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Your own pigs you may not eat : a comparative study of New Guinea societies

CollectionsANU Press (1965- Present)
Title: Your own pigs you may not eat : a comparative study of New Guinea societies
Author(s): Rubel, Paula G
Date published: 1978
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Australian National University Press
Pigs, yams, valuables, and women are items of exchange throughout New Guinea. Their widespread ceremonial exchange, one of the most striking characteristics of New Guinea life, does not arise out of economic necessity. Rather, ceremonial exchange is a total social phenomenon in that the ritual distribution of large quantities of food and valuables reflects the interplay between kinship and marriage structures, the nature of political leadership, and the religious and symbolic systems found in these cultures. Your Own Pigs You May Not Eat is an admonition to exchange as well as a title. The book is a comparative study of thirteen New Guinea societies, focusing on these distinctive ceremonial distributions as a way of understanding the relationship between exchange and various social and cultural domains. Paula Rubel and Abraham Rosman write as structural anthropologists, drawing in part on the work of Levi-Strauss and Edmund Leach. The first section of the book analyzes the thirteen societies in terms of variables relating to large-scale ceremonial exchange, and each chapter concludes with a structural model based on the results. The authors then compare related groups of variables, such as kinship, marriage rules and structures of affinal relationships, symbolic meanings, and different kinds of exchange. The book concludes by showing how the underlying structures of the thirteen groups may be related to each other by a series of transformations. These transformations are then related to a postulated prototypical society, and the whole series forms a hypothesis about the evolution of societies in New Guinea. Many studies have been done on New Guinea cultures but this wide-ranging work, with its comparison of a number of societies rather than an examination of parts of one or two cultures, provides a unique theoretical synthesis.


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