They Make Themselves - Work and Play among the Baining of Papua New Guinea

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This study describes the daily existence of the Baining people of Papua New Guinea, who present a challenge to anthropologists because of their apparent lack of a cultural or social structure. The Baining are small-scale cultivators, who seem devoid of the complex belief systems and social practices which characterize other traditional peoples of Papua New Guinea. Their daily existence is mundane and repetitive in the extreme, articulated by only the most elementary familial relationships and social connections. The routine of life is, however, punctuated by stunningly beautiful festivals of masked dancers, which the Baining call play, and to which they attribute no symbolic significance. In this study Jane Fajans argues that the Baining define themselves not through intricate cosmologies or social networks, but through the meanings generated by their own productive and reproductive work.

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The University of Chicago Press
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