In the New Guinea Highlands the concert of pollution is utilized rather narrowly by anthropologists within the context of male/female relations and intersexual opposition; as such it has come to signify the capacity women have to endanger and contaminate males. Various structural features such as the separation of the sexes, male initiation ceremonies, and secret cults are commonly cited as evidence of the dangerous effects of females on males. In this paper I demonstrate that pollution beliefs cannot be reduced to a simplistic male/female dichotomy, as previously maintained in the literature, for such an opposition has no overall relevance for an understanding of pollution beliefs in the Highlands. The ability to contaminate another is a transitory phenomenon that is not transmitted solely along sex lines; it is neither a capacity residing only in women, nor are all women considered polluting. Instead, pollution beliefs must be viewed as embedded in a larger system of ideas concerning the life process itself.
"The Mask of Janus: A Re-analysis of the Concept of Pollution in the New Guinea Highlands,"
1, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/nexus/vol2/iss1/2