A relational approach to a Papua New Guinea male ritual cycle

Abstract : The article analyses the male ritual cycle of the Ankave-Anga 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 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 article 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 others. Such an analysis of specific ethnographic Melanesian material makes possible a critical appraisal of the Strathernian notions of partibility and detachability, which have often been taken as granted by researchers outside the region.
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Contributor : Pascale Bonnemère <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 9:25:49 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - 10:54:34 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-01076405, version 1



Pascale Bonnemère. A relational approach to a Papua New Guinea male ritual cycle. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Wiley, 2014, 20 (4), pp.728-745. ⟨hal-01076405⟩



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