Volume 76 1967 > Volume 76, No. 3 > Reviews, p 379 - 392
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REVIEWS

LAWRENCE, P. and M. J. MEGGITT (eds.): Gods, Ghosts, and Men in Melanesia: Some Religions of Australian New Guinea and the New Hebrides. Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1965. 298 pp., index. Price (Aust.) $7.50.

Gods, Ghosts, and Men in Melanesia is similar in overall organisation and intent to such works as African Systems of Kinship and Marriage and African Worlds. In such works a series of authors present material on a common topic from societies within a broadly defined culture area where they have carried out field work, and the editors prepare an introduction aimed at making generalisations concerning the topic of interest. Some of these works are read primarily for their introductory sections while the value of others lies in the individual studies making up the bulk of the volume. In the case at hand the common topic is religion and the area Melanesia. While both the introductory section and the individual studies are of interest, the individual studies will probably be of more lasting value.

The introductory section begins by announcing two aims. One is to provide information where little or none existed in published form before, and the second is the delineation of “. . . some of the principal features of traditional religion in Melanesia.” The first aim is accomplished nicely with the presentation of nine essays by well-trained observers all reporting from observations made by themselves. Accomplishment of the second aim runs afoul of a number of difficulties, however. First, the editors find it difficult to transform “principal features” into iregularities in the face of what appears to be an awesome amount of cultural variability in Melanesia. Indeed, they speak of “inexplicable diversity” and caution that “. . . beyond the next mountain or the next river—even the next village—we must be prepared to record, analyse, or come to terms with the completely unexpected”. Some of the difficulty they express can be seen as a function of the relatively small amount of information available on Melanesian religions creating a tendency to focus on differences and variation. But some of the problem is of the editors' own making in that they take a regional orientation where there is no particular reason to suppose it will be productive. It may be that one village varies from the next because it is 1,000 feet above the other in elevation or is at a significantly different point on a population gradient, and it may be that these are the crucial variables for understanding the differences between them rather than the fact that the villages are in different parts of Melanesia. On the first page of the Introduction the - 380 editors forsake the attempt to find “species” of Melanesian religion on the grounds that the variations examined show random geographical distribution. This seems a peculiar statement for a number of reasons: (1) they later suggest a subdivision into Highlands and Seaboard sub-types; (2) aside from the highlands/seaboard variable no other geographical or ecological variables are examined, despite the fact that the work of one of the editors published in this volume and elsewhere indicates that such variables are of importance; (3) there does not appear to be any attempt to make a systematic sample within Melanesia for determining the extent and kinds of geographical variation, and therefore one must wonder about the validity of the statement that it is random; (4) the essays in the volume are not representative of Melanesia since seven of the nine are on groups located in Australian New Guinea, of which five are from the Highlands, and the editors make only casual use of materials from other parts of Melanesia in the Introduction.

A second difficulty apparent in this attempt to find regularities in the religions of Melanesia stems from the fortuitous nature of the classificatory instruments used on the data at hand. For example, the editors conclude that it is difficult to find any regularities of association between geographical distribution and beliefs concerning the numbers and significance of autonomous regulative spirit-beings, autonomous non-regulative spirit-beings, the dead, and totems. No reason is given in the text for expecting any regularities and so it is not surprising none are found. What is surprising is that this is accounted for by randomness in the data rather than randomness in the question being asked.

One final difficulty will be mentioned, and that is the lack of a common framework of reporting and analysis among the authors presenting essays on which the Introduction is based. The authors are writing within what appears to be a general outline common to all, since the major headings they use tend to be similar, but commonality of orientation diminishes rapidly beyond that. It is understandable that this should be the case since the field work for these essays was done prior to the planning of the book and the various authors did not carry a common research objective with them into the field. It does, however, set limits on the kind of generalisations it is possible to make. The editors are aware of this difficulty and remark that further field work should be carried out in order to check the possibility that some of the differences between their Highland and Seaboard subtypes might be due to variation among enthno-graphers rather than cultures. There follows a brief sketch of each essay in the book with reference to the framework within which the data on a religion is presented. These sketches indicate the extent and kind of variation in basic orientation, but are included primarily as an overview of the bulk of the book.

The stated concern of R. M. Glasse, reporting on the Huli, is to explicate “. . . four concepts which underlie the ‘religious’ behaviour of the Huli. . . .” These concepts correspond roughly to “soul”, “deities”, “ritual”, and a special deity which the Huli do not class with the others. The explications he presents attempt to avoid the imposition of observer-oriented structures on the concepts and thus to present an “inside” or “native” view of them.

R. F. Salisbury's essay on the Siane, on the other hand, begins by announcing his intention to proceed in a formal way “. . . not because the Siane themselves systematically formulate dogma, but to show how anthropologists can infer a coherent theology from scattered explanations of particular items of behaviour which informants give”. Unfortunately the method of making these inferences is “. . . left to more extensive treatment elsewhere”. The constructed theology begins with “Cosmos”, a category of supernatural entities not directly concerned - 381 with human affairs, and proceeds to “Spirit”, a category of entities intimately concerned with human affairs. Rituals, divided into two main classes, are manipulations of spirit in its various manifestations, and symbols of spirit. The first class consists of those rituals which manipulate the human body or spirit directly while the second class consists of those which manipulate symbols of spirit. The ritual actions themselves do not fall neatly into one category or another as when male initiation, which includes a number of manipulations of the initiate's body, is placed in the second class. After presenting an account of Siane beliefs as ordered in the above fashion, Salisbury proceeds to an interpretation of the material in essentially Durkheimian terms. In it he assumes that contrasting pairs of religious symbols “. . . clarify for the individual how he is to interpret inconsistent social behaviour” by directing his attention to the interdependence of different parts of his social person. Although the general sociological assumptions on which Salisbury makes this assertion are indicated, the psychological ones which also must be involved are not.

R. M. Berndt utilises a much broader cultural perspective than the other authors in that his essay pertains to four related but linguistically distinct groups: the Kamano, Usurufa, Jate, and Fore. The essay is correspondingly general with respect to the presentation of ethnographic details and analytic framework. Throughout the article religious beliefs and rituals are presented as representative of the values on which the social order rests. There is, however, no demonstration from non-religious materials that these values do exist. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to tell when a statement of ethnographic fact is a composite of bits from the four groups, and when it is true of one group but not others.

The order in M. J. Meggitt's account of the Mae Enga stems primarily from his concern with the way these beliefs and their associated rites support the patrilineal group, and the way the beliefs are reflections or formulations of the social order constituting such a group. These contentions derive their strength from the inclusion of interactional material and do not simply depend on asserting a general connection between religion and society through values.

Bulmer's account of the Kyaka derives most of its order from the comparisons he makes between Kyaka and Mae Enga religion. Since the two groups are geographically close and linguistically related the comparison is of interest and, I should think, crucial to the kind of comparative study the editors intended.

With C. A. Valentine's report on the Lakalai of New Britain we not only move out of the Highlands of New Guinea, but also move to people who have experienced a great deal more contact than those previously reported. Valentine chooses to restrict his account to traditional spirit-beings, however, because a full account of “. . . local Christianity and cargo movements [is] too elaborate and complex . . . for satisfactory treatment in the available space”. As with the essay by Glasse, there is no attempt to make a socio-functional or socio-structural interpretation, but rather to define carefully the various classes of spirit-beings so as to reveal something of the underlying conceptual structure.

Lawrence sets forth his description of beliefs concerning deities, totems, and spirits of the dead postulated by the Ngaing in two parts. The first contains “. . . beliefs which explain the origin of the traditional cosmos and the nature of life after death; and second, ritual which is assumed to establish contact between man and these extra-human beings”. There follows an interpretive - 382 section based on the socio-functional premise that religion reinforces the social order at its weak points. As he puts it, “Religious belief and action are elaborated only for those parts of culture which cause anxiety; affairs in which there is a considerable degree of risk, in which setbacks cause social disruption and of which, therefore, man must satisfy himself that he has complete understanding”.

Burridge does not order his account of Tangu around the kinds of entities and ritual observed, but around “. . . the nexus between the moral order which is characterised by reciprocal relations, responsibility, and the controllable, and a variety of non-reciprocal and largely uncontrollable elements which may be summed up as the ‘divine’ order”. The presentation is informed by a Red-fieldian sense of world view and is more concerned with delimiting what kind of moral order Tangu life is than compiling the traits of various supernatural entities as seen by an outside observer.

Lane begins his essay on South Pentecost with a section called “Basic Beliefs” in which the categories, such as animate-inanimate, soul, death, power, magic, etc., are filled with interesting characterisations, but in which there is no justification given for using this particular set of categories. Succeeding sections on Pigs, Sib and Land, the Graded Societies, etc., are of a similar character. It is clear from this essay, and others in the book, that few Melanesian religions appear to the observer as having much system, but this account more than the others conveys the impression of separateness of aspects of these religions. In an interpretive section headed “Commentary”, Lane develops a critique of the unqualified position that “. . . religion is an explanatory and operational system which provides a means of coping with the unknown.” Rather than being associated with crises, the unexpected, or the uncontrollable, Lane finds Pentecost religion associated with other control techniques which promote “. . . satisfactory relations within the inner circle of kin, to cope with dangers from outside, and to ensure successful existence for the group and, within the framework of the group, for the individual.”

Each essay, then, orders its materials in a somewhat different way. While it is true that the majority of them are in a socio-functional or socio-structural framework, it is also true that there is considerable latitude in how that framework is manipulated. It must also be remembered that not all are in this framework, for some have what the editors call an ‘intellectualistic’ orientation. The essays as a group are of considerable importance for the new material they present, and as demonstrating a variety of ways of interpreting material of this type. But the sub-title of the book, “Some Religions of Australian New Guinea and the New Hebrides”, more clearly indicates the total import of the book than does the main title with its implication of validated regional uniformities.

  • JACKSON, Graham: Cattle, Coffee and Land Among the Wain. New Guinea Research Unit Bulletin, No. 8. Canberra and Port Moresby, A.N.U. 1965. iii, 69 pp., figs., maps. Prive A$1.00.
  • HIPSLEY, E. H. (ed.): An Integrated Approach to Nutrition and Society. New Guinea Research Unit Bulletin, No. 9. Canberra and Port Moresby, A.N.U., 1966. ii, 120 pp., illus., tables. Price A$1.00.
  • Van RIJSWIJK, Olga: The Silanga Resettlement Project. New Guinea Research Unit Bulletin, No. 10. Canberra and Port Moresby, A.N.U., 1966. i, 48 pp., Appendices, bibl., maps. Price A$1.00.
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  • RIMOLDI, Max: Land Tenure and Land Use Among the Mount Lamington Orokaiva. New Guinea Research Bulletin, No. 11. Canberra and Port Moresby, A.N.U., 1966. ii, 122 pp., diags., maps, tables. Price A$1.00.
  • van der VEUR, Karol and Penelope RICHARDSON: Education Through the Eyes of an Indigenous Urban Elite. New Guinea Research Bulletin, No. 12. Canberra and Port Moresby, 1966. iii, 99 pp., illus., tables. Price A$1.00.
  • Orokaiva Papers: Miscellaneous Papers on the Orokaiva of North East Papua. New Guinea Research Bulletin, No. 13. Canberra and Port Moresby, A.N.U., 1966. x, 102 pp., illus., maps, tables. Price A$1.00.
  • HITCHCOCK, Nancy E. and N. D. ORAM: Rabia Camp: A Port Moresby Migrant Settlement. New Guinea Research Bulletin, No. 14. Canberra and Port Moresby, A.N.U., 1967. xi, 126 pp., figs., maps, plates. Price A$1.00.

The first Bulletin of the New Guinea Research Unit appeared in 1963. Since that time a total of fourteen have been published, the last seven of which are reviewed here. The volumes range from a collection of articles to monographs to a symposium, all on different topics and by different authors. Faced with such an array, the task of a review is a complex one. Nevertheless, there is an orientation to the series which makes all parts members of the same genre. This is applied anthropology, straightforward and unabashed. The studies are focused on specific problems of social and economic development in New Guinea. Larger comparative frameworks, theory building, or methodological concerns are subordinate to the gathering of “hard” data and its analysis for the purposes of understanding immediate problems. The lack of an explicit theoretical system occasionally leads some of the volumes to drift into a raw cataloguing of facts or to pass over what would seem to be significant questions which the field work has flushed. But in general, the series is an admirable example of how the problems of developing areas must be approached. Too often the adviser to such a region, bemused by his apparently successful research experiences in his industrialised homeland and persuaded that the important questions and answers must be where the important people are, moves to the problems on a grand scale, posing “national” questions which are investigated through “national” data and producing answers which take on the stature and prestige of “national planning.” One year or two years or five years later, nothing has happened as the plan says it should, and some other “western” adviser flies in to do it all over again. The basic deceit, of course, is that developing countries, almost regardless of their state of political independence, do not possess the sorts of national structures, politically, economically, or socially, which to some substantial degree associate the social parts of developed nations. The typical developing country is, instead, comprised of a great array of collectivities, each more separate from the others in its special ecological, cultural, and historical conditions than it is joined to them through any associations new or old. The cultural landscale of New Guinea exaggerates this proposition and perhaps makes it easier to see, but it is not essentially different in kind from most other developing regions in this regard. With few exceptions, the relevant unit for understanding the problems of development is the village, the tribe, the barrie, or the district. The social area is thus fragmented, and investigations and proposals which cannot descend to these levels of substance - 384 are likely to have as little relevance to the client country as to the first settlement on the moon. The effective strategy is not an attractive one. It presents no short cuts. Those who make the decisions must be prepared to place highly trained individuals in local situations which will typically involve a relatively few thousand people and allow them to work there for months or even years, with results which will often seem particular in the extreme. It is the great utility of the New Guinea Research Unit that it has made such a strategy its own. Each study is intended to understand a particular problem in a particular place without demanding that the solution, if there is one, must be widely applicable and nationally significant. The potential of a larger significance often emerges, but it does not determine the investigation.

Bulletin No. 8 by Jackson is drawn from his M.A. thesis and considers the development of cash agriculture and animal husbandry among the Wain people, who number about 5,000, in the Lae Highlands. The principal items are cattle and coffee, and Jackson is particularly concerned with their effects upon the traditional system of land tenure. In moving toward an answer that the influences are very slight except where the land is actually in use to coffee or cattle, the author brings together a useful summary of traditional Wain culture and reveals the innovative role of the local mission. He also shows his anthropological perspective by pointing out that the new economic activities among the Wain serve some traditional purposes, particularly those concerned with the status system, and their value must be judged accordingly. On the other hand, he clearly shows that given the present resources, population and cash economy, the Wain cannot expect a material advance in their standard of living.

Bulletin No. 9 is a symposium involving a number of well known scholars of a variety of disciplines. Too often such ventures are loose and disjointed, serving perhaps the participants but carrying only an idea here or a spot of information there which might be of value to others. This is an intriguing exception. It begins with what seems to be a narrow focus on “Protein Malnutrition and Peanut Foods in the Chimbu,” a paper by K. V. Vailey, but by the time an anthropologist, a geographer, an economist, and government officers from Native Affairs and the Department of Public Health have finished with it in a series of individual papers and group discussions, a surprisingly large and integrated picture of the environmental, cultural, economic and biological aspects of Chimbu life is brought together in its relevance to developmental problems. Appropriately, the integrative perspective comes principally from the papers of the anthropologist, Paula Brown, and her colleague, geographer H. C. Brookfield.

Olga van Rijswijk reports in Bulletin No. 10 on the Silanga Resettlement Project in Central Nakanai, New Britain. Planned and led by a Roman Catholic missionary, Father F.X. Wagner, the venture has some curious aspects. Wagner's principal motive seems to have been to locate the people in a less mountainous region nearer to the coast where they would be more accessible to mission work. Plans for economic development were secondary in his mind, but they were there. Whole villages were relocated and efforts were brought under way to produce cash crops, particularly coconuts and caçoa. Wagner also attempted changes in basic social organisation. He has, for example, worked against the extended family in favour of a nuclear unit. The project has encountered many difficulties, but none, at the time of Miss van Rijswijk's study, which have been strong enough to bring it down. Due to the investigator's short stay of only a little over a month and to the fact that much that was happening was not yet clear in its consequences, the study raises many questions it cannot answer. - 385 One would hope that a longer investigation can be conducted in the future, giving us more on what impelled the people to such drastic changes in their lives and on the eventual results of their efforts.

Rimoldi's study of Land Tenure and Land Use Among the Mount Lamington Orokaiva is at the same time the most extensive and the most intensive of the research monographs reviewed here. The study follows changes in Orokaiva life as these have come from general western contact and from the specific events of World War II and the catastrophic eruption of Mount Lamington in 1951. In the process he sharpens the picture of traditional Orokaiva social organisation through fresh analysis and new data. An occasional comparison with Chimbu adds a dimension, although not carried perhaps as far as it could be. The study is, in any case, an excellent one.

Bulletin No. 12, Education Through the Eyes of An Indigenous Urban Elite by van der Veur and Richardson, provides interesting and useful information on a subject which has been too much neglected. One suspects, however, that the recent political changes in Papua and New Guinea will greatly increase interest in the characteristics and ambitions of those who may produce a national elite. In this monograph the focus is on urban education as it occurs in Port Moresby, Lae, and Rabaul. It reveals a dominant concern amongst its subjects with formal education as a means of social and economic advancement. Particularly, the people interviewed saw a command of English as a crucial tool for a successful life in modern New Guinea. In this they have shown a clearer grasp of what is needed than have some of the expert advocates of pidgin.

Bulletin No. 13 consists of five articles on various aspects of the Orokaiva. The first, “Cognitive Capacity of the Orokaiva” by G. E. Kearney is the result of an effort to apply some of the so-called “intelligence tests” to several groups of indigenous peoples. Kearney properly rejects the concept of the “culture free” test but still seems unaware of the pervasiveness of cultural influences in situations of this kind. Nonetheless, an effort by a testing psychologist to grapple with cross-cultural problems is to be warmly applauded, and Kearney's tests do turn up some intriguing but by no means simple results. The other articles are diverse in their concern, from two on economic developments among the Yega by Dakeyene to one on “A Modern Orokaiva Feast” by Crocombe and “An Orokaiva Marriage” by G. R. Hogbin. All add solid data, and Hogbin's particularly should be valuable as a contribution for comparative studies.

The most recent Bulletin reviewed is Rabia Camp: A Port Moresby Migrant Settlement, which concerns itself with various aspects of a post-war settlement established by Tommy Kabu near Port Moresby to serve as a marketing centre for the organisation he established in the Purari Delta. The report falls into two parts, one, by Nigel Oram, on “Rabia Camp and the Tommy Kabu Movement”, and the other by Nancy Hitchcock on “Migration and Employment”. The strength of Oram's contribution lies mainly in its creating a fuller history of Rabia Camp than we have had until now and in emphasising the need for attention to the growth of urban problems in a region which can no longer be conceived of in purely rural and tribal terms. As one who has been intimately concerned with the study of the Tommy Kabu Movement, I cannot see that Oram's re-examination adds anything to previous perspectives. In minor ways it muddies matters through some misinterpretations. For example, he writes that I ascribed the failure of the Movement to, among other things, “a lack of business know-how”. I do not know what Oram means by this phrase. I have never used it, and in the case of the Movement I have said as clearly as I could, - 386 and Oram at the beginning of his discussion seemed to understand it, that the problem, among other things, was the inability of the people to handle the technological instruments of a relatively modern and extensive economic venture. This includes the failure in transport which Oram singles out as significant, and I did as well. As to the errors of the Administration in its dealing with the Movement, Oram and I are apparently in agreement, and I see no reason for him to imply otherwise. At another point, Oram states that I failed to recognise Julius's observation, made in 1947 when events were only roughly known, that in marketing sago in Port Moresby, the Movement was reviving the traditional export trade of the Purari. In this the reference was, of course, to the famous lakatoi voyages in which men from the Moresby area sailed to the Purari and traded pots for sago. The fact is, however, that the Movement was not a revival of the traditional trade; this was being done by the Moresby people after the brief wartime lapse. In 1955, Purari houses were full of Motu pots brought by cutter from Port Moresby by Motu and obtained from them for sago. The trade had no connection with the Movement except in that Tommy Kabu did what he could to discourage it, since it was precisely the kind of barter he was attempting to eradicate. To stress the fact that both old and new trading ventures involved sago and Port Moresby is to mislead. These are the inevitable place and commodity for any Purari commercial venture of size. The importance lies in the differences, as Tommy Kabu well knew. One last correction should be made. Oram seems to confuse two later economic developments from the Movement, the Paiiri Mailau and the I'ai Company. In New Men of Papua (Madison, 1961) I thought that I had been clear that the two were not identical. The I'ai Company developed out of the Paiiri Mailau, which explains the different dates for the two. A re-reading of that section in the work cited still leaves me with the impression that it is unambiguous.

Hitchcock's part of the report offers a great deal of data on population movement, labour, household economics and nutrition which are solid and useful. Combined with Oram's cogent argument for more coherent policies for meeting expanding urban problems, it makes a significant contribution to an urban anthropology which will be increasingly needed in New Guinea and elsewhere in the Pacific.

In sum, R. G. Crocombe and his editorial associates are to be congratulated. The New Guinea Research Unit's work is effectively continued in these Bulletins. They represent investigations which go to where the problems typically are in developing countries. It is to be hoped that the series is nowhere near its end.

ELMBERG, John-Erik: The Popot Feast Cycle. Ethnos, Supplement to Vol. 30, 1965. Stockholm, Statens Ethnografiska Museum. 172 pp., illus.

This is a detailed account of exchange ceremonies observed by Elmberg, mainly in 1953-54, among the Mejprat people of the Vogelkop area, West Irian. The major exchange item involved in these ceremonies was cloth, traded in - 387 from the coast. Popot is a term, meaning literally, “cloth-grabber”, for an apparently new kind of Mejprat leader, and it is on this new form of leadership that the author places the burden of his analysis.

Elmberg presents his material in a copious narrative form studding it with the names of participants, places and informants, and describing also the situations in which he gathered his material. The approach has the merit of being both factual and occasionally enlivening, but at times it seems too cumbersome. He does present keys to feast sites, and a genealogy at the back of the book, but a chart of the various major categories of exchange festival would have helped further to lead the reader through the mass of particular description.

These criticisms apart, there is a great deal of interest in the book for students of leadership and social change in New Guinea. Chawer, on whom Elmberg concentrates, had been deported to the Molucca Islands for killing a suspected witch, there learnt Malay, and after his return became an asset to the Dutch official in his area. He was accepted as a village chief “because he was popot and had power over people” (p. 88). He attempted to maintain a body of followers who were directly in debt to him by arranging marriages for them, and to extend his influence over others by promising to discharge death-exchange obligations for them. He called himself the “father” of his followers, modelling himself on neighbouring Sawiet and coastal practice, but Mejprat fathers and sons have an uneasy, hostile relationship, and Chawer's relationship with his followers also fell into this pattern. Elmberg contrasts him with Pum, a leader who paid for his exchanges not by extortion but by successful pig-breeding, and who completed a longer cycle of feasts than did Chawer. He describes Pum as a traditional, non-popot leader. As a counterpart to this argument he compares popot festivals with Mejprat initiation ceremonies, from which he elucidates a series of symbolic oppositions (e.g. male/female, cold/hot); and he suggests that Chawer emphasised “the cold, male, and lethal aspect” of the system (p. 141), in line with his assumption of a “patrilineal” ideal in his relationship with his followers. Further, he tried to play down the important part which women play in cloth exchanges, unsuccessfully, as Elmberg observes.

Although, then, the account is largely ethnographic, it also adumbrates more general themes. Certain puzzles remain at present. Can we be sure that the manipulative or “extractive” leader of Chawer's type did not exist at all in the past? The traditional ideal may have been of one kind, the actual facts of another. On the other hand, how sure are we that leaders of Chawer's kind were common in 1953-54? Elmberg merely indicates (p. 140) that the popot feast “as Chawer understood it” was limited to the western Prat area.

Elmberg's description of these feasts as “acculturated” depends partly on these points. Further, in his concept of “acculturation” he tends to merge two separate themes: first, the cultural infiltration of new goods (cloth?), ideas, forms of initiation-house, and so on, into the Mejprat area; and second, structural changes in leader-follower relationships, resulting partly from cultural changes and partly, perhaps, from Dutch governmental control. He promises us a more detailed historical examination of those changes later, and this is certainly needed if we are to solve the puzzles. In the meantime we have a rich ethnography and many asides which will appeal to fellow field-workers—as, for example (p. 60): “With this meagre result I eventually returned to the village of Kampuaja in the rain.”

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JACOBS, Melville (compiler) and John GREENWAY (ed.): The Anthropologist Looks at Myth. Austin and London, University of Texas Press for the American Folklore Society, 1966. xiii, 323 pp., tables, texts. Price (U.S.A.)$6.00, (I.K.)£2 5s.

This book is a symposium by eleven authors (William A. Lessa, Dell R. Skeels, Donn V. Hart, Harriet C. Hart, John L. Fischer, Weston La Barre, George R. Horner, Katherine Luomala, Ronald M. Berndt, Catherine H. Berndt, Robert F. Spencer), eminent scholars all, with a “Foreword” by Melville Jacobs and an “Introduction” by John Greenway. Previously published together in Volume 79 of The Journal of American Folklore, the essays are now reissued between cloth covers.

Has republication been worthwhile? Only marginally, I think. And in his brief “Foreword” Professor Jacobs seems to imply the same. Yet, as he also intimates, it is perhaps a good thing to present before a wider public the prevalent diversity of approaches to myth and folklore. An appropriately wistful glance at the past, when approaches were few and students could do battle on a common field, building on and correcting their forbears, adds poignancy to the present anarchism. John Greenway's quite sparkling little “Introduction” makes much the same point except that his backward glance is firm and unrepentant. Let books on mother-goddesses, the sun, moon and apotheosised vegetables gather dust. Let us “throw open the doors to the reality of nihilism [sic!] . . . This is a book not to settle questions, but to stir them; not to end discussion, but to start it.”

Alas! The point of an “Introduction”, surely, is to indicate just those common problems from which discussion might take a fruitful departure. And this John Greenway hardly does. Yet if not he—who? Another opportunity seems to have been allowed to slip into the limbo of lost hopes.

For example: one of the major themes which emerges from the variety of myths and stories actually cited is the oedipal. Given time and opportunity—and surely this republication was one—it is possible to extract from the several contributions variations of the parent-child (which includes husband-wife, father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter) in relation to different structures of cultural situations. Further, as must inevitably occur, in most of the stories given this major theme of the life-giving context—whether biological, social, or moral—is contrasted with varying aspects and types of death. A hardy annual—but why not if it happens to be so? Given that we have here a number of stories, and given that each of the myths or stories cited could or can be used to illustrate many other themes or problems, might it not have been more useful—in a symposium—to ask the authors to use their myths to adumbrate particular themes?

I put this point—and a review is just where such points should be made—simply because different approaches to the same themes or problems could yield something, whilst different approaches to different themes can yield very little. The problems discussed in this book are, broadly: myth and culture (Lessa, C. Berndt); myth and religion or world view or ethics (Skeels, La Barre, Spencer, Horner); myth and history (La Barre, the Harts); myth and psycho-linguistics (Fischer); myth and education (Horner); myth and joking - 389 relationships (Luomala); myth and ownership (R. M. Berndt); myth and acculturation (R. M. Berndt); myth, society and the individual (C. Berndt). One could further combine and permutate this very rough traverse of the spectrum of anthropological interests. Which only shows what everybody already knows, or should know: that myths may be bent to almost any purpose.

Let us hope, therefore, that future compilers of symposia on myths will take it for granted that myth has many aspects, and that they will specify to their contributors the kinds of problems which they would like to see examined by them. How about, say, a quote from Cassirer or Eliade or Lévi-Strauss or Kerenyi?

DODGE, Ernest S.: New England and the South Seas. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1965. xviii, 216 pp., illus. Price (U.S.A.)$5.95.

This book is the substance of eight lectures by the Director of the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, which describes, vividly and impressionistically, the moving frontier of New England trade and settlement in the Pacific Islands from the time of John Ledyard to Henry Adams. Stand, he might well have said, at the Horn or the Cape of Good Hope and watch the line of ships passing by—fur traders and sealers from Boston bound for the northwest coast and thence the China market; whalers from Nantucket and later New Bedford hunting for the cachalot and wooding and watering places in northern New Zealand, Hawaii, and Tahiti; men from Salem seeking other products desired by the Chinese—sandalwood, beche-de-mer, tortoise-shell, pearl shell and edible birds' nests. Many Polynesians too shipped on American vessels and a few even visited New England where they helped stimulate interest in missionary activity in Hawaii. The arrival there of the American Board of Foreign Missions' first ship, Thaddeus, was timed to follow closely upon the death of the great founder of the Hawaiian kingdom, Kamehameha I, and the repudiation of the old religion. Twenty years later Christianity was firmly established and Hawaiian Christians ready to cooperate with the American Board and American children to support a succession of mission ships named Morning Star to take the Gospel to Micronesia. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, traders and missionaries helped in the development of constitutional government and law-making as well as sugar-planting and the great mahele or land division. In spite of the weight of the yankee impact, Hawaii could still charm and haunt Mark Twain and fascinate and tranquillise Henry Adams. Indeed the 18th century literary illusion of a south sea island paradise inhabited by noble savages has lived on in the mind of New Englanders until the present day.

There is little that is essentially new in these lectures and the author does not seem to be very well-acquainted with Pacific island politics. But when he is describing incidents and personalities, carefully selected to typify the historical connections between Yankees and South Sea Islanders he is invariably lively, interesting, and informative. Moreover, for the first time these connections are - 390 well drawn together and the general pattern of New England activities in the Pacific emerges clearly. The book is finely produced and the text is lavishly illustrated, for the most part from the Peabody collection. Above all it indicates (though alas too sketchily) the richness of the historical and scientific material relating to the Pacific in the libraries and museums of New England.

MEAD, A. D.: Richard Taylor: Missionary Tramper. Wellington, A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1966. 272 pp., illus., maps. Price N.Z.$3.50.

Richard Taylor, an Anglican Missionary, was stationed at Wanganui in the North Island of New Zealand from 1843 until his death in 1873. His parish included the Maori communities along the whole length of the Wanganui River and on the coastal strips north to Hawera and south to Rangitikei.

During his years at Wanganui Taylor made many journeys by canoe and on foot through this extensive parish, visiting many Maori villages. If some of his colleagues were sceptical of his abilities as a Maori linguist, Taylor was a sympathetic and perceptive observer of the Maoris. A Cambridge graduate, and a Fellow of the London Geological Society, Taylor's educational attainments distinguished him from many of his contemporaries. His journals, covering his 30 years at Wanganui, are a primary source of great value to the historian and the anthropologist. Despite this, Taylor still awaits a biographer and his journals an editor.

Mr. Mead disclaims both of these roles. His object is to extract from the journals only the records of Taylor's missionary journeys through the North Island. His book is thus essentially a day to day narrative of these journeys.

Narratives of journeys often make dreary reading. Mr. Mead's limited use of direct quotation and his condensation of Taylor's narrative do not make for lively prose. After a time, in fact, one journey begins to read rather like another. None the less, what Mr. Mead has done was worth doing. Except perhaps for Bagnall and Petersen's William Colenso, there exists no comparable account of the journeys involved in one man's missionary work at this period in New Zealand.

If Mr. Mead's failure to discuss the priority of Taylor's journeys over the routes followed is surprising, his industry in ascertaining from early maps or other sources, including personal visits, the location of many now-vanished Maori village sites is admirable. Mr. Mead's comments (included in brackets in the text) clarify many otherwise obscure allusions and add much to the interest of the narrative. He acknowledges (as does Dr. R. M. S. Taylor in his introduction) the essential and often forgotten assistance of the Maoris who accompanied Taylor on his journeys. In many cases where parallel accounts of a journey exist, as where Donald McLean accompanied Taylor, or Hadfield followed a similar route, extracts from these accounts are given. Also included is Mrs. Taylor's account of her ascent of the Wanganui River in 1848.

Mr. Mead cites many of Taylor's comments on contemporary Maori life. There are references to a singular method of pig killing (p. 25), an 1843 census - 391 of the Wanganui River villages (p. 33-4), Moa Hunter artifacts (p. 40), the Maypole game (p. 50), legends of the first ship in Cook Strait and of a huge taniwha (p. 95), Maori slavery (p. 168), and changes in Maori life (pp. 185 and 198).

In the later journeys Taylor mentions the declining Maori population and the Maoris' growing difficulties with European land buyers. In 1853, on one chief trying to claim a pa site as his private property instead of the common property of the tribe, Taylor was told that the chief wanted to “wide awake” the land or seize it, as Colonel Wakefield of the New Zealand Company had done. In 1859 Taylor was surprised at the number of Maori married couples without children and depressed by some white settlers who, at a Maori village, “stabled their horses in the church, fouling it with dung”.

There are three maps which illustrate adequately the districts most frequently visited. The index omits many minor or infrequently mentioned names. Presumably cost precluded the reproduction of any of the sketches which embellish the original journals. There are one or two blemishes. Tapsall (p. 14) refers to Hans Tapsell. The Maoris' nickname for Colonel Wakefield, “Wide Awake”, is wrongly attributed to E. G. Wakefield (p. 199). The first Taranaki war began in 1860, not 1859 (p. 265).

However, these are minor matters. The book remains a valuable account of the journeys of Richard Taylor, Tramper. Those who seek a full account of Richard Taylor, Missionary, will still turn to his journals.

McCREARY, J. R.: Housing and Welfare Needs of Islanders in Auckland: A Report to the Minister of Island Territories, 1965. Wellington, Government Printer, 1966. vi, 110 pp., 85 tables, 4 appendices. Price N.Z.$1.00.

Dr. McCreary's report is a tour de force in statistical computation and quantification of social data. In the first 30 or so pages there are 26 tables as well as a continual procession of numerical facts within the text itself, which serve to give substance to the report as well as a certain degree of indigestibility. The following paragraph (p. 18) typifies the demands made on the concentration of the reader: “The number of rooms in the dwellings ranges from three to ten, approximately half have five rooms. The number of rooms used as bedrooms ranges from one to eight: 56%, 30% and 7% have 3, 4, and 5 bedrooms respectively. Seventy-eight percent report they have one living room, and 16% two, 5% indicate that they have no living room.” Perhaps my reaction only serves to show that I have a personal bias against this form of presentation which tends to be reinforced by the inclusion of socially irrelevant data such as the following: “Over 95% of these houses are constructed of wood. The second most common building material used is brick” (p. 15).

A minor criticism can also be levelled at the use of the word “Islanders” in the title of the report. The recently formed Federation of Pacific Island Societies in Auckland represents eight island groups, but the data relates to only two of - 392 these groups—Cook Islands and Niue. Furthermore, one is left to speculate why the Cook and Niue Islanders are studied ahead of Samoans, Tongans, and others.

There are, in addition to the points mentioned above, theoretical implications in a study of this nature which need consideration. New Zealand Maoris often express a preference for some islanders ahead of others—they perceive Cook Islanders as being most similar to Maoris in culture and prefer them to Polynesians from dissimilar cultures. That the European might have a similar scale of preference is an assumption which must be tested. If it can be established as a social fact that there is a scale of preference operating in the situation then this must have a bearing on the choice of groups to be studied. It may well be, for example, that Cook Islanders are preferred as tenants ahead of Samoans, in which case Samoan dwellings may be more overcrowded than those of Cook Islanders, while the finding of the report that Cook Island dwellings are overcrowded might be due to some other factor such as obligations to kinsmen, or a higher influx of new arrivals.

On the credit side, however, the report achieves its primary purpose of pinpointing the existence of social problems among Cook and Niue Islanders in the renting, purchasing, and overcrowding of dwellings, and in their concentration in a few centrally situated districts of Auckland. It also does well in drawing attention to the need for a channel of communication between the people and existing welfare agencies in the community.

Finally, the recommendation that the Department of Maori Affairs assume responsibility for the welfare of island people in New Zealand appears to be acceptable in principle but is fraught with difficulties. The Department and its officers are already over-committed; it is often criticised and viewed with suspicion by the Maori people themselves, but more importantly, few if any of its officers are familiar with the language and social background of the island immigrants. An alternative approach would be to bring the island people under the provisions of the Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act. This would give the existing island committees statutory powers similar to those of the Maori tribal committees and thus promote the process of social change from within the people themselves.