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Barkcloth, reproduction and the expansion of endogamous polities in Natewa

Colchester, C; (1999) Barkcloth, reproduction and the expansion of endogamous polities in Natewa. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis presents original data about the management, reproduction and presentation of barkcloth imagery in rituals which have actively extended corporate polities in Natewa. Systems of knowledge management, based upon controlling access to printed imagery which emanates from ceremonial `trees', are shown to be an integral part of life-cycle rites. The material and formal attributes of leaf stencils define the differential relation between the control and release of the knowledge of named imagery . Thus it is revealed that prestige goods systems hinge upon the control of intellectual property. Three distinct institutions of barkcloth have flourished successively in Natewa over the past 150 years. Research conducted in the Lau islands by Kooijman (1976) and A. M Hocart (1911) provides comparative data of the standardisation and distribution of imagery and knowledge pertaining to one of these institutions. It is proposed that the institution of masi is an historical phenomenon - one of several technical-cum-ritual solutions for consolidating endogamous expansion in a highly competitive milieu. Prior to the ossification of the kovukovu system of land transfer endogamous expansion was achieved through the strategic incorporation of personnel and parcels of land from pre-inhabited territories. Contemporary observation of rites of divestment, together with oral data and recent ethnohistorical research into pre-colonial polities, suggests that expansion was achieved through the export of women of rank from the main chiefly centres and the import of women from subaltern polities. It is argued that masi enabled the displacement of women to serve the purpose of expansion. Masi was instrumental in both the extension and the rupture of ancestral agency, playing a key part in the conversion of exogamy into endogamy. Why masi serves as a vehicle for the transfer of agency emerges from the analysis of death rites. The study of contemporary fimdraisings shows that masi has come to play a new role in endogamous expansion from Natewa.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Barkcloth, reproduction and the expansion of endogamous polities in Natewa
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10123880
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