Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Matthew Cooper
This thesis discusses the relationship between religious phenomenology and the understanding of speech, and of person which is held by the Rauto, a tribal group of Southwest New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The first two ethnographic chapters of the thesis consist of an analysis of Rauto understanding of (1) the "structures of the person"; and (2) a formal genre of speech called amala wauluke which constitutes an extended commentary on notions of person, language and human agency. In the chapters I establish the notion that, in Rauto understanding, speech and song shape experience by both expressing and shaping the nature of the person.
The next two chapters discuss a category of ritual and of song which Rauto call aurang. Aurang is performed during female and male initiation, and during the collective planting of large gardens of taro. The rituals and songs are said to prompt the growth of young men and women, as well as to enhance the growth of the taro crop. During these ritual events the notion that speech and song both express and effect the physical and moral nature of human beings is literally performed. I conclude the thesis by discussing how concepts of human agency and of person color aspects of the Rauto experience of time, place and the life of society.
The thesis reflects a general change in interpretive anthropology's understanding of culture. It is shaped by the view that culture is composed of many different forms of discourse, rather than by many different systems of symbols. In the course of the work I suggest that the view of culture as discourse can make it easier to explain the seeming paradoxes and ambiguities of belief, most especially about order and disorder. The particular contribution of the thesis is to suggest a particular way of looking at the relationship between a people's understanding of the nature of language, and its moral imagination. I argue that Rauto views of language represent ways of interpreting the moral nature and capabilities of people.
Maschio, Thomas Joseph, "Metaphor, Ritual, and Expression: The Person in Rauto Discourse and Ritual Practice" (1989). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1983.