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The heart of the pearl-shell : the mythological dimension of Foi sociality




Weiner, James Fredric

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The goal of this thesis is a symbolic analysis of Foi sociality and mythology. The major organizing principles of such sociality are the two analogous concepts of intersexual and affinal mediation. An analysis of a representative sample of Foi myths reveals them as creative depictions of the paradoxes surrounding these two principles. The analytical framework employed centres around the concept of symbolic obviation which locates the creation of cultural meaning in the dialectical relationship between collective (or conventional) and individual (or particularizing) symbolization, or between semantic and metaphorical signification. The basis of symbolic obviation is the substitution of contrasting semantic elements within given symbolic environments or contexts. Various Foi practices such as magic, mourning songs, and name- transmission are analyzed as more basic examples of symbolic substitution or investment. Their relationship to similar processes of symbolic contrast in social process and mythology is then explored. The analyst's distinction between conventional and individuating symbolic usages translates as what the Foi perceive as an innate and ceaseless flow of vital energies and relationships and an opposed realm of human action which has as its purpose to channel and re-direct such forces for moral purposes. Thus, the concepts of intersexual and affinal mediation have as their normative expression a set of rules pertaining to the separation and contrast of social and sexual categories. The mythology of the Foi in general terms concerns the imaginary implications of the conflation of such categories.






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