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Melanesian Odysseys: Negotiating the Self, Narrative, and Modernity

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Melanesian Odysseys

Negotiating the Self, Narrative, and Modernity

Lisette Josephides

272 pages, 5 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-525-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (July 2008)

ISBN  978-1-84545-706-8 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (January 2010)

eISBN 978-0-85745-055-5 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


…a bold attempt to reshape ethnographic approaches to Melanesia.  ·  JRAI

"The effect is refreshing. The book is written with an immediacy of feeling for place and time and persons... It is a real pleasure to read, its theoretical impetus shot through with insights and aphorisms that can only have come from long reflected-upon ethnographic wisdom. This engaging book will be much debated, and deserves to be."  ·  Marilyn Strathern in The Australian Journal of Anthropology

"...convincing and empathetic, rich in detail, and clearly based on a lifetime of fieldwork and friendship."  ·  Pacific Affairs


In a series of epic self-narratives ranging from traditional cultural embodiments to picaresque adventures, Christian epiphanies and a host of interactive strategies and techniques for living, Kewa Highlanders (PNG) attempt to shape and control their selves and their relentlessly changing world. This lively account transcends ethnographic particularity and offers a wide-reaching perspective on the nature of being human. Inverting the analytic logic of her previous work, which sought to uncover what social structures concealed, Josephides focuses instead on the cultural understandings that people make explicit in their actions and speech. Using approaches from philosophy and anthropology, she examines elicitation (how people create their selves and their worlds in the act of making explicit) and mimesis (how anthropologists produce ethnographies), to arrive at an unexpected conclusion: that knowledge of self and other alike derives from self-externalization rather than self-introspection.

Lisette Josephides is Professor of Anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast, following many years of fieldwork in Papua New Guinea and teaching positions at the University of Papua New Guinea, the London School of Economics and the University of Minnesota.

Subject: General Anthropology
Area: Asia-Pacific


List of Illustrations
Dramatis Personae

Overtures, Ethnographic and Theoretical

Chapter 1. The Aesthetics of Fieldwork among the Kewa

  • The Style and Tone of Kewa Life
  • Bickering, Bantering and Coming to Blows
  • Place, Movement and Residential Mobility
  • Daily Life Scrambling into the Field: Mining the Field and Eliciting Minefields

Chapter 2. Self Strategies: Ascription, Interlocution, Elicitation

  • The Person/Self/Individual
  • An Archaeology of the Self Ascription: Distinguishing, Co-creating and Merging Self and Other
  • A Modern History of the Self: Interlocution and Its Denial
  • The Everyday Self: Language and Communication at Issue
  • What Speech Does: Communication as Capability Strategies
  • Elicitation, Explicitness, Rehearsed and Rehearsing Talk and Action
  • Conclusion


Chapter 3. Narrating the Self I: Moral Constructions of the Self as Paradigmatic Accounts

  • Theories of Narrative
  • Narrative and Paradigmatic Thought
  • Ethics, Morality and the Self in Paradigmatic Accounts
  • The Storytellers (Wapa, Ragunanu, Pupula, Yakiranu, Payanu) Kewa
  • Pre-contact Practices and Persons: A Narrative of Many Growing up
  • Of Courtship and Marriage
  • Of Magic and Gardens Spirit Houses
  • Pig Kills Warfare and Pacification
  • Conclusions: Moral Constructions of the Self as Paradigmatic Accounts

Chapter 4. Narrating the Self II: Metanarratives of Culture, Self, and Change

  • The Storytellers (Rumbame, Alirapu, Mayanu, Mapi)
  • Rumbame’s Story
  • Alirapu’s Story
  • Mayanu’s Story (Excerpt)
  • Mapi’s Story
  • Mapi: Visionary and Dreamer
  • Four Features Revisited and Expanded
  • Creating Moral Personhood
  • Constructing Coherent Selves
  • Constructing Critical Metanarratives
  • Facing Modernity and Christianity
  • Conclusion

Chapter 5. Narrating the Self III: The Heroic, the Epic and the Picaresque in a Changed World

  • The Storytellers (Hapkas, Papola, Rimbu, Lari)
  • The Stories: Third Set Hapkas’s (Nasupeli’s) Story
  • Papola’s Story
  • Rimbu’s Story
  • Lari’s Story
  • Seizing the New World: Narrative, Consciousness and Communication
  • The Heroic, the Epic, the Picaresque and the Symbolic
  • Narrative as Form of Consciousness and Organization of Experience
  • Experience and Consciousness
  • Morality Narratives as Communication

PART II: PORTRAITS (Several Weddings, Some Divorces and Three Funerals)

Chapter 6. Portraits and Minimal Narratives: Elicitations of Social Reality

  • Portraits, Stories and Minimal Narratives
  • Elicitation and Explicitness
  • Language, Talk and Action
  • Norms and Claims: Rehearsed and Rehearsing
  • Talk and Action
  • Conclusion

Chapter 7. Love and All That: Negotiating Marriage and Marital Life

  • Courtship Problems with Bride Price
  • Irregular Unions
  • Polygyny and Conflict
  • Ainu and Yako
  • Giame and Yadi
  • Lari and Rimbu
  • Liame, Rosa and Kiru
  • Rarapalu, Karupiri, Foti and Waliya
  • Negotiating Marriage and Marital Life
  • Love and All That

Chapter 8. The Politics of Death

  • Who’s the Big Man of Us All?
  • Rake’s Death
  • Duties to Persons, Rights in Persons: Wapa’s Death
  • Out with the Old, in with the New: Payanu’s Death
  • Death and Recurring Conflict: Conclusion

Chapter 9. Mimesis, Ethnography and Knowledge

  • Stories, Ethnography, Theory
  • Mimesis as a Way of Knowing
  • Ethnography as Difference, Locality and Chronicle
  • Cultural Region and the Tyranny of Theoretical Regionalism
  • Ethnography as Chronicle of Cultural History/History of Consciousness


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