Trobriand Islands

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Trobriand Islands

(trō`brēănd', trō'brēănd`), small volcanic island group off SE New Guinea, part of Papua New Guinea. Kiriwana is the largest of the group's 22 islands. Yams, pearl shell, and trepang are the major products. The islands were made famous in the writings of anthropologist Bronislaw MalinowskiMalinowski, Bronislaw
, 1884–1942, English anthropologist, b. Poland, Ph.D. Univ. of Kraków, 1908. Working in the field of cultural anthropology, he gained renown through his studies (1914–18) of the indigenous peoples of the Trobriand Islands off New Guinea.
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What we consider a casual relationship in a sequence of connected events, is to the Trobriander an ingredient of a patterned whole.
To a Trobriander, such as Linus and his informants, they immediately impart a great deal more than to a seasoned anthropologist such as Young himself: 'I was struck by a number of things that Linus and his own local informants saw in these photographs that were initially invisible to me' (p.24).
He pointed out, for instance, that the Trobrianders he studied were masterful gardeners with "extensive knowledge of the classes of soil, of the various cultivated plants, of the mutual adaptation of these two factors." (173) They were "guided by a clear knowledge of weather and seasons, plants and pests, soil and tubers, and by a conviction that this knowledge is sure and reliable." (174) Yet, despite this technical proficiency, "mixed with all their activities there is to be found magic, a series of rites performed every year over the gardens in rigorous sequence and order." (175) What were those rituals for?
"We" are only the Ik, the Tasaday, the Trobrianders. An X is only a Y.
Like Darwinian theories of evolution, like Sigmund Freud's and Alfred Kinsey's theories of human sexuality, like Margaret Meade's theories of free-love among the Trobrianders, like Paul Erlich's Zero Population Growth, the theory of global warming has yet to be proven.
Much like the anthropologists of the early twentieth century who took it as their job to salvage vanishing cultures such as the Trobrianders, these musical "anthropologists" enact the "salvage paradigm," which James Clifford regards as "a desire to rescue 'authenticity' out of destructive historical change."(47) As musicians salvage Tibetan Buddhism, they mine and appropriate it as well: "Proponents of Tibetan Buddhism emphasize that it is unnecessary to convert to Buddhism, or join any formal, organized religious structure, to benefit from the teachings.
The woman, on the other hand, condenses unconditional giving and erotic life, since she treats her sensations and emotions as temporary and intermittent possession, like the Trobrianders' belongings.
Their role, according to Trobrianders, is two-fold: on one hand, they help induce the appropriate state of grief in those attending the wake.
Trobrianders do not outwardly speculate about the thoughts and desires of others, believing that 'each person's mind is inviolate' (Weiner 1988:70), 'protected and bounded from the intentions of others' (Weiner 1983:692, 695).
Mosko's careful ethnography leads methodically toward an inescapable conclusion: that the traditional transactability of partible people remains an influential element in the logic of Trobrianders' subsequent cultural transformation.