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The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia

Filed under: disease/health,trobriand islands — admin @ 4:29 am

The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia is a 1929 book by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski. It contains ethnographic data that proves that the Freudian Oedipus complex is not universal.

This important work is his second in the trilogy on the Trobriander, with the other two being Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922), and Coral Gardens and Their Magic (1935).

The work is impressive for people from Western culture, because in Trobriander the sexuality belongs to the everyday life of humans. Thus for example so mentioned youth clubs are at the disposal to the young people, where they can try their sexuality out easily. This is promoted by the entire community and regarded as important step for growth. Malinowski compares its observations with Sigmund Freud’s claims on the development of sexuality.

In the preface Malinowski says that sexuality “dominates in fact almost every aspect of culture”.

Malinowski gives a detailed description of the social organization of the sexuality, i.e. social rites, partner choice, etc., “tracing the Trobriand life-cycle from birth through puberty, marriage, and death”.

Children don’t stand a system of “domestic coercion” or “regular discipline”, they “enjoy considerable freedom and independence”. The idea of a child being “beaten or otherwise punished in cold blood” by a parent, is viewed as unnatural and immoral, and when proposed by westerners (like the anthropologist), is “rejected with resentment”. Things are asked “as from one equal to another; a simple command, implying the expectation of natural obedience is never heard from parent to child in the Trobriands.” The event of a person getting angry and striking another person “in an outburst of rage” sometimes happens, and as often from parent to child as from child to parent.

In further chapters, the parent-child relationship of the Trobrianders is described with details of their complex matrilineal relationship structure, in which the biological parentage is ignored.

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