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(1904)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 72-78
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 72-78
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 72-78
Malinowski (1916)
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 72-78
Malinowski (1916)
God(s) Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 72-78

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Malinowski (1916)

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1916)
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Malinowski (1916)
Myth of humanity’s creation Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1926), pp. 36-59
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1926), pp. 36-59
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Malinowski (1916)

General Features

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

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 54-55
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 71

Mana

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

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 66
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Malinowski (1916)
Largest religious community Larger than a local community, smaller than the society (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 49-78
Malinowski (1916)
Political and religious differentiation Considerable overlap between religious and political leaders (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 49-78

Rites

Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 663, 704-709
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 663
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Norick (1976), pp. 175
Seligman (1910), pp. 704-709
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 663
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 663, 704-709
Social Environment +
Population 8000 (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 348
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 62-69
Weiner (1991), pp. 348
Young (1979)
Importance of Patrilateral descent Low (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 55
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Malinowski (1922), pp. 55
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

(No) external warfare Occasional, at least every generation (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 663-669
Malinowski (1922)
Conflict within community Low (Source)
Weiner (1991), pp. 350
(No) internal warfare Common, at least every five years (Source)
Seligman (1910), pp. 663
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) 36.5 (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 929.0 (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (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 influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Seligman (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 (1988), pp. 10

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

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)
Ziegler & Jacobson (1984)
Maximum elevation (meters) 46.0 (Source)
Heatwole (1975)

Location

Latitude -8.5 (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 151.1 (Source)
Weiner (1988), pp. 10
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1904-2014)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
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
McCarthy (2012), pp. 33
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Barker (1992), 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)
Connelly (2007), pp. 15-16
Loss of political autonoomy Medium (Source)
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

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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.

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

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).

Seligman, C. G. (1910). The Melanesians of British New Guinea. London: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/melanesiansofbri00seli

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. (2019). In Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/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, 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.

Ziegler, C., & Jacobson, D. (1984). How Big is Kiriwina?. Mankind, 14(5), 383-388.