Trobrianders: Men working for women

Authors Avatar

Authority & the Exercise of Power

  •  Yams play a prominent role in the display of conspicuous consumption, used to impress others in hope of acquiring status and prestige in the Trobriand society.
  • Yam competitions are held to “announce fame and renown” (111) where one must provide guests with large quantities of yams.  
  • Competitors can make “good friends” (112) with members of a different clan.  
  • The distribution of yams allows chieftains to contract marriages create affinal relationships with other matrilineages outside of their own clan. The polygynous practices of the chieftains of the Trobriand society, gives him authority within his clan.  
  • The female that has produced the most yams may claim her matrilineage is “strong” allowing her to receive a greater number of marriage candidates.

Adaptation & Economic Organization

  • Trobrianders are a subsistence society specializing in slash and burn horticulture.  
  • Yams serve as a “bank account” = contribution to the economic system
  •  Those that produce the largest quantities are often rewarded with valuables such as the stone axe-blade or money, known as balanced reciprocity.
  • Role of women in the economy is evident in the process of yam harvests and mortuary distributions (If you are associated with the deceased you are given banana-leaf bundles).
  • Men supported women by trading resources for bundles whenever women needed them. This enforces reciprocity by creating a debt that may only be repaid in a women's wealth.
  • Yams may be used to purchase several objects (i.e.  Arm shells, shell necklaces, earrings, pigs, chickens and locally produced goods).
  • A chief's polygynous relationship = more wives →increase in number of banana leaf bundles →increase in individual wealth (power & wealth).
Join now!

Kinship as an Organizing Principle- family and conflict

  • A chief = aided by members of his matrilineage and keyawa kin during a yam harvest.
  • Women= aided by their keyawa kin married daughters of men who are members of the dead person’s matrilineage during a death & mortuary distribution.  
  • Some men burn down village houses in retaliation for their loss to regain their 'honour.'

 Individual & Society- Status, Gender Relations and Groups

  • The chief/hamlet leader success will reflect the status of his matrilineage.
  • Dances = sexuality, youth and fertility [ie “slapping their hips as ...

This is a preview of the whole essay