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Women's ritual roles in Matailobau, Fiji islands: The construction of gender and social life.

Author: Diane Michalski Turner; Michigan State University.
Dissertation: Ph. D. Michigan State University 1986
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Microfiche : EnglishView all editions and formats
Publication:Dissertation Abstracts International, 47-07A.
Summary:
This study of Fijian women's ritual roles is based on sixteen months of research in a village in Matailobau, Naitasiri Province. Matailobau is a district in the mountainous wet-zone interior of Viti Levu, the largest of the Fiji Islands. After residing in the village for several months, I became interested in the cultural meanings assigned to the sexes at public events and rituals, and I decided to focus my work on
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Details

Material Type: Thesis/dissertation
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Diane Michalski Turner; Michigan State University.
OCLC Number: 224336209
Notes: (UnM)AAI8625076.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 47-07, Section: A, page: 2640.
Reproduction Notes: Microfiche. Ann Arbor, Mich : University Microfilms International.
Description: 263 pages

Abstract:

This study of Fijian women's ritual roles is based on sixteen months of research in a village in Matailobau, Naitasiri Province. Matailobau is a district in the mountainous wet-zone interior of Viti Levu, the largest of the Fiji Islands. After residing in the village for several months, I became interested in the cultural meanings assigned to the sexes at public events and rituals, and I decided to focus my work on those meanings. I saw in these rituals the assignment of basic conceptions, relationships, and tasks to the sexes, and villagers corroborated them--women serve men, men guide women, and men speak on behalf of women at important functions. An understanding of ritual requires knowledge about other aspects of society and culture; thus, in analyzing these rituals I consider, among other things, Fijian concepts of gender, sexuality, cross-sex siblingship, and social structure.

Although many factors and relationships are brought to bear on this study or women's ritual roles, there is one recurring theme in this work: how women's intercalary position between their agnates and affines yields practical benefits to each category. I describe here a cohabitation ritual, a bisaba, and a funeral ritual. The first celebrates the social creation of a woman; the second honors a new mother and her child; and the last marks the completion of a woman's contribution to affinal relations, when her child's death may affect the link between them. Within these rituals are contained data that add a new dimension to the anthropological discussion of whether women are, are not, or are merely behaving like connubial chattle. Additionally, Fijian conceptions of the sexes are not founded on their respective reproduction roles, and thus, they differ from some anthropological assumptions about sex and gender.

These interpretations of women's roles and meanings are based on at least two observations of each type of ritual and on a knowledge of the broader social and cultural context in which they occurred. I obtained the latter data by participant observation and by collecting genealogies, doing a census, and recording interviews. I spoke with both men and women. Thus, the account, except where indicated otherwise, reflects both men's and women's statements.

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