good anthropoly blog
For Melanesianists 1988 was also a very good year, since we had the two gender books: Gender of the Gift by Marilyn Strathern and What Gifts Engender by Rena Lederman. Both of these books were trying to come to terms with the problems with studying social organization that had plagued Melanesianists for two decades. Briefly, African lineage models didn’t work in the New Guinea Highlands. But then again, by 1988 it was clear they also didn’t fit in Africa (see Kupers 1982 article on Lineage Theory in Annual Reviews of Anthropology). Their focus, along with Roy Wagner (in his less, shall we say, Cosmic Modality) on how how groups are constituted in the act of exchange proved to have all sorts of dividends. Although Partial Connections is maddening to read, it did play a part in the renaissance of kinship studies as “relatedness” that I associate with Janet Carsten (the best place to start is probably Cultures of Relatedness rather than After Kinship). Merlan and Rumsey’s Ku Waru has been particularly important to me as a synthesis of work on social organization in Papua New Guinea that combines Sahlins’s work on structure with this Melanesianist. It also combines one more thing—an interest in language.