Acting for and Acting On: The Male Ritual Cycle of the Ankave-Anga, Papua New Guinea

Abstract : The paper analyzes the male ritual cycle of the Ankave-Anga group in Papua New Guinea. In the 1980s, male initiations in this region were interpreted as institutions for the reproduction of male domination. And yet, looking at the ritual gestures performed at the same time by the men in the forest and by the women back in the village, it becomes possible to offer another interpretation, one that, following Marilyn Strathern, underscores a relational dimension. But, whereas Strathern saw these rituals as times when boys went from a "cross-sex" state to a "single-sex" state capable of reproduction, following a process of extraction, the paper argues that the Ankave ritual cycle can be read as an ordered series of transformations of the relations between the boys and their mothers and sisters, in the presence of these female relatives. At the heart of these initiations lies the boys' accession to the capacity to act for and on others. Women have this capacity without doing anything particular other than being potential mothers while men must go through this long ritual process at the end of which they become first fathers and then maternal uncles, the position where acting for - and on - others is paradigmatic. While certain changes appear in the life-cycle rituals, this operative model of action endures.
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Contributor : Pascale Bonnemère <>
Submitted on : Monday, November 11, 2013 - 12:25:54 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 1:29:53 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-00903278, version 1



Pascale Bonnemère. Acting for and Acting On: The Male Ritual Cycle of the Ankave-Anga, Papua New Guinea. "The Human in the World, the World in the Human", Annual Conference of the Australian Anthropological Society, Nov 2013, Canberra, Australia. ⟨hal-00903278⟩



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