Echoes of the Tambaran

Echoes of the Tambaran

Masculinity, history and the subject in the work of Donald F. Tuzin

Edited by: David Lipset, Paul Roscoe

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In the Sepik Basin of Papua New Guinea, ritual culture was dominated by the Tambaran —a male tutelary spirit that acted as a social and intellectual guardian or patron to those under its aegis as they made their way through life. To Melanesian scholarship, the cultural and psychological anthropologist, Donald F. Tuzin, was something of a Tambaran, a figure whose brilliant and fine-grained ethnographic project in the Arapesh village of Ilahita was immensely influential within and beyond New Guinea anthropology. Tuzin died in 2007, at the age of 61. In his memory, the editors of this collection commissioned a set of original and thought provoking essays from eminent and accomplished anthropologists who knew and were influenced by his work. They are echoes of the Tambaran.

The anthology begins with a biographical sketch of Tuzin’s life and scholarship. It is divided into four sections, each of which focuses loosely around one of his preoccupations. The first concerns warfare history, the male cult and changing masculinity, all in Melanesia. The second addresses the relationship between actor and structure. Here, the ethnographic focus momentarily shifts to the Caribbean before turning back to Papua New Guinea in essays that examine uncanny phenomena, narratives about childhood and messianic promises. The third part goes on to offer comparative and psychoanalytic perspectives on the subject in Fiji, Bali, the Amazon as well as Melanesia. Appropriately, the last section concludes with essays on Tuzin’s fieldwork style and his distinctive authorial voice.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Oct 2011
ANU Press
Monographs in Anthropology
Arts & Humanities: Biography & Autobiography, Cultural Studies, History; Social Sciences: Anthropology, Indigenous Studies
Pacific: Fiji, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea; Southeast Asia: Indonesia

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Section One: History, Masculinity and Melanesia

  1. The Abelam ‘Invasion’ and the Rise of Ilahita Revisited (PDF, 1.7MB)Paul Roscoe doi
  2. The String Bag of the Tambaran: The fragile loops of concealing and revealing in Abelam culture (PDF, 592KB)Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin doi
  3. ‘Skirts–Money–Masks’, and Other Chains of Masculine Signification in Post-Colonial Papua New Guinea (PDF, 7.2MB)David Lipset doi
  4. Men, Modernity and Melanesia (PDF, 424KB)Bruce M. Knauft doi

Section Two: Culture, the Agent and Tuzin’s Methodological Individualism

  1. Signs and Wonders: The uncanny verum and the anthropological illusion (PDF, 730KB)Kevin Birth doi
  2. Comparison, Individualism and ‘Interactionalism’ in the Work of Donald F. Tuzin (PDF, 1.2MB)Don Gardner doi
  3. Stories from Childhood: Windows on experience or cultural meta-narratives? Evidence from Papua New Guinea (PDF, 725KB)Stephen C. Leavitt doi
  4. On Messianic Promise (PDF, 630KB)Joel Robbins doi

Section Three: Comparativism, Psychoanalysis and the Subject

  1. Klein in Bali and Ilahita: A reflection on cultural fantasy and the deep unconscious (PDF, 1.4MB)Michele Stephen doi
  2. Hierarchy and Equality in Fijian Kindergartens (PDF, 947KB)Karen J. Brison doi
  3. The Torments of Initiation and the Question of Resistance (PDF, 1.1MB)Thomas A. Gregor doi
  4. Talking About Sex: On the relationship between discourse, secrecy and sexual subjectivity in Melanesia (PDF, 979KB)Gilbert Herdt doi

Section Four: Style

  1. Courtesy and Method in Ethnography (PDF, 1.3MB)Alexander H. Bolyanatz doi
  2. The Anthropologist’s Voice: Margaret Mead and Donald Tuzin (PDF, 1.1MB)Diane Losche doi

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