Argonauts of the Western Pacific Background

Argonauts of the Western Pacific Background

Bronislaw Malinowski sought to create new standard and set a new template for way in which anthropological studies were constructed and composed. Inspired by the fiction of Joseph Conrad and the cultural immersion in Frazer’s The Golden Bough, Malinowski essentially single-handedly invented the ethnographical literary form of the fieldwork monograph with Argonauts of the Western Pacific.

By staking out an observer’s role within the sociological culture he was studying—natives of the Tobriand Island—he revealed the meticulousness revelation of detail that could be arrived at through the sheer practice of comparison the foreign to the known and analyzing the differences down to a precise scale. Argonauts of the Western Pacific is no mere broad study of ritual and cult practices, but a detailed and focus examination of the system of trade known as tula which was practiced among the islanders. The central lesson that can be taken from this study is how even a relatively underdeveloped and essentially primitive system of reciprocal trade based on armbands and shell beads could still be inextricably intertwined with the pursuit of status every bit as much as the pursuit of a bigger house and faster car.

Malinowski spent four years immersed in studying the natives of Tobriand Island and in addition to publishing Argonauts of the Western Pacific in 1922, his ethnographies resulting from that time also includes a sociological study of sexuality and family dynamics in The Sexual Life of Savages (1929) and monograph on their agricultural system and is association with magical beliefs in Coral Gardens and Their Magic (1935).

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