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Ref ID: 22583
Ref Type: Book Section
Authors: van Oosterhout, Dianne
Title: Constructing bodies, constructing identities: nature and kinship ties in a Papuan society
Date: 2007
Source: Kinship and food in South East Asia
Place of Publication: Copenhagen, Denmark
Publisher: NIAS
Notes: Introduction: In Inanwatan, a community in the Bird's Head area of Indonesia's easternmost province, Papua, identity concepts are focused predominately on the body. Shared origins and shared bodily substance define identity and the borders of the patrilineal kinship group or community. The construction of shared substance takes place at the kinship level through the exchange of bodily substances and other types of 'food,' of nurturing substance. Nurture relations including the exchange of sexual substances, are at the basis of the construction of related bodies in Inanwatan, and these are capable of overpowering blood relationships. Lineal kin is constructed and perpetuated through a chain of such nurture relations. Affinal ties are downplayed in the process, diminishing the influence of female blood and of women and wife-givers in general. In this chapter I will show how bodies are reproduced, constructed and deconstructed, and finally reconstructed in a new cycle of life, forging kinship ties across generational and social borders through the construction of communal flesh. Alongside this process, then, kinship and communal identity are shaped and reproduced. The consumption and exchange of sago and sago-like substances (semen) play a profound role in this identity-generating process. After providing some idea of the context in which the Inanwatan people live and relate to each other, I will discuss Inanwatan notions of the body, of reproduction in general, and of the construction of bodies. It is essential to gain some insight into these notions if we want to understand Inanwatan kinship relations.
Date Created: 4/13/2015
Editors: Janowski, Monica
Kerlogue, Fiona
Volume: 38
Page Start: 170
Page End: 195
Series Title: NIAS Studies in Asian Topics