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Review Of Edward Schieffelin’s The Sorrow Of The Lonely And The Burning Of The Dancers

1319 words - 6 pages

Review of Edward Schieffelin’s The Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of the Dancers.
Edward Schieffelin’s The Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of the Dancers is an ethnography that gives an insightful description of the Kaluli forest people of Papua New Guinea. The book ethnography material was collected over two year’s research undertaken in Papua New Guinea by the author. The comprehensive work comprises of various rites, ties, beliefs, customs and bodies of knowledge. In the book, Schieffelin further focuses on the various modes of organizations of the Kaluli people in terms of language and societal structure. The book captures the writer’s existential philosophical perception of ...view middle of the document...

The Gisaro dances are used to pass down the traditions and customs that have continued to govern the behavior of the Kaluli people (McInnes, 24). There is social control which is dependent on the informal justice of compensation and punishment. A guilty individual is required to compensate aggrieved parties. The belief in spirits also accentuates morality among the Kaluli where the spirits are said to punish or extend super natural sanctions to those who do not adhere to the communal culture codes and morals.
Anger is another that is exhibited in this anthropological work through the Gisaro dance. The dancers from the longhouses use their songs to inflame passions of anger. The dancers through their songs remind the community members of their dead kin and friends. Conflict is aroused through insinuations of witchcraft, raids, and cannibalism. Edward Schieffelin’s The Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of the Dancers also shows the extent to which anger leads to the hosts of the dancers to burn them. The successful evoking of the deep-seated sad memories of the dead by a Gisaro dancer during occasions such as weddings makes the longhouse men to burn him down (Scieffelin, 134). Arousing feelings of anger is one of the prime goals of the Gisaro dancer as expounded by Schieffelin.
Responsibility is exhibited through the different levels of social command and organization. The elders are the most influential when it comes to the communal matters. Schieffelin notes that elders mostly men are deemed wise and versed with traditional knowledge that is instrumental in governing the different social groups (Marcus et al., 17). However, their influence is at times overruled by group action, which is carried out by any male that successfully enlists supporters for his desired course. Each section of the community has its defined roles such as women and girls are defined as the homemakers while men as the breadwinners and home protectors. The spirits too have the responsibility of enhancing social balance through divine compensation and discipline among Kaluli members.
Opposition as a theme features throughout this anthropological manuscript. The Kaluli oppositions according to Edward Schieffelin’s The Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of the Dancers is linked to theft of women or wealth and vengeance of deaths. The Gisaro dance portrays opposition between hosts and visitors who happen to be dancers in ceremonies. The emotions evoked during the various ceremonies that Gisaro dance takes place lead to oppositions and conflict that leads to burning of visiting dancers. There is also opposition between various communal groups such as males and females, animals and humans. The differentiation of these groups shows opposition in terms of thinking, social conditioning, and perception of the world.
Masculinity is a major element that is rife in the Kaluli way of life. It values the abrupt and independent forceful reactions that are made possible by males...

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