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They Make Themselves

Work and Play among the Baining of Papua New Guinea

For generations of anthropologists, the Baining people have presented a challenge, because of their apparent lack of cultural or social structure. This group of small-scale horticulturists seems devoid of the complex belief systems and social practices that characterize other traditional peoples of Papua New Guinea. Their daily existence is mundane and repetitive in the extreme, articulated by only the most elementary familial relationships and social connections. The routine of everyday life, however, is occasionally punctuated by stunningly beautiful festivals of masked dancers, which the Baining call play and to which they attribute no symbolic significance.

In a new work sure to evoke considerable repercussions and debate in anthropological theory, Jane Fajans courageously takes on the "Baining Problem," arguing that the Baining define themselves not through intricate cosmologies or social networks, but through the meanings generated by their own productive and reproductive work.

328 pages | 12 halftones, 1 map, 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 1997

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Ch. 1: The "Baining Problem"
Ch. 2: The Ethnographic Setting
Ch. 3: History
Ch. 4: Kinship, Adoption, and the Production of Society
Ch. 5: The Life Cycle and Socialization
Ch. 6: Sentiments and Motivation in the Social Person
Ch. 7: Death and Social Reproduction
Ch. 8: Baining Dances
Ch. 9: Ta Takmut Banas: The Asarai Dance
Ch. 10: Atut
Ch. 11: Anarchy as Structured Antistructure

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