Chambri people

Last updated

Chambri (previously spelled Tchambuli) are an ethnic group in the Chambri Lakes region in the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. The social structures of Chambri society have often been a subject in the study of gender roles. The Chambri language is spoken by them.

Contents

Margaret Mead, a cultural anthropologist, studied the Chambri in 1933. Her influential book Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies became a major cornerstone of the women's liberation movement, since it claimed that females had significant and dominant roles in Chambri society. [1]

History

This community is located near Chambri Lake in Papua New Guinea, in the middle region of the Sepik River. The Chambri consist of three villages: Indingai, Wombun, and Kilimbit. Together, these communities contain about 1,000 people. When the Chambri first came together, though isolated, they located communities nearby that made it possible for cultural interaction and growth. [2]

A neighboring society, the Iatmul people, and the Chambri began trading goods so that each could progress and aid one another. The Chambri have been, and continue to be a large fishing community. The fish Chambri caught were in turn traded with the Iatmul to receive sago. For shell valuables the Chambri traded their hand-made tools and products. In later years as the introduction of European tools began appearing within the culture, the Iatmul no longer needed the Chambri's tools and goods. This left the Chambri vulnerable and eventually led to the Chambri society leaving their island to protect their community from the rising Iatmul military. They returned in 1927 once peace had been restored in their area. Historically known as headhunters and a volatile group, the Chambri abandoned these tendencies once Papua New Guinea came under independent government. Culturally their society had changed due to European influences, however the personal interactions and customs within the Chambri had not. New neighboring societies were formed, trade and growth continued throughout the years as anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington visited this tribal location and reported on their findings. [3] [4]

Chambri people today

Now a non-violent community, the Chambri still maintain their lifestyle through bartering and intertribal trade. The diet of the Chambri continues to consist mainly of sago and fish. As an island community, fishing is a staple of this society. The surplus fish that are not needed for the villages’ nourishment are then taken and traded in the mountains for sago. Trade takes its form in the way of barter markets that occur on a six-day schedule. Barter markets are located in the Sepik Hills and women from the Chambri travel to meet other women from various villages spread throughout the hills to barter their food. Unlike their history with the Iatmul society, the Chambri and the villages they trade with have a more equal status between each. [5]

As anthropologists visited and studied the Chambri culture, their villages and culture were affected. Anthropologists brought some of the Chambri people to the United States to share their culture. When bringing them back to Papua New Guinea they brought back new ideas and customs they had acquired from their travels. As the world modernized, the Chambri villages became less financially stable through their trade and goods. Even through the financial distress, the Chambri culture and people survived and continued to practice their ways. [6] [7]

Chambri women

In Margaret Mead’s field study research in 1933 in Papua New Guinea, she outlined a position of women in the Chambri community that was unusual to what had been thought to be the norm across cultures. She speculated that women in the Chambri were the power individuals within the villages instead of men. How Margaret came to this conclusion was based on a few attributes of the Chambri. She first noted that the Chambri women were the primary suppliers of food. Contrary to other cultures the Chambri women were the ones who did the fishing for the community. This empowerment and responsibility of the women lends to the idea of a higher importance of women within this society. Through further observation Mead found that women also took the fish they caught and not only supplied it as food for their families but traveled to trade the surplus. It was the women's job to take the extra fish caught and travel into the surrounding hills to barter for sago for their families. Once again instead of the primary provider being the man in the family, Mead was witnessing the wife taking this role. However, as later anthropologists Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington discovered, these actions do not control the relationships between men and women of the Chambri. [8]

The women being the sole provider for the family does not imply submission by the man. The men in the Chambri society are involved in other areas within the community, many of which are not deemed appropriate for the women. Such areas include politics and power within the tribe. This lack of involvement by women in these areas further suggest Mead's original claim of women's dominance may have been rooted in a lack of full observance of the activities in the Chambri society. Instead what later anthropologists found was that neither sex competed to be the dominant one. Within each sex dominance occurred and was witnessed, however this behavior failed to cross the sex barrier. Specifically neither group was viewed to follow or be submissive to the other. This lack of a dominant individual within a relationship allows for speculation that the role of women in a civilization can drastically be determined by its customs. [9]

Marriage within the Chambri

Marriage within the Chambri is a custom in which neither male nor female has the power. Though a patrilinear culture with arranged marriages, neither party loses full control in the marriage situation. Marriage is conducted in such a way that the men (who most commonly arrange the marriages) choose couplings that allow inter-clan relationships. Marriages that are not arranged also exist, but are much less common. Women have a say in who they marry as they work with male family members to choose a man with decent ancestral power. Bride price does exist within this community and is not looked upon as custom that demeans women. Shell valuables that are acquired through bartering are used for a bride price. Many of these shell valuables have symbolic purposes in the giving. Certain shells are associated specifically with womanly attributes such as childbearing, wombs, and menstruation. [9]

Within marriages women have certain stereotypes with which they have been labeled. Many times within the Chambri men fear their wives. This is because men obtain secret names within the male sorcery facet of the civilization and are forbidden to voice them. Men fear that they will speak while sleeping and reveal their secret names. Furthermore, with easy access to many of the husband's personal aspects such as hair, saliva and semen, makes the men wary of what the women could possibly give to a sorcerer. However, in some cases men see this fear as a characteristic of their power. Their view is that if their secret names are worth stealing by their wife, then they must be important and powerful enough for this kind of deceitfulness to have taken place. [10]

Family

Women and men's dependence becomes almost completely equal when examining the roles of brothers and sisters within a traditional Chambri family. Unlike the fear that exists within marriages, fear is non-existent within the Chambri family. Brothers and sisters welcome the other's help in their pursuing of their desired roles within the community. Brothers look to their sisters for help in the political aspect of the Chambri. Sisters obtain help from the brothers in his support for her and her future children. Specifically the brother becomes a significant role in the life of his sister's sons. The brother's nephew in turn is seen to be a key factor in helping the brother in his political uprising. This relationship between nephew and uncle can be seen through the seamless family relationships that exist between the families of mothers and their brothers. The terms brother and sister are not always biologically reflected within the Chambri. Within the clan, women and men can act as siblings to one another during specific times, such as loss. The death of an individual binds the sisters of the clan together by representing the loss of a support system. Contrasting this, the men view a death as a loss of a political position within the community. [9] [11]

Related Research Articles

Margaret Mead American cultural anthropologist (1901–1978)

Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist who featured frequently as an author and speaker in the mass media during the 1960s and 1970s. She earned her bachelor's degree at Barnard College in New York City and her MA and PhD degrees from Columbia University. Mead served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975.

An incest taboo is any cultural rule or norm that prohibits sexual relations between certain members of the same family, mainly between individuals related by blood. All human cultures have norms that exclude certain close relatives from those considered suitable or permissible sexual or marriage partners, making such relationships taboo. However, different norms exist among cultures as to which blood relations are permissible as sexual partners and which are not. Sexual relations between related persons which are subject to the taboo are called incestuous relationships.

Gregory Bateson English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. His writings include Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972) and Mind and Nature (1979).

Korowai people people of southeastern Papua

The Korowai, also called the Kolufo, are the people who live in South eastern West Papua in the Indonesian province of Papua, close to the border with Papua New Guinea. They number about 3,000.

Economic anthropology is a field that attempts to explain human economic behavior in its widest historic, geographic and cultural scope. It is an amalgamation of economics and anthropology.It is practiced by anthropologists and has a complex relationship with the discipline of economics, of which it is highly critical. Its origins as a sub-field of anthropology began with work by the Polish founder of anthropology Bronislaw Malinowski and the French Marcel Mauss on the nature of reciprocity as an alternative to market exchange. For the most part, studies in economic anthropology focus on exchange. In contrast, the Marxian school known as "political economy" focuses on production.

Kula ring

Kula, also known as the Kula exchange or Kularing, is a ceremonial exchange system conducted in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. The Kula ring was made famous by the father of modern anthropology, Bronisław Malinowski, who used this test case to argue for the universality of rational decision making, and for the cultural nature of the object of their effort. Malinowski's path-breaking work, Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), directly confronted the question, "why would men risk life and limb to travel across huge expanses of dangerous ocean to give away what appear to be worthless trinkets?" Malinowski carefully traced the network of exchanges of bracelets and necklaces across the Trobriand Islands, and established that they were part of a system of exchange, and that this exchange system was clearly linked to political authority. Malinowski's study became the subject of debate with the French anthropologist, Marcel Mauss, author of The Gift. Since then, the Kula ring has been central to the continuing anthropological debate on the nature of gift giving, and the existence of gift economies.

<i>Coming of Age in Samoa</i> book by Margaret Mead

Coming of Age in Samoa is a book by American anthropologist Margaret Mead based upon her research and study of youth – primarily adolescent girls – on the island of Ta'u in the Samoan Islands. The book details the sexual life of teenagers in Samoan society in the early 20th century, and theorizes that culture has a leading influence on psychosexual development.

Cannibal Tours is a 1988 quasi-documentary film by Australian director and cinematographer Dennis O'Rourke. While it borrows heavily from ethnographic modes of representation, the film is a biting commentary on the nature of modernity. The film is also widely celebrated for its depiction of Western touristic desires and exploitation among a 'tribal' people.

Gogodala is the name of an ethnic/language group from the Middle Fly District of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea. They speak the Gogodala language, which belongs to the Trans-New Guinea language family. It is one of about a thousand distinct ethnic groups in the country, each which has its own language and culture.

Rhoda Bubendy Metraux was a prominent anthropologist in the area of cross-cultural studies. She collaborated with Alfred Metraux on mutual studies of Haitian voodoo. She also studied the Iatmul people of the middle Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, making three fieldwork trips to Tambunum village of 6-7 months each in 1967-1968, 1971, and 1972-1973, focusing on music. During one of her studies, Metraux administered the Lowenfeld Mosaic Test in Tambunum, developed by a Margaret Lowenfeld. Additionally, Metraux did fieldwork in Mexico, Argentina, and Montserrat in the West Indies, and enrolled at Yale University to study for her doctorate under the tutelage of Bronisław Malinowski. During World War II, Metraux headed the section on German morale for the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

The Ndu languages are the best known family of the Sepik languages of East Sepik Province in northern Papua New Guinea. Ndu is the word for 'man' in the languages that make up this group. The languages were first identified as a related family by Kirschbaum in 1922.

Dame Ann Marilyn Strathern, DBE is a British anthropologist, who has worked largely with the Mount Hagen people of Papua New Guinea and dealt with issues in the UK of reproductive technologies. She was William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge from 1993 to 2008, and Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge from 1998 to 2009.

The Papuans are one of four major cultural groups of Papua New Guinea. The majority of the population lives in rural areas. In isolated areas there still remains a handful of the giant communal structures that previously housed the whole male population, with a circling cluster of huts for the women. The Papuan people are Melanesian people composed of at least 240 different peoples, each with its own language and culture. Sago is the staple food of the Papuan supplemented with hunting, fishing and small gardens.

Donald F. Tuzin was an American social anthropologist best known for his ethnographic work on the Ilahita Arapesh, a horticultural people living in northeast lowland New Guinea, and for comparative studies of gender and sexuality within Melanesia. Tuzin was born in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in Winona, Minnesota, and spent his teen years again in Chicago. He received his B.A. from Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he became interested in anthropology and participated in the excavation of Native American archaeological sites left by the Mound Builders. He also received his master's degree from Case Western Reserve.

Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden garden at Stanford University

In 1994, Jim Mason, a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, arranged for two groups of men from the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea to carve The New Guinea Sculpture Garden at Stanford University. The men were from several communities or villages of the Iatmul people and the Kwoma people.

The Mundugumora.k.a.Biwat are a tribe of Papua New Guinea. They live on the Yuat River in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, and speak the Mundugumor language.

Kaluli people

The Kaluli are a clan of non-literate indigenous peoples who live in the rain forests of the Great Papuan Plateau in Papua New Guinea. The Kaluli, who numbered approximately 2,000 people in 1987, are the most numerous and well documented by post-contact ethnographers and missionaries among the four language-clans of Bosavi kalu that speak non-Austronesian languages. Their numbers are thought to have declined precipitously following post-contact disease epidemics in the 1940s, and have not rebounded due to high infant mortality rates and periodic influenza outbreaks. The Kaluli are monolingual in ergative language.

Sepik river

The Sepik River is the longest river on the island of New Guinea, and after the Fly and the Mamberamo the third largest by volume. The majority of the river flows through the Papua New Guinea (PNG) provinces of Sandaun and East Sepik, with a small section flowing through the Indonesian province of Papua.

Iatmul people

The Iatmul are a large ethnic group of about 10,000 people inhabiting some two-dozen politically autonomous villages along the middle Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. The communities are roughly grouped according to dialect of the Iatmül language as well as sociocultural affinities. The Iatmul are best known for their art, men's houses, male initiation, elaborate totemic systems, and a famous ritual called naven, first studied by Gregory Bateson in the 1930s. More recently, Iatmul are known as a location for tourists and adventure travellers, and a prominent role in the 1988 documentary film Cannibal Tours.

Eric Kline Silverman is an American cultural anthropologist, formerly a tenured Full Professor and Research Professor of Anthropology at Wheelock College in Boston, which was dissolved as an independent institution in summer 2018. He is also a long-standing Scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Additionally, Eric is also a Research Scholar and Writer with The Rhodes Project, a research initiative to study the lives and careers of female Rhodes Scholars, based in the UK at McAlister Olivarius.

References

  1. http://frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=16461%5B%5D
  2. Gewertz, D. (1977). The Politics of Affinal Exchange: Chambri as a Client Market. Ethnology, 16(3), 285-298. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3773313
  3. Gewertz, D., & Errington, F. (1991). Twisted histories, altered contexts. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Higgins, P., & Mukhopadyay, C. (1988). Anthropological Studies of Women’s Status Revisited: 1944-1987. Annual Review of Anthropology, 17. Retrieved from http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.an.17.100188.00233%5B%5D
  5. Gewertz, D. (1978). The Myth of the Blood-Men: An Explanation of Chambri Warfare. Journal of Anthropological Research, 34(4), 577-588. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/action/exportSingleCitation?singleCitation=true&suffix=3629651
  6. Chang, D. (2009). Reading Sex and Temperament in Taiwan: Margaret Mead and Postwar Taiwanese Feminism. NWSA, 21(21), 52-75. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/nwsa_journal/v021/21.1.chang.pdf
  7. Gewertz, D., & Errington, F. (1996). # The Individuation of Tradition in a Papua New Guinean Modernity. American Anthropologist, 98(1), 114-126. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/682957
  8. Gewertz, D., & Errington, F. (1985). The Chief of the Chambri: Social Change and Cultural Permeability among a New Guinea People. American Ethnologist, 12(3), 442-454. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/644531
  9. 1 2 3 Gewertz, D., & Errington, F. (1987). Cultural alternatives and a feminist anthropology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  10. Gewertz, D., & Errington, F. (1981). A Historical Reconsideration of Female Dominance among the Chambri of Papua New Guinea. American Ethnologist, 8(1), 94-106. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/644489
  11. Gewertz, D., & Errington, F. (1997). Why We Return to Papua New Guinea. Anthropological Quarterly, 70(3), 127-136. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3317672