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Type: Thesis
Title: Gender, mobility and population history : exploring material culture distributions in the Upper Sepik and Central New Guinea.
Author: Fyfe, Andrew
Issue Date: 2009
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences : Geographical and Environmental Studies
Abstract: New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse region in the world. There are over 1000 languages found there, reflecting a complex history of migration and interaction. The Upper Sepik is one of New Guinea’s most linguistically heterogeneous areas but because the area has not been marked by the significant population movement and intense and far-reaching exchange systems apparent for some parts of New Guinea, this diversity may be more indicative of processes that maintain rather than lead to linguistic diversity. Accordingly, the region may offer great potential for those investigating population histories. With this potential in mind ethnographers went into the Upper Sepik during the 1960s and 1970s with the intention of making representative material culture collections for the language groups found there. These collections combine to be, arguably, one of the most fine-grained material culture datasets that exist for New Guinea. This thesis describes the manner in which these collections were documented and used to create a dataset to test for relationships between material culture and language. It begins with an overview of the study area including descriptions of the geography, environments, subsistence systems, settlement structures and social patterns, including an appraisal of marriage exchange, ritual, trade and warfare and how these may have facilitated or inhibited the spread of culture. This appraisal leads to an assertion that the sociality and mobility of men and women are affected differentially by such mechanisms, and that material culture belonging to men and women may differentially reflect population histories and the social processes that underpin the evolution of linguistic diversity. The thesis then describes a round of analytical procedures used to test for relationships between language and attributes belonging to string bags and arrows which are respectively and exclusively produced by women and men. Associations between languages, measured in terms of their material culture similarity, are then compared to those determined according to their linguistic family relationship and their relative positions in geographical space. The analysis also tests whether differences in the way that women and men socialise and move through space influence the way in which material culture patterns through space. The thesis concludes that attributes of classes of material culture are distributed differently for objects made by men compared to those made by women, that distance seems to be a stronger factor than language, and that environmental factors are also relevant. This study foreshadows ongoing research involving the dataset.
Advisor: Hugo, Graeme John
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2009
Subject: Ethnology Methodology.
Ethnology Papua New Guinea.
Sociolinguistics Papua New Guinea.
Language and culture Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea Languages.
Keywords: Upper Sepik; Central New Guinea; cultural transmission; material culture; gender
Provenance: 2 volume set.
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