The Anthropology of Morality in Melanesia and Beyond  book cover
1st Edition

The Anthropology of Morality in Melanesia and Beyond

Edited By

John Barker

ISBN 9781138266216
Published November 15, 2016 by Routledge
258 Pages

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Book Description

The Anthropology of Morality in Melanesia and Beyond examines how Melanesians experience and deal with moral dilemmas and challenges. Taking Kenelm Burridge’s seminal work as their starting point, the contributors focus upon public situations and types of people that exemplify key ethical contradictions for members of moral communities. While returning to some classical concerns, such as the roles of big men and sorcerers, the book opens new territory with richly textured ethnographic studies and theoretical reviews that explore the interface between the values associated with indigenous village life and the ethical orientations associated with Christianity, the state, the marketplace, and other facets of ’modernity'. A major contribution to the emerging field of the anthropology of morality, the volume includes some of the most prominent scholars working in the discipline today, including Bruce Knauft, Joel Robbins, F.G. Bailey, Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: the anthropological study of morality in Melanesia, John Barker; Part I Moral Exemplars in Village Society: Morality, politics and the Melanesian big man: on The Melanesian Manager and the transformation of political anthropology, Joel Robbins; When is it moral to be a sorcerer?, Doug Dalton. Part II The Morality of Modernity: Moral exchange and exchanging morals: alternative paths of cultural change in Papua New Guinea, Bruce M. Knauft; All sides now: the postcolonial triangle in Uiaku, John Barker; Reconfiguring amity at Ramu Sugar Ltd, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz. Part III New Men and New Women: Changing minds : hysteria and the history of spirit mediumship in Telefolmin, Dan Jorgensen; Morals and missionary positionality: Diyos of Duranmin, Roger Ivar Lohmann; 'In the way' in Melanesia: modernity and the new woman in Papua New Guinea as Catholic missionary sister, Nancy C. Lutkehaus. Part IV Beyond Melanesia: Homo anthropologicus in aboriginal Australia: 'secular missionaries', Christians and morality in the field, Robert Tonkinson; Reaching for the absolute, F.G. Bailey; Epilogue, Kenelm Burridge; Bibliography; Index.

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John Barker is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He has published extensively on the history of Christian missionaries and contemporary indigenous Christianity in Oceania and British Columbia, including the edited book, Christianity in Oceania (1990). His most recent book is Ancestral Lines: The Maisin of Papua New Guinea and the Fate of the Rainforest (2007).


’Over the past century, anthropologists working in Melanesia have produced more than their fair share of major contributions to anthropological theory and social scientific debates. In this excellent collection, John Barker has gathered a first rate line up of scholars who further the trend. Returning to Kenelm Burridge's seminal work, the contributors raise issues that are sure to excite, enlighten and provoke not only Melanesianists, but all those interested in conceptions of morality.’ Matthew Engelke, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK ’A touchstone concept in the anthropology of morality, obligation permeates people’s lives around the world. Readers of this book will find unique insights into moral dilemmas of obligation in leadership, gender relations, Christian belief, utopianism, and in exchange relations in development schemes. It provides scholars with a rich account of the contributions of Melanesian ethnography to our understanding of morality as a matter of meeting obligations.’ Karen Sykes, University of Manchester, UK 'The Anthropology of Morality in Melanesia and Beyond is clearly underpinned by in-depth knowledge of the region, based on extensive fieldwork...the book is successful in both applying and extending key ideas from Burridge to the ever-changing postcolonial societies of Melanesia.' Island studies Journal 'The compilation of studies motivated by the work of Kenelm Burridge and edited by John Baker, succeeds in maintaining the focus of morality in Melanesia and a high quality of scholarship is a book well worth having. Certainly, it is a volume well worth reading' Anthropos 'This ethnographic collection is a valuable contribution to the study of religion and morality in Oceania and will be useful for those in the developing field of comparative religious ethics.' Religious Studies Review ’John Barker’s edited volume is a fascinating and ethnographically rich collection of research from