Title: Ku Waru
Subtitle: Language and Segmentary Politics in the Western Nebilyer Valley, Papua New
Series Title: Studies in the Social and Cultural Foundations of Language, 10
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
The highlanders of New Guinea are renowned for their elaborate systems of ceremonial exchange. Although much has been written about them, previous accounts have concentrated far less on the conduct of exchange events than on the structure of exchange systems. This book deals centrally with the conduct of particular exchange events, and shows through examination of them how larger social structures are reproduced and transformed.
As part of the emphasis on exchange as social action, the book closely examines the oratory that plays a crucial part in the events. Basing their study on original fieldwork carried out in the Nebilyer Valley, Francesca Merlan and Alan Rumsey focus on an inter related set of large-scale compensation payments which arose out of an episode of warfare. This cycle is particularly remarkable, as women stopped the fighting, and participated for the first time as transactors and orators in the ensuing exchange events. This book furthers our understanding of the interaction between social structures and historical events; and particularly of the crucial role of talk. It will be of special interest to anthropologists and linguists.
The writing admirably combines detailed ethnography, clear summaries of the state of the Melanesianist field, and the broader theoretical implications of their work. Ethnography at its best. Social & Behavioral Sciences
As the data are excellent and provide much food for thought, the book certainly validates its claim 'to contribute to a more fully accountable anthropology of situated action'... a major contribution to the textual microstudy of exchange systems. Eric Schwimmer, Pacific Affairs
List of illustrations; List of tables; List of abbreviations; Preface and acknowledgments; 1. Introduction; 2. The setting; 3. Some aspects of Ku Waru segmentary sociality; 4. Ceremonial exchange and marriage in the Western Nebilyer Valley; 5. Some linguistic structures of segmentary politics; 6. Warfare compensation payment of Laulku: an analysis; 7. Compensation at Palimung and the Kulka women's club; 8. The events in perspective; 9. Perspectives on 'event'; Appendices A. Transcript of proceedings at Kailge on July 24, 1983; B. Grammatical sketch of Bo Una, Ku Waru dialect; C. The conduct of warfare; D. Ku Waru metalinguistic expressions; Chapter notes; Glossary; References; Index.