'Holders of the way' : exchange partnerships in an Enga tee community




Feil, Daryl Keith

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This thesis concerns tee exchange partnerships among the Tombema-Enga of the Western New Guinea Highlands. It especially emphasizes the unique, instrumental role that these relationships play in comparison to other relationships based on descent, residence or kinship. After a brief description of the Tombema people, their ecology and formal social structure in chapter two, chapter three delineates the important parameters of the tee institution. The phases of te'e-making, the type of valuables exchanged, the relationship of the tee institution to other contexts of giving and some macro aspects of the tee are described, as a prelude for the analysis of tee partnerships. A man begins his active involvement in the tee when he marries and chapter four discusses the important exchange partnerships made possible by bridewealth contribütions and payments. A woman is also a significant transactor at her marriage, directing bridewealth to reciprocate debts of her own. Chapter five examines Tombema- Enga kinship and the types of relationships which may develop into intraclan exchange partnerships. Chapter six looks at the place of women in the tee. both as producers of the most important wealth items, pigs, and their role in distribution. The implications of a basic distinction between 'house-raised pigs' and pigs from 'exchange roads' is explored. Chapters seven and eight analyze tee partnerships in depth. In the former, the patterns of Tombema friendships are examined: what tee partners do, who they are, and the kinds of ties that bind them together. The concepts of symmetrical and complementary relationships, following Bateson (1936(1958)), arenused to illustrate patterns of interaction between tee partners and those who do not exchange. Chapter eight describes the nexuses of competition in the tee and the competitive units involved in tee-making. An individual tee is analyzed and a- brief account of recent tee history in the Kompiama area is provided. Chapter nine briefly analyzes the reasons for the dissolution of tee partnerships. While they ar6 essentially stable and secure relationships, disputes occur which dissolve partnerships. The death or divorce of a woman who links men as tee partners may also lead to the collapse of an exchange relationship. The conclusion offers an answer to the question of the meaing of the tee and the significance of it and tee partnerships for Tombema society and the individual members of it.






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