Book Description

From the Back Cover In the course of her fieldwork with the Kaulong, who live on the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea, Jane Goodale recognized that everything of importance to them - every event, relationship, and transaction - was rooted in their constant quest for recognition as human beings. She addresses here questions central to Kaulong society: What is it that makes an individual human? How is humanity, or personhood, achieved and maintained? In their consuming concern with their status as human beings, the Kaulong mark progress on a continuum from nonhuman (animal-like) to the most respected level of humanity - the political 'big men' and 'big women'. Knowledge is the key to movement along the continuum, and acquiring, displaying, and defending knowledge are at the heart of social interaction. At all-night 'singsings', individuals compete through song in their knowledge of people, places, and many other aspects of their forested world. The sacrifice of pigs and distribution of pork to guests completes the ceremonial display and defense of knowledge and personhood. Goodale's analysis of songs and their ritual context adds unusual depth to the ethnography. Read more

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