Argonauts of the Western Pacific
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The founding document of economic anthropology! Bronislaw Malinowski, one of the all-time great anthropologists of the world, had a talent for bringing together in single comprehension the warm reality of human living with the cool abstractions of science. His pages have become an almost indispensable link between the knowing of exotic and remote people with theoretical knowledge about humankind. This volume--originally published in 1922--can be considered the founding document of economic anthropology, and remains the best one to read. It emphasizes the great significance of primitive economics by singling out the notable exchange system of the Trobriand Islands for special consideration. Although the main theme is economic, constant reference is made in this milestone of anthropological research and interpretation to social organization, life and meaning, the power of magic, and to mythology and folklore.
Title of related interest also available from Waveland Press: Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion and Other Essays (ISBN 9780881336573.
native will call the end of the canoe in front of him its head (dabwana), and that behind, its basis (u’ula). After this is over, the toliwaga enters the canoe, the sail is hoisted, and the canoe rushes ahead. Now two or three pandanus streamers which had previously been medicated in the village by the toliwaga are tied to the rigging, and to the mast. The following is the spell which had been said over them: BISILA SPELL “Bora’i, Bora’i (a mythical name). Bora’i flies, it will fly; Bora’i
only. They do not see the places, they do not see the men, only mist.” Thus here, as in all cases of belief, there is a certain latitude, within which the opinions and views may vary, and only the broad outline, which surrounds them, is definitely fixed by tradition, embodied in ritual, and expressed by the phraseology of magical formulæ or by the statements of a myth. I have thus defined the manner in which the natives face the dangers of the sea; we have found, that the fundamental
of some work, a man quickly performs an action whilst others talk and laugh and leave him entirely on one side, this gives a definite sociological stamp to the magical actions, and does not allow us to use the term “ceremonial,” as the distinguishing mark of the magical acts. Some of them, it is true, do have this character. For instance, the initial rite with which the kaloma fishing begins, requires the assistance of the whole fleet, and a definite type of behaviour on the part of the crews,
shell. He then would work out the shell for himself. This arrangement is a pendant to the one described with reference to Sinaketa, where a man would fish as well as work out a necklace for one of his wife’s kinsmen. An even more interesting custom obtains in Kayleula. A pair of shells would be fished and broken in one of the villages of that island, or in one of its small sister islands, Kuyawa and Manuwata. In this unfinished state, as a band of coarse shell, called as such makavayna, it is
potential ornaments, or even as instruments of power. To possess vaygu’a is exhilarating, comforting, soothing in itself. They will look at vaygu’a and handle it for hours; even a touch of it imparts under circumstances its virtue. This is most clearly expressed by a custom observed at death. A dying man is surrounded and overlaid with valuables which all his relatives and relatives-in-law bring in loan for the occasion, to take it back when all is over while the man’s own vaygu’a are left on