Ritual as Communication: Order, Meaning, and Secrecy in Melanesian Initiation Rites Author(s): Roy Wagner Reviewed work(s): Source

: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 13 (1984), pp. 143-155 Published by: Annual Reviews Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2155665 . Accessed: 16/01/2013 08:27
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what it does as communication. what code" (8.Virginia 22903 No topic in cultural anthropologybears more significantly on the relation or explanationof a culture. regulation. spirits. Rev. . a transformative ritualas communicacapacity. Paraphrasing Gluckman. too. groups. . Meaning. The first relationis fairly clear-cut. p. throughfieldwork and analysis. then.and its between the anthropologist's understanding own internalrelations. andthatof significantpartsor categoriesof the subject culture.00 This content downloaded on Wed. Christopher Crockerdistinguishesritualas against ceremony. anthropologyhas made. and Secrecy in Melanesian InitiationRites Roy Wagner Departmentof Anthropology. p. Above all. or seeks to have. But what is encoded and why? And what is the natureof the code and why is it formulatedin that way? These questions bear upon the relationalrole of ritualwithin the subject-culture. J. relates-and sometimes confounds-two differentsortsof relativity:thatof the anthropological analyst andthe subjectculture. Ritual. abstractforcesrecognized in their culture. Thus. whether positive or negative . University of Virginia. And on anotherlevel it is a communicationinvolving its performersand perhapssignificantothers-persons. 1984. than ritualdoes. The study of ritual amounts to a sort of double relation. Charlottesville. andhas a definiteoutcome.if ritualis. All rights reserved RITUAL AS COMMUNICATION: Order. since Durkheim. the differential. if we choose to approach tion. deities." (6. Anthropol. across which communicationtakes place for 143 0084-6570/84/1015-0 143$02. regardingthe ritual and its significance. a fairly explicit assumption. then the anthropologist's MaryDouglas calls a "restricted job is to decipherit. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 160).. Here.Ann. ritualhas. 13:143-55 Copyright? 1984 by Annual Reviews Inc. . It is a communicationbetween the anthropologistand his readershipof what he has learned.or relation.or whatever. the expression of the status quo:"Ritualalways involves moralissues. 77). in its usual definition.

p. Is it purely conceptual. . involving the relation between knower and known. must communicate this idea symbolically-he does not affect the sociological or ecological balanceof those to whom he communicates. had its own formal form of Ndembu society structural categoryof secular principle. Radcliffe-Brown. .But if the ritualcommunicationis freightedwith sociological or ecological implications as well. however sensitive it may be. 110).which can. in the words of Bateson." or phenomenal order. if effective enough. articulatethe relationshipof a people to their None of these alternativesfor how ritualmakes physicalor social environment'? of the firstrelationmentionedabove. 187). The difference between ritualas conveyed meaning and ritualas conveyed regulation-message as against metamessage-marks a significant watershed in modernculturalanthropology. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .It could be no more reducedto. 186). we have."it is not primarilya formof tion. p. relations among groups or categories of people. in view of thought's subjugationto essences" (19. it cannot possibly bring across all of its implicationsand effects. it is not merely enacted meaning but enacted regulation.has to do with communica". or objects of communication'? of these first two possibilities. a "meaning"on several levels at once.144 WAGNER its performersamountsto the kind of differencethat.whatever his communication. of the anthropologist's idea of the efficacy of ritual and its means. communicants. Because ritualhas "itsown formalprinciple. in Chihamba the local expression of a universal human problem. For if the action of the ritual is consideredas wholly symbolic in its effect. that is independent entirely its difference For the anthropologist. directly or indirectly. "makes a difference"(3.In a recent collection of essays on Ndembu ritual. Does it further. then as mere translation. Victor Turnersummarizesthe development of his views: At one time I employed a method of analysis derived essentially from Durkheimvia A. This condition of anthropological analysis has a significant bearing on the way in which ritual is conceived to operate. the "message" has a pragmaticsignificance all out of proportionto its mode of conveyence. that of expressing what cannot be thought of. symbol and symbolizer'?Does it involve. In this case. then it will be of the same "scale.or regardedas the resultantof many kindsof secularbehavior. Yet the significance of Chihamba.thanan amino-acid molecularchain could be explained by the propertiesof the atoms interlinkedby it (19. I found. I considered the social function of Chihamba with reference to the The ritualsymbol. as its translation. p. though in an elusive and transcendental sense: This content downloaded on Wed.inclusive or exclusive subjects. for Turner. An anthropologicalaccount of ritualis always to this degree "symbolic":it must be conveyed through our symbols. The issue in recent anthropologicalwriting seems to be that of how this difference is made. amountto an expressiverelayingof the communication. or explainedby any particular behavior. R.

but a supple. Roy A. Order in the social sciences may be manifested as meaning (more often "coding"or "classification")or as behavior (as in the is thatit is not limitedto "rituals" of animal-behavior studies). "The restrictedcode is used economically to convey informasocial form. Douglas proceedsin the oppositedirection. The collection of essays representsa meta- This content downloaded on Wed. into cybernetichomeostasisand the "restricted code" of ritual expands"order" into a general model of culture.within which the significanceof ritualin various. who first introducedthe idea in the 1936 edition of Naven. boundaries)and social solidarity("secular behavior"). p. in Turner'slaterworks. A classic example is Gregory Bateson's concept of schismogenesis (2. functionof transcending Ritual.Thus. This Turnerian view. it mightbe said. in which social norms and behavior interactdialectically to bring about culturalchange. and Religion (I8). as a socially effective regulator. But Douglas's "groupand grid"model is neithersimple functionalismnor simply social determinism. with the approachof anotherleading modernauthorityon ritual. Ritualas control. somethingmore thana description. is realized in an altogether different direction. its definite outcome. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .RITUAL AS COMMUNICATIONIN MELANESIA 145 Durkheimiansocial glue. Mary Douglas.manifeststhe anthropologist's descriptionor communicationof the phenomenonas a kind of absolute presence within the culture itself. because of society's categorical limitations. Its address to moral issues. its transformative capability. A recentgeneralization conceptof "feedback" of this solution. generativesystem sociality with cognitive categorization. It forms a sharpcontrast. was only able to resolve the runaway dynamic of schismogenetic change into a model for stability throughthe introductionof the cybernetic in his 1958 epilogue to the book.makingthe significanceandeffect of rituala functionof category (classification.for it reveals what the naturalsciences call an "order"in the subject. in Turner'sanalysis. having begun with the same subject as Turner. 79). p.As correlatingthe stuff of Durkheimian Douglas puts it. differentiallysituatedsocieties can be compared. nor is it necessarilyany sort of social or mechanical regulatorymechanism. makesreligion morerealthansociety. at this point. has been to develop a frameworkaroundthe parameters of categorizationand social grouping. 58). It is a system of controlas well as a tion and to sustaina particular system of communication"(8. precisely those elements which ritual. as a reificationof the heuristic. Rappaport'sEcology. Bateson. transcends and eschews. ain1Daniger(7) to The tendency of Douglas's work. It completes the conceptualworld of a cultureby allowing man to experience what thought cannot frame. especially from Puirity Natural Svmbols (8). has the "performative" thought's verbal and categorical boundariesby enacting meanings that are interstitialto them. and from a similar orientation.whatis important either. Meaning. It becomes.

as Bruntonclaims. The point was raised. 234). is that the meaningfulelements in ritual. it might be helpful to consider more closely the prime target of his attack. however one might feel about the significance of inherentpatterns. Bruntoncriticizes academic traditionsfor putting a high premiumon intellectualorder(4. and thereforein culture. 80). althoughBrunton'sown are fairly rigid and problematicand make of it someexpectationsof "order" thing of a "strawman. 75). . The significant innovation. . 112-13). Certainly. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ." Before rejoininghis strategy. p. p. then. Gell's monograph." (18. following an articleby Ron Brunton on "Misconstrued Orderin MelanesianReligion" (4. . p. the of theCassowaries Metamorphosis most sophisticatedand detailed attemptto date to uncoveran internallycoherent pattern in the religion of a Melanesian people" (4. and ritualorderingson the other. 125). 120). But for that very reason. p. p. p. he "oversystematizing" arguesin effect thatfactorssuch as ambiguityand innovation. 75). Perhaps no other account of a Melanesian people makes the This content downloaded on Wed. assume a centralplace in Rappaport'shomeostasis. and FredrikBarth'sRitualand Knowledgeamong the Baktaman of New Guinea (1.Commitmentto one position or the otheris very much a matterof theoreticalassumptionand expectation. may well be.146 WAGNER morphosisof the ecological homeostasis model of Rappaport'searlier monocybernetichomeostasis graph." (18. pp. . andthe regulatoryfunctionsof or purport actions. Anthropology'sliaison between the interpretiveand the naturalsciences tends to blur over sharpdistinctionsbetween the significance of a semiotic expressionon one hand.Pigsfor theAncestors(17. . In the most succinct terms. . in developing a critiqueof what he construesas the of Melanesian religions.holiness. define the teleology of such systems . meaning is not and cannot be separatedfrom the regulatorysystem as it is in Turner'slater work. for Rappaportit is the raison d'etre of the system. cybernetichomeostasis Like Douglas's and Bateson's models. 67). more than that. images. however. Grantingthat the fusion of these two considerationswas a remarkableachievement of Bateson's schismogenesis model. Bruntonfocuses on two recent studies of ritual. constitute evidence for certain socially correlated determinatesof religion. because it is centralto an exchange thattook place in thejournalMan in 1980 and 1981. they ". it is the most detailed."antisystematic" tendencies if you will. . The critical point at issue here is not one that has often been raised in connection with ritual. into a broader in which "Wholeness. Alfred Gell's Metamorphosisof the Cassowaries (9. and adaptivenessare closely related . nor necessarily is it one that most writers on ritual consciously address. p.then. however. ". Rappaport's makes ritual meaning integral to the cultural dynamic. it does not follow thatthey can be automaticallyor thoughtlessly synthesized. More to the point. . it is by no means established and explanathat such a synthesis is in any sense crucial to the understanding tion of ritual.

and thenGell's "meaning" their religion. Like other This content downloaded on Wed. that languages and general symbologies are ratherdifferent things. Gell's interpretive method is "centripetal. the analysisof the craftsmanship ida ritual is striking for its lack of theoreticalcoherence and conclusiveness. intrinsicentity may be another. or should he be criticizedfor yielding to perniciousacademictemptation andtransmuting an honestindigenousconfusion into a self-seeking clarity'? If oversystematizingis one sort of misconstruingof order. .and achieves a remarkable "core" cosmological metaphoras a result. he isolates an aspect. in Brunton's view.and nescience in Melanesian cultures generally is established ethnographicfact. then equating the anthropologist'sexplanationwith a described. and the linguist StephenUllmanabound. innovation. Is a "loosely structured" symbology possible?Whatwould be the reactionof linguistsif Gell had reported an indigenous grammarfull of major ambiguities and gaping It is partof anthropology'sconventionalwisdom that there are irregularities? no primitive languages. of public utteranceis somehow have we the right to assume thatthe patterning less subjectto the "pushes"and"pulls"of socioenergeticsthanthe patterning of public conceptualization? It is also partof anthropology'sreceived wisdom that all grammars"leak. p. and the sense of familiarityis heightenedby the author'sdry and often brilliantly witty asides. andritualdetailas availableto the readeras Gell's does.as well as germinalinsightsinto indigenouscosmology. Gell extends the notion of lexical motivation to include much broaderrangesof verbalrelationship." (9. a principlethat serves to orient Umeda social and anatomicalspace. This is what he calls the "triple analogy"(9. Gell can explain Umeda ritualto Westernersbetter than Umeda can. in other words. All of this. If. . 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . body part. On the other hand. p. of primitive symbologies? Granting. for all of the masterly andskill with which Gell has handledhis data." and ". But it is not conclusive. for the ritualis not likely to exist amongthe Umeda. The most original theoretical innovation involves a "breaking"of the acceptedrules for semiotic analysis. lexical. which it into the gradually may be only one out of manypossibilities. 148) of social role. As Brunton remarks. then. Levi-Strauss. of course. But what if Gell had he will be guilty of "oversystematizing" used the ambiguities in Umeda ritualin such a way as to give a more coherent account of it? Should he then be praised for "undersystematizing" Umeda religion. what. This also raises the issue of coherencein symbolism generally. The metaphoris salient in the ida ritualand Gell often returnsto it. andincorporates unfolding model of the ida's meaning. 118)." and the play of ambiguity(and often ambivalence). would be justified if we had some good evidence of the unity and consistency of the Umeda world view.thanare conventionallyadmitted. using any of a numberof proceduresof widely differing status. Applications of the ideas of Victor Turner.based primarilyon sound-similarity.RITUAL AS COMMUNICATIONIN MELANESIA 147 immediacyof sociological.andpartof a tree.

. . 123). cleavages of a certaintype betweencategoriesor classes of people. p. There are serious problems here." Brunton adduces the major competitive dynamic of a society among categories defined in a complementaryrelationshipto one another. then stitch it togetherwith "functions. p.."Thus we can expect to find a high degree of orderin those partsof a religious system being used to advance a group's (sic!) political interests . Brunton(he cites McArthur'sKunimaipawork approvingly) has capitalizedheavily on this fact in advancingthe case for sociological determinism. so to speak) of Melanesian religion? This is the implicationof much of the Telefolmin-area data. it is also significant in Gell's area of research.148 WAGNER antipodalempiricists. should the competitionaffect religious "order"more than. 125). Brunton speaks of a "continuum. flexibility. as much as anything. is certain to succumb. as we shall see. and imaginativerange of theoreticalconception of "order. Ambiguity and innovation. p."A very brittle or frangible order (like the "dogmas"of the Hogbin era in Australiananthropology). senior married men. and. we are probablynot justified in assuming that there is a basic humanneed to develop comprehensiveand consistentresponses to what we might see as fundamentalexistential questions"(4. innovation. then."ratherreminiscentof Douglas's "groupand grid. and express this competitionin attemptsto controlreligious "order. Why. young unmarried women. age-sets.'" (4. he states his majorthesis: "Itis particular formsof social organization.and nescience are partof the meaningfulprocess (ratherthan the sociological undertow. even at the level of definition. This brings us back to the argument that underlies Brunton's critique. What. Assuming that ". . however. test the resourcefulness." across which religion is more or less affected by competition of this sort. if competition is engendered through the categorization of people in a certainway. These categories (they are certainly not self-sufficient and corporatelike the "groups"of traditionalsocial anthropology) may vie with one another in terms of their particularinterests. .. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ." (4. Brunton's sociological argumentis reminiscentof the functionalists'attemptto explain segmentarysocieties in terms of the organic solidaritythat Durkheimposited for hierarchicalsocieties-having no evidence of an institutionaldivision of labor.impliedby definition. of the complementary interests.or morespecifically. apparently.But what if ambiguity. involves an assumptionabout priorities. 123). which cause the supernatural to be 'colonised . etc).for Gell) involves. or ratherthan the equally conceptual order through which the social This content downloaded on Wed.introducedas straightforward model or as argumentivefoil for anothermodel. as its major "players. presentlyto be considered.g. thatserve to unite them against any divisive "political"intereststhey may conceive? And what of the cross-cutting"symmetrical" competitionamong opposed lineages or villages? The most damagingflaw."the indigenously generatedcategories within the population(e. they proceededto cut one out of whole cloth. "Sociology" for Brunton (and also.

It is interesting. which has widespread theoretical ramifications elsewhere in Melanesia. by this time. as Bruntondeclares. accordingto Juillerat. in the BaktamanstudythatJuilleratdeclines to discuss. 733). I shall consider Barth's study and its ethnographiccontext presently. p. This content downloaded on Wed. or releasedto the "foreigninvestigator" only in small and unconnected details. and he proceeds to list a number of significant events of the ida in which secret revealed by his informantscontrovertGell's conjectures. It is ratherthat he wishes to reconstitutethis coherent pictureby his own intellectualmeans.however. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . who worked with the Yafar. 124). The core of the exegesis is mythic. Juillerat's comment suggests a much more immediate reason for Gell's of the ida. Juilinterpretations lerat argues. 732). that the two major monographsto which Bruntonaddresseshis critiqueboth support their analyses on this claim. The substanceof Juillerat'scriticismof Brunton as well as Gell is that the ida ritualdoes indeed have an exegesis. The Yafarhave." and so Juilleratis able to offer the closest thing to comparativetestimony. It might be supposed that the ethographicfact of secrecy-interpretation itself regarded as a scarce and precious commodity-would subsume the substanceof Brunton'sethnosociology at a single stroke. The claim that a ritualtraditionhas no exegesis was made also by Barth."I subsequentlyestablishedthat the smallest ritualdetails (beforeandduringthe public ceremony).the ball. 732). that exegetical material concerningthe ida is consciously withheld. is an invisibleone-for whatis moresecretthanthe traffic in secret knowledge'?Barth's monographis very much a treatise on the sociological and epistemological implications of this sort of invisible tennis. as an established fact. p. on the basis of his own field experience. immediate neighbors of Gell's Waina-Sowanda (Ume- da). andraises the issue of ritual difficulties in resolving an interpretation secrecy. and. the unityandconsistency of Gell's mistakeis not. p. that there was no exegesis (16.RITUAL AS COMMUNICATIONIN MELANESIA 149 categorizationwas made?Is not social categorizationas much of a problemas ritual categorization? The next contributionto the exchange is that of BernardJuillerat. thathe "exaggerated" the Umeda world picture (p. the briefestof spells. Why graphcontinua of organizationalcomplexity in relation to the competitive dynamic of complementaritywhen the subjects of study themselves manipulate"order"conAnd if this puts the sciously in the neatly packagedform of exegetical secrets'? ball of religious order and sociological competition squarely in the "natives" court. accordingto Juillerat( 16. adoptedthe ida from the Umeda "some time ago. According to Juillerat. having alreadydecided. and the natureand the mineralor botanical identity of the materialsused. all referredsystematicallyto certaindetailsof chronologicalnarrative expressedin the myth" (14.

at this point. but he also seems to favor a sociological as opposed to a strictlysymbolic approach. not mine.in his responseto Juillerat. 735). Gell defends his lack of awarenessof. Brunton's remarksindicatethatJuilleratis ignoringempiricalevidence thatthis is not the case-the evidence being the sociological readingsBruntonis able to make of ostensible intersocietalvariationin Melanesia. with correctlyrelatingsecrecy to complementarymale/female competition.and Ullmanthatenterinto his involved effort to make sense of the ida. against Juillerat'sposition. and he tracesthe crux of theirdifferences to Juillerat'ssubscriptionto the assumptionthat there is "a basic humanneed to develop comprehensiveand consistentresponses to what we might see as fundamentalexistential questions" (5.) Before I follow up on this most significant matterof secrecy. He credits Juillerat. essentially. p. it might be helpful to consider Gell's rejoinder to both Brunton and Juillerat. that the differences between Brunton and Juilleratarethose of sociology as againstsymbolic interpretation. ForBrunton. The point is importantenough to compel an immediaterejoinder:what are the theoretical implicationsof a secret. 734). in fact. He takes Juillerat's part. or rapport with. in a comment that bears significantly on the issue at hand: It would be Juillerat'saccount. but that the system is itself extremely systematic and ordered. p. however. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Such an approach proposes.150 WAGNER Brunton. as he ida is to be found in local mythologicallore. and begs every conceivable interesting analytical question (10. which would be parochialor mystical"if. a judicious observer might wish to point out that it was Juillerat who provided the empirical evidence-both the fact of a secret exegesis and some specific details-here. Data. the "explanation's makes of every culture a windowlcss monad.remarksthatthis sortof secret exegesis is just exactly the sort of thing that his sociological interpretationof the Umeda/Yafar would lead us to expect-do they not belong to the "highly side of the continuum?He accuses Juilleratof implicitlydenying that ordered" there are substantialvariationsamong Melanesian societies in "the extent to which secrecy is stressed and maintained"(5. this comes down to why religious materialis controlled. It is clear. and thatthis was evidence of which Bruntonwas ignorantwhen he formulated his initial position. which follows Brunton's comments (10. p. p. 736). Gell castigates Brunton for making "broken-backed" argumentto the effect that he (Gell) is guilty of oversystematizingthe Umeda symbolic system.Gell uses the extremesecrecy of Juillerat'sreported exegesis. Turner. 736-37). as against Brunton. no matter how significant or revealing. are not theory. and that "Withthis recognitionthere also This content downloaded on Wed. mythologicalexegetical tradition'? Gell suggests that they are sociological and political. the native exegetical traditionby appealingto received theory-the "applications" of L6vi-Strauss. (However.

IN MELANESIA RITUAL AS COMMUNICATION 151 follows . and communicationin areas where verbal articulationis This content downloaded on Wed." (1." Addressing himself to "spontaneous. and that it is primarilybased on nonverbalcommunication:"in such a world. and the first serious anthropologicalassessment. something to be secret? And it is Gell himself who draws our attentionto Barth's monographon this issue. so let me consider it now. provided the first monographictreatment. that Baktamanritual has no exegesis. 737). whateverelse might be said of it. of the remarkablesecret initiatorycomplex of the "Mountain Ok"peoples in its full implication. . 229).He was at the time a highly experiencedfieldworker.Even thoughthe work is addressedto what its authorcalls "TheEpistemologyof Secrecy"(1. it is questionablehow much objective eavesdroppingcould have accompaniedthe in the entireinitiatoryseries. p. pp. thoughit is clearthatBarthspenta considerable amountof time traveling. p. Barthdifferentiateshimself methodologically and theoretically from what is usually called "symbolic anthropology. has the status of professional rumor (though it is an unknown that both Bruntonand Juillerat comment upon).a small and isolated community of Faiwol speakers in New Guinea. is perhapsless useful thanGell's remarkssuggest: how can therebe a secret without a content. . not surprisingauthor'sparticipation ly. . . 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .) Barthfinds. pp. p. 224-25). however.he seeks to free his studyfromthe conversationsof Baktaman of the "feedback" contamination structures engenderedwhen an anthropologist informantinterviews (1. unelicited word and act" and to the with one another. . an ongoing system of communication. uncontaminated"emic" presumesvery muchon the linguisticandkinesthetic"fluency"a fieldworkeris aptto achieve in the eleven-monthrangeBarthallows for his fieldwork. What is to be contaminatedin such a world?Unless the nonverbalmeaningsareto be directlyor would seem to requiremuch more telepathicallyintuited. Ritual and Knowledge among the Baktamanof New Guinea. 217) and addresses itself at the outset to culture as ". but that it is secret" (10. 6-7). only 'real objects' persist while communicationis by definition ephemeral"(1. background. The actuallength of Barth'sfield researchamongthe Baktaman. a general devaluation of the explanatoryvalue of such secret is not what is knowledge. their understanding care. Barth's preface speaks of "fieldwork during JanuaryNovember 1968"(1. Grantingthe ethnographerboth points (the force and effect of nonverbalcommunicationhas been and undervaluedin much Melanesianresearch)only seriously underestimated serves to make his methodology the more questionable. such a search for the pure. If it is possible at all. and perhapsthereforeof symbolics from politics. (And if a good bit of fluency were not present by the second or third month. 15). for it is patentlyobvious thatwhat is most important secret. p. . Separationof content from status.

So are the "secrets"that seem to be focal in Baktamanmagic.152 WAGNER possible.which Barth seems to advocate. and for the same reasons. however. in Appendix III) is just precisely verbal and mythical knowledge. myths. as Barth insists (and as Gell asserts for the Umeda) without exegesis? Fortunately.at Imigabip(13). and ritualunderstanding-names. in that it seems to have reversed the order of contamination. he is documentingthe operationof a powerful indigenouspraxis for controllingand compelling the collective..Instead of inadvertantlycommunicatingthe overstructurings and biases of the anthropologist to his informants.fromthe general standpointof communication. as a considerable amount of field research has occurredtheresince Barth'svisit.. Is therea vital core of exegesis in Baktaman or Faiwol culture. When Barth tells us that Baktamancollectivities are "poorly constituted and conceptualized. very sparingly.some comparativeevidence exists for the "Mountain Ok" area. is a kind of "dumbbarter"of quizzical tokens.he appearsto have internalized their communicative constraints.protectedas a vital secretagainstall comers? Or are the Baktaman. The alternative. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . commonpremisesandsharedknowledgebetweenpersonsin intimate interaction"(1. most of the findings are as yet unpublishedand remain in dissertationform. With very few exceptions. p. BarbaraJones spent two years with a largerand somewhat more acculturated groupof Faiwol speakersthanthe Baktaman. Thus it is not the undervaluingof verbal communication that animates Baktamanritual. andits delineationof an integralambivalencein Faiwol cultureis also reminiscentof Barth's descrip- This content downloaded on Wed. 264-65). is the absence of . pp. . conventional understandings that they convey will retain their centralityand significance. but a cult of secrecy that assures that words and the shared. This also seems to be the way the Baktaman epistemology operates:the scarce good (which Barthprovides. emphasizes the outward and experiential effects of this control ratherthan providing insights or explanationsregardingits manipulation. however. . and that "the striking fact . its content will remain uncommunicatedin the same way. for Juillerat'scommentson Umeda secrecy mightbe extendedto the Baktamanas well. Barth'stheoreticalandmethodologicalstanceis interesting. 25). It is practically inevitable then that however eloquent his evocation of thefact of secrecy." that patrilineal exogamous clans "emerge more as a by-productof certaincult activities"that manifest membershipand solidarity obliquely through ritual (1. A self-imposedtaboo on verbalproliferation makes the verbalmessages one is able to overhearvery precious. that the Faiwol themselves curtail communication. than verbal meanings. At least two dissertations address the issue of communication centrally. A parallelwith Gell's work suggests itself here. Her accountis no less emphaticthanBarth'son the subjectof secrecy. His account. and mythic details-all of them in words. power.

8). but they exert a debilitatingor lethal effect on those who keep them (12). gives a good indicationof just exactly where the exegetical traditionmay be. a powerful negative image of society as society with no higher motivating principle"(13. But whereas the Baktamanseem largely to be missing a sense of shared convention. He received permission to publish the material. This possibility bears significant implicationsfor our assumptionsregarding the autonomyof culturalmeanings. including government officials. Insofaras the Faiwol. mythologicalcorpus. in fact. the case can be made that the ritual exegesis for a numberof discreet ethnic units has been maintainedas an exclusive secret at Telefolip. above all. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .which appearedin 1981 (14). the same "scale"of communication-that of the exposition and analyticalpenetrationof culturalmeaning-as the anthropologist's account of it. and hence to the well-being of the community. The initiatoryritual is concerned with the and is exclusively male. and a number of Telefol. although acquiredamonga largerandmorenearly"acculturated" community. and is impressive by any philosophical standard. comprisinga series of revelations. the Imigabiphave. and it is incorporatedin his dissertation. it must be a well-kept secret indeed. The exegesis. as well as most other peoples in the "MountainOk" region. Jones's informants among the elder cult-house guardians told her that they were "cowboys. Fundamentalist elements had set in motion an effort to destroy the "pagan"complex (they did not. . Jones's evidence.represents a greater degree of ambivalence and uncertaintythan Barth's! If there is a Faiwol exegesis at all. and the communication takes the form of a revelation of exegetical interpretation concerningcentralculturalmeaningsby elders to ritualnovices. . wroughtthe collective into what Jones calls ". p. Somewhat after the conclusion of his initial fieldworkin 1979. were concernedto preservetheirheritage." drawinga conscious parallelbetween the dangerouslife of a Westerngunman in films they had seen and the dangersthey incurredin protectingcult-house relics. Taken altogether.and it would also tendto confirmJuillerat's commentary on Gell's material. .Jorgensenwas able to accomplishthis. succeed). communicamoral. In this context. These are absolutely essential to the growth of taro. tive. . Jorgensenwas requestedby the elders to returnto Telefolip recordof the relics. Bruntonseems to thinkthatwe can 'explain' the symbolic This content downloaded on Wed.in other words. recognizethe primacyof the Telefolip motherhouse and send youths to its initiations.RITUAL AS COMMUNICATIONIN MELANESIA 153 tion. is transformative. Jorgensenadds a commentaryon Brunton'sposition to the Man exchange:". at Telefolip. in their insidious biis witchcraft. Dan Jorgensen'sdissertation. encompasses the serial negation of the symbolic premises of Telefol culture. andexegetand preparea permanent Christian ical doctrineof the motherhouse.basedon extensive researchwith elders of the acknowledged"motherhouse"of the initiatory(bani)system for the entireStar Mountainsregion. It represents. It is.

a matterof categories in confutationratherthan groups in competition. For whetherthe anthropologist's communication is presented as sociology or epistemology. representationof human creativity. . 474). when it comes down to and Mountain Ok converge at this secrecy (and the Waina-Sowanda/Yafar point). and obscure the dynamic. "becoming"aspects of its enactment. that"order" can be construedin Melanesianreligion. is itself the process of construingorder. in which he criticizes Gell in particularfor adherence to a rigid structural model. For Melanesianreligion. 471). is apt to projectacademic standardsonto ritual. The "sociology" that Gell and Brunton invoke is an epiphenomenonof cultural categorization. Johnson stresses the importanceand effect of analytical models. Jorgensen. Johnson'spoint is a cogent one. If ritual is understoodto be transformative-the productionof a social status or a cosmological state-then only the last of these three alternatives does justice to thatfact. logically integratedmodel. then. 471). and disorder." and suggests that Gell's work will be rememberedmore for its exegesis of the idaIthan for any contributionit might make to general sociology (15. whetheror not the anthropologist intendshis meaningsto replicatethe indigenoussense of a ritual. and notes that"Theproblemof 'order'in Melanesianceremonialinstitutionsis one thatderives almostentirely fromthe models used by anthropologists to present their research findings" (1 1. p. . A final word in the exchange is RagnarJohnson's review of the discussion. in other words. Forotherwise. p." or "politics."Secrecy is.154 WAGNER realm with reference to the political (never clearly defined)-presumably because political relations are in some sense prior to or more 'real' than of the world"( 15. the production(and the creativity)is that of the anthropologistalone. The anthropologist may represent the creativityof the ritualas the staticartifactof his own creativity. and Johnson correctly. A tight. This content downloaded on Wed. and whether it presents the natives' understandingof a ritual or some order or it deals with the scheme presumedto explain or determinethatunderstanding. He criticizes Gell for retreating into ". p. or he may use his creativityto communicatesomethingof the creativityof the ritual.he may attribute thatartifactto the nativecultureitself. Jorgensen's criticism also strikesto the core of the exchange. "Theonly sense in which religious understandings differentials in cult lore are political is simply by definition. it scarcely matterswhether one refers to "religion. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . can be misconstruedin as many ways as it It would seem. a stylised affirmation of sociological faith." "sociology. as an inherentor determinative "order". p. perhaps.the politics of meaning. however incisive or insightfulit may be. by equating esoteric knowledge with secular power" (15. if we are to understandBarth. 471).

correspondence. R.R. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 8. Douglas. Turner. 1979. correspondence. ed. Jorgensen. 1980. 1980. Jones. 1966. Brunton. J. Metamorphosis of the Cassowaries. N.R. Barth. and Religion. British Columbia. 1958. Rappaport. Purity and Danger. Halpin. Bateson. Bateson. Stanford: StanfordUniv. correspondence. B. G. Consuming society: Food and illness among the Faiwol. Natural Symbols. 1975. Douglas. Press 18. M. Charlottesville 14. 1980. Johnson. Univ. 1980. Univ. New Haven: Yale Univ. 1983. Rappaport.R. 1975. Being an essence: among the EastTotemic representation ern Bororo. D.. Calif: North Atlantic Books 19. British ColumbiaPress 7. Crumrine. PhD thesis. F. 1979. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Man (NS) 15(4):735-37 Man 11. New York: Bantam orderin 4. Gell. (NS) 15(4):732-34 17. Juillerat. correspondence. B. Jones. D. Misconstrued Melanesian religion. Taro and arrows: Order. PhD thesis. Vancouver: Univ. Ithaca:Cornell Univ. 1981. 1979. entropy.V. 1981. correspondence.B. Press 3. Pigs for the Ancestors. Ecology. Press This content downloaded on Wed. 16 Jan 2013 08:28:00 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1967. Ritual and Knowledge among the Baktaman of New Guinea. Richmond. A. W. M. New York: RandomHouse 9. Jorgensen. Vancouver 15. Naven. (NS) 15(4):734-35 6. 1973. Crocker. M. New Haven: Yale Univ. Gell. Press 2. C. 1981. A. G.IN MELANESIA RITUAL AS COMMUNICATION 155 LiteratureCited 1. 1980. In The Power of Symbols: Maskaand Masqueradein theAmericas. 1975. Brunton. Personalcommunication 13. Man (NS) 16(3):470-72 Man 16.R. Va. Man (NS) 15(1):112-28 Man 5.R. and religion among the Telefolmin. (NS) 16(3):472-74 12. London: Athlone 10. RevelationandDivinationin NdembuRitual. Meaning.

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