The Trobriands are a group of islands off the southeast coast of New Guinea. The famous Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski conducted extensive fieldwork there during the First World War, and published a number of major works on their traditional culture. Malinowski's magnum opus 'Argonauts of the Western Pacific' concerns the traditional exchange network known as the Kula ring, in which the Trobriand Islands played a central role.

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Traditional Culture(1865-1890)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, but not a major focus of worship (Source)
Malinowski (1995), pp. 100-101
Seligmann (1910), pp. 733-735
Malinowski (1922), pp. 58, 72-73, 393-463
Young (1979), pp. 204-242
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 733-735
Malinowski (1922), pp. 58, 72-73, 393-463
Young (1979), pp. 204-242
Ancestral spirits Present, and the principal focus of worship (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 56-57, 72-73
Deified ancestor(s) Present, but not a major focus of worship (Source)
Malinowski (1916)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 733-735
Malinowski (1922), pp. 58, 72-73, 393-463
Young (1979), pp. 204-242
God(s) Absent (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 733-735
Malinowski (1922), pp. 58, 72-73, 393-463
Young (1979), pp. 204-242

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Malinowski (1916), pp. 379-380

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions while living do not affect the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 733
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions of others after one has died are the principal determinant of the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Senft (2011), pp. 17
Malinowski (1916), pp. 360-361
Myth of humanity’s creation Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1926), pp. 36-59
Malinowski (1927), pp. 108-110
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1926), pp. 36-59
Malinowski (1927), pp. 108-111
Culture hero(es) Present, but not a major focus of worship (Source)
Malinowski (1927), pp. 111
Malinowski (1995), pp. 70-75, 101
Malinowski (1922), pp. 58, 72-73, 393-463
Seligmann (1910), pp. 733-735
Young (1979), pp. 204-242

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 394

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 87, 94
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Malinowski (1995), pp. 67, 111, 112
Social hierarchy tapu Absent (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 694
Malinowski (1995), pp. 78
Weiner (1988), pp. 18

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 257
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 257
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 66
Costly sacrifices and offerings Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1916), pp. 398
Malinowski (1995), pp. 63
Young (1979), pp. 204-242
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 665-669
Political and religious differentiation Considerable overlap between religious and political leaders (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 59, 63-66
Malinowski (1995), pp. 12, 64

Rites

Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Norick (1976), pp. 175
Seligmann (1910), pp. 704-709
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 663, 704-709
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 663
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 663
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 663, 704-709
Social Environment +
Population 8000 (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 348
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 660-662
Malinowski (1922), pp. 57, 477
Young (1979), pp. 45
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 350
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 350
Kinship system Crow (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 349
Polygamy Monogamy preferred, but exceptional cases of polygyny (Source)
Malinowski (1929), pp. 130
Marital residence Avunculocal - with husband's mother's brother's kin (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 350

Conflict

Conflict within communities Low (Source)
Weiner & Beierle (1933), pp. 7
Conflict between communities of the culture Common, at least every five years (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 66, 67
Weiner & Beierle (1933), pp. 7
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 663-665
Malinowski (1920)
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 29-31
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 18.9 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map 17 of Papua New Guinea) (2014)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 5045.0 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Ethnologue (Map 17 of Papua New Guinea) (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief, and culture is unlikely to have had contact with Hindu or Buddhist societies at or prior to to the time focus in question. (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Islamic influence on supernatural belief, and culture is unlikely to have had contact with Islamic societies at or prior to the time focus in question. (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Christian influence on supernatural belief, but culture is known to have had (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Seligmann (1910), pp. 681
Young (1979), pp. 26-28
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 27
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 27
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 27
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 27

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 7
Young (1979), pp. 27
Malinowski (1922), pp. 67-68
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Young (1979), pp. 27
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 67-68
Villeminot (1974), pp. 7
Young (1979), pp. 27

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Major (Source)
Malinowski (1921), pp. 13-14
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Four or more (Source)
Weiner & Beierle (1933)
Ethnologue (Map 17 of Papua New Guinea) (2014)

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -8.5 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map 17 of Papua New Guinea) (2014)
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 151.1 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map 17 of Papua New Guinea) (2014)
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Atoll (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 11
Island Size (km²) 290.5 (Source)
Heatwole (1975), pp. 2
Maximum elevation (meters) 46.0 (Source)
Heatwole (1975)
Post Contact History(1890-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a bottom-up process, although those in power showed little or no reluctance. (Source)
Senft (1997), pp. 48
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Senft (1997)
Villeminot & Villeminot (1967), pp. 93-94
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Barker (1992), pp. 33
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 33

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Senft (1997)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 113
Immigration Absent (Source)
Lepani (2007)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 20
Weiner (1988), pp. 20
Language shift Low (Source)
Senft (2011), pp. 101
Foreign education systems High (Source)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 111-112

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
McCarthy (2013), pp. 63
Weiner (1988), pp. 24
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Connelly (2007), pp. 17
McCarthy (2012), pp. 165

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present but rarely used (Source)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 146
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
McCarthy (2013), pp. 24
Sea port Absent (Source)
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009), pp. 168
McCarthy (2012), pp. 29

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely voluntary (Source)
Weiner & Beierle (1933), pp. 2
Weiner (1988), pp. 19-20, 25
Connelly (2007), pp. 15
Loss of political autonoomy Medium (Source)
Weiner & Beierle (1933), pp. 1
Villeminot & Villeminot (1967), pp. 44
Weiner (1988), pp. 19-20, 25
Connelly (2007), pp. 15-16
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Institutional religious syncretism Low (Source)
Senft (1997), pp. 53
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 33
External Links
References
Barker, J. (1992). Christianity in Western Melanesian Ethnography. In J. Carrier, (Ed.), History and Tradition in Melanesian Anthropology (pp 144-173). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Connelly, A. J. (2007). Counting coconuts: Patrol reports from the Trobriand islands Part 1: 1907-1934. (Masters Thesis). California State University, CA.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Mindanao). (2015). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/383601/Mindanao

Ethnologue (Map 17 of Papua New Guinea). (2014). Papua New Guinea, Map 17. Ethnologue. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com/map/PG_17

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Heatwole, H. (1975). Biogeography of reptiles on some of the islands and cays of Eastern Papua-New Guinea. Atoll Research Bulletin, 180.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Lepani, K. (2007). Sovasova and the Problem of Sameness: Converging Interpretive Frameworks for Making Sense of HIV and AIDS in the Trobriand Islands. Oceania, 77 (1), 12-28.

Malinowsi, B. (1922). Argonauts of the Western Pacific: an Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. London, U.K.: Routledge & Sons.

Malinowski, B. (1916). Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 46, 353-430. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection(%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OL06%27)&docId=ol06-006&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP

Malinowski, B. (1920). War and weapons among the natives of the Trobriand Islands. Man, 20, 10-12.

Malinowski, B. (1921). The Primitive Economics of the Trobriand Islanders. The Economic Journal, 31, pp 1-16. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection%28%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OL06%27%29&docId=ol06-008&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP

Malinowski, B. (1927) Sex and Repression in a Savage Society. London, UK: Kegan Paul, Trench,Trubner & Co. Ltd.

Malinowski, B. (1929). The Sexual Life of Savages in Northwestern Melanesia: Vol 1 and 2. New York: Horace Liveright.

Malinowski, B. (1995). Coral gardens and their magic: a study of the methods of tilling the soil and of agricultural rites in the Trobriand Islands. (Volume One, the Description of Gardening). New Haven, CT: HRAF. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection(%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OL06%27)&docId=ol06-002&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP (Originally Published 1935).

Malinowski, B. (1995). Crime and Custom in a Savage Society. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection%28%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OL06%27%29&docId=ol06-004&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP (Originally published 1926).

McCarthy, M. (2012). “Before it Gets Spoiled by Tourists”: Constructing Authenticity in the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. (Doctoral Thesis). University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ.

McCarthy, M. (2013). More than Grass Skirts and Feathers: Negotiating Culture in the Trobriand Islands, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 19(1), 62-77, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2011.637946

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009). World Port Index Nineteenth Edition. Bethesda, MD: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Norick, F.A. (1995). An Analysis of the Material Culture of the Trobriand Islands based upon the Collection of Bronislaw Malinowski. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection%28%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OL06%27%29&docId=ol06-031&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP (Originall Published 1976).

Seligmann, C. G. (1910). The Melanesians of British New Guinea. London: Cambridge University Press

Senft, G. (1997). Magic, Missionaries and Religion: Some Observations from the Trobriand Islands. In Otto, T. & Boorsboom, A. (Eds.) Cultural Dynamics of Religious Change in Oceania, (pp 45-58). Leiden, Netherlands: KILTV Press.

Senft, G. (2011). The Tuma underworld of love: Erotic and other narrative songs of the Trobriand Islanders and their spirits of the dead. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.

Trobriand Islands. (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/319179/Trobriand-Islands

Villeminot, B. P. (1974). La petite fille des mers du sud. France: Editions G. P.

Villeminot, J. & Villeminot, P. (1967). Les seigneurs des mers du sud. France: Robert Laffont

Weiner & Beierle. (1933). Culture Summary: Trobriands. Retrieved from: http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe/fullContext.do?method=fullContext&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection%28%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OL06%27%29&docId=ol06-000&page=ol06-000-00029-001&offsetId=ol0600000030&tocOffsetId=tocol0600000030

Weiner, A. B. (1988). The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Weiner, A.B. (1991). Trobriand Islands. Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Vol. II, pp 348-351). New York, NY: G.K. Hall and Co.

Young, M. W. (1979). The Ethnography of Malinowski. London, U.K.: Routledge & Kegan Paul.