Habu RoyWagner Resenha

Habu RoyWagner Resenha
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   merican cademy of Religion Habu: The Innovation of Meaning in Daribi Religion by Roy WagnerReview by: Donald R. Tuck Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Dec., 1973), pp. 626-627Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 25/01/2014 06:51 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . Oxford University Press  and  American Academy of Religion  are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to  Journal of the American Academy of Religion. This content downloaded from on Sat, 25 Jan 2014 06:51:54 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  626 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGION Habu: The Innovation of Meaning in Daribi Religion. By RoY WAGNER. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972. xii+186 pages. Maps, tables, figures, and plates. $12.00. L.C. No. 75-188236. Many of the works correlating primitive religion and culture available in America have suffered from extreme types of writing. The first is an intoxication with the exotic, and the other is a static, systematic analysis of presupposed norms. The latter fails to portray the vibrant life of primitive man and sets it aside for a structure that the primitive people themselves would not recognize. Recently, scholarly investigators who have lived among primitive peoples and exper- ienced their culture and religion first-hand have in their writings attempted to avoid over- simplification and have tried to allow the variety of religious expressions to be a part of their reports. These writers have lived among the people long enough to have jumped the barriers of first impressions and experienced a deeper and more sympathetic under- standing of the life style of the people. Roy Wagner carried out his fieldwork among the Daribi, located in the Chimbu District of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, in two periods (1963-1965 and 1968- 1969). Habu is the extension of certain ideas about the Daribi set forth in his earlier book, The Curse of Souw: Principles of Daribi Clan Definition and Alliance in New Guinea (Chicago, 1967). Professor Wagner has attempted in a specialized way to unmask the levels of religious meaning by studying the symbols and metaphors which characterize Daribi life. Comple- mentary metaphors combine into an ideology, and contradictory metaphors give rise to innovations of new meanings and relationships. Meaning cannot properly be understood, he contends, within some closed system, but rather meaning is involved in cultural actions and ideas. Consequently, cultural meaning must be understood as both open-ended and continually changing. His approach is to formulate his theory, use the jargoned tools of his trade, and illustrate the thesis by the data of the Daribi. He attempts to show that the conceptual basis of a culture can never be adequately summed up as a logical ordering or a closed system of internally consistent propositions (p. 10). He is one of a number of symbolically-minded anthropologists who attempt to understand culture as a rather loose cluster of meanings. There are two parts to Wagner's work: (1) ideology and innovation and (2) the invention of immortality. Part 1 discusses a variety of metaphors found in Papuan myths of culture heroes, sex, and fertility (Chapter 1), the social institutions in which the comple- mentary roles of male and female are expressed, the system of exchange or substitution of wealth for human beings (Chapter 2,) the metaphorical structuring of power and influence as they are perceived through magical spells and identity (Chapter 4). It is in Part 2 that Wagner works with the final symbol and metaphor of a life's cycle - death. He begins with a discussion of the ideological framework (complementary metaphors) of mortality by examining the significance of cosmology and spacial con- ceptualization (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 investigates some of the innovations of meanings derived from these ideological investigations, i.e., ghosts, extensions of the soul, sickness, the manifestation of ghostly activities among men, and the corrective ceremonies of curing or divining performed by the religious medium (sogoyezibidi). The final chapter (7), Habu (the mourning ceremonies for the dead), is the climax toward which Wagner directs the thesis of his book. Wagner's emphasis upon metaphors of culture is illustrated by showing how . . . mourning uses the occasion of individual death to express the grief of collective mortality by universalizing the sorrow it produces (p. 145). This content downloaded from on Sat, 25 Jan 2014 06:51:54 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  REVIEWS 627 Although the book is demanding, it carefully reports the results of scholarly investiga- tion and presents the reader with a wide variety of primitive religious phenomena. Some of the collated materials offered within certain chapters are well worth the cost of the book: the tracing of meaning expressed in myths as they spread from one area to another (p. 20), primitive ideas about procreation and growth (p. 40), the economic system of barter and exchange (p. 52), magical formulae (p. 64), dreams (p. 71), transfer of meaning through names (p. 92), causes of sickness (p. 130), performances of the curer (p. 139), and the ideology of death (p. 145). The task of trying to understand Daribi culture from an American world view is arduous, but worth the effort demanded. Not only is the raw material given (literal translations of recorded conversations), but also Wagner gives interpretations of meanings learned from the Daribi. The most compre- hensive material is that which clusters around the metaphors and ideology of death and mourning. His terse remarks about cannibalism (p. 149) offer suggestive additions to discussions relative to ritual identification of the living with the deceased. His correlation of the myth of the habu (p. 153) with the ritual of death as observed among the Daribi will be of interest to those working on this complex and sometimes baffling relationship. Innovation of meanings has given rise to cargo cults in New Guinea. Wagner includes tantalizing data and interpretations about the question of their causes (p. 163). By exploring meaning not only in man's words, but also in signs, gestures, actions, styles of life, and the interdependent relationships of individuals and groups in society, Wagner has given us a book of scholarship and innovation. Maps, charts, diagrams, photo- graphs, and drawings enhance its value. The author's inclusion of some of the Daribi language materials is valuable, although the worth of the translations to the reader varies. Some are literal, nearly unintelligible to a non-Daribi reader; some are more meaningfully translated into English. At least the reader, if he will take the time, can sympathize with the agony of learning a complex primitive language and can grapple with its meaningful metaphors and ideology. Finally, Wagner includes within his materials an admission, which is rare, but so definitely needed. He admits that, after he had investigated several alternative suggestions with informants, he and they were still baffled as to which idea is the correct one, and why is this so? Meaning must be found in a greater cultural context than its verbal expression. Habu is a specialist's book. Its technical jargon and theory presuppose a rather advanced reader. If the reader would begin with the Introduction and then skip over to Chapter 7, Habu, he could come directly to Wagner's thesis and its application. Then he could return to the other cultural materials and their multiple meanings. Although the index is a help, the reader finds that the text expects him to remember quite a number of important technical terms in the Daribi language. A glossary of terms would be most helpful and would enhance the value of this work. Professor Wagner has referred too sketchily to the works of several other scholars interested in the New Guinea people, e.g., R. Gardner, K. G. Heider, and F. E. Williams. One wishes that a few more comparative-contrastive suggestions had been offered by the author. Western Kentucky University DONALD R. TUCK This content downloaded from on Sat, 25 Jan 2014 06:51:54 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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