We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Engendering Life: String Objects as a Model of Process, Pattern, and Praxis in Melanesia

BARHAM, LAURA,BANCROFT (2023) Engendering Life: String Objects as a Model of Process, Pattern, and Praxis in Melanesia. Masters thesis, Durham University.



In this thesis, I show that string objects materialize and instantiate social organizing principles in Melanesia. In this region, objects like string figures, bilum bags, and fishing nets are vehicles for thought, where mind and material unite to create a multivalent and interactive model of social and temporal relations. Due to the prevalence and universality of string practices in the region, this model is available to everyone. Social and temporal relations become apparent due to the understanding that string objects possess ‘processuality,’ that the materials of string objects, their (re-)production, and (re-)use are constantly in flux rather than in a state of stasis. Through processuality, string objects convey the relations and circumstances in which desired outcomes should be achieved, prefiguring patterns, processes, and operational sequences which are then instantiated in the social framework. I show that the cognitive and physical processes of string objects in the microcosm make abstract concepts concrete and achievable in social practice by reproducing the same pattern through different levels of social life. I therefore explore how other social activities such as tuber gardening and sexual reproduction produce social cohesion and stability in a similar way to string objects. I argue that string objects are a vehicle through which social actors can conceive of the patterns and processes necessary to sustain life in the macrocosm. Through the coalescence of differentiated and reciprocal labor, string objects make evident the conditions necessary for productivity and efficacy in the social system. In conclusion, I assert that string objects contribute to fundamental understandings of social life in Melanesia.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:string figures, bilums, fishing nets, Melanesia, material culture, process, materiality, model, temporality.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 May 2023 15:29

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter