The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea
Weiner sought to provide a gender balanced view of Trobriand culture by highlighting new discoveries regarding the importance of woman’s work and wealth in the Trobriand society. She gave particular attention to women’s productive work whereas previously women were not the central focus of studies. She was following in the footsteps of Malinowski but provided a new perspective as she questioned Malinowski’s findings and contradict his beliefs. She allows us to understand further than Malinowski’s account into the power and meanings of yam exchanges. The reader will know of a culture of matrilineal descent and its importance to them. The significance of their rituals that outsiders may deem odd will be revealed to be more spiritual and having more purpose than one can imagine. In the end, readers will find the Weiner’s work to be revealing a new perspective of the world learned thru the in-depth contemplation of the Trobriander’s culture. It makes us question past perspectives and calls for a gender-critical analysis of anthropological work.
Inspired by Malinowki’s writings, Professor Annette Weiner went on an ethnographic study on the Trobrianders islands which then had a 150 people who highly depended on fishing as a source of employment but was living in poverty. Before Malinowki’s expository writing, there was little knowledge regarding Papua New Guinea societies and was limited to reports and diaries from missionaries, government officers and explorers. In 1914, Malinowski conducted a fieldwork lasting two years and discovered the sacredness of the Trobrianders Islands to the indigenous population. He then set out to make known to the world the Trobriander culture and tried to put across the natives point of view as oppose to the outsider’s view.
Weiner regards Malinowki’s writings as too limited and did not revealed gender roles. In her analysis of the beliefs system, she found out that women played a key role in Trobriander society. Malinowski conducted majority of his study on Kiriwina and was unable to appreciate the variations within other societies but it is worth noting that did recognise the significant engagement of women into the public world of politics. While Kiriwana was the most socially and politically prominent, there are important cultural differences in each Islands populations.
2.1 The Importance of Women and their Roles
In Trobriander society, the birth of a new member is a very private matter as compared to the publicity of death. When a woman gives birth, the only ones present are the woman’s close matrilineal kin (i.e. mother, auntie, grandmother). The strong nature of the matrilineal system is evidenced by the fact that the women to give birth moves out of her marital home and goes back to the home of her mother where she stays for two months after giving birth. The role of the husband is confined only to bringing food which is cooked by the woman’s matrilineal relatives. The husband is only the instrument of a spirit for a woman to get pregnant through intercourse. It is the spirit that causes the woman to fall