Cosmology - Simon J. Harrison

Stealing People's Names

History and Politics in a Sepik River Cosmology

Hardcover Published: 15th October 2014
ISBN: 9780521385046
Number Of Pages: 238

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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 analyzes 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 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 myth, ritual and cosmology. By exploiting the inner possibilities of this symbolically constituted economy, these competitive processes over the past century have been progressively transforming the political system from a relatively egalitarian type to one based on hereditary inequality and rank. The author offers a critique of the analytical separation of economy and the symbolic order, arguing that it obscures the processes of political evolution in Melanesia and disguises the fundamental similarities underlying the sociocultural diversity of the region.

"A short review cannot do justice to the complex and subtle analysis Harrison provides. This is a very rich ethnography that makes substantial contributions to important theoretical discussions in anthropology. Read it to appreciate it." Nancy McDowell, American Anthropologist

Acknowledgements
Introduction
The Manambu
Avatip
Magic and the totemic cosmology
Ceremonial rank
Male initiation
Treading elder brothers underfoot
The debating system
The rise of the subclan Maliyaw
Symbolic economies in Melansia
Bibliography
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780521385046
ISBN-10: 0521385040
Series: Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 238
Published: 15th October 2014
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.8 x 15.2  x 1.7
Weight (kg): 0.52