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Durham e-Theses
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Warfare in New Guinea a comparative study: a comparative study

Sillitoe, P. (1972) Warfare in New Guinea a comparative study: a comparative study. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Nearly all anthropologists who work in New Guinea comment upon the importance of warfare in the life of the people. This thesis attempts to make a comparative study of primitive war in New Guinea and trace the significance of certain military characteristics in native society. The subject matter of the thesis is divided up into four chapters. The first chapter is a discussion of the comparative method and anthropological theory relating to a study of warfare. After Malinowski (1941), war is defined as organized hostility with the aim of political gain. Primitive war is distinguished from advanced war because in the former, political aims are implicit and war sometimes occurs for reasons which are not political, whereas in the latter, the political aim is always explicit. The second chapter is a discussion of ecological theories which relate to primitive war. The suggestions of "cultural ecologists" (Vayda 1961, 1971: Rappaport 1968), that people fight when their population density increases and they suffer a shortage of resources, are tested with ecological material, demographic information and ethnographic examples. The conclusion of this chapter is that few wars in New Guinea can be explained by ecological factors alone. The third chapter is a discussion of social organization and war. The argument of this chapter is divided up into three parts. Firstly, an outline of the concepts and a definition of the terms used in the survey. Secondly, a series of twenty seven ethnographic examples accompanied by diagrams of political and descent group organization, and the fields of war. Thirdly, a comparative analysis of war and social organization facilitated by a series of computer programmes. The argument of this chapter, following the political criteria stipulated for war in the first chapter, is that war in New Guinea is basically a struggle between small political factions led by big men. The fourth chapter is a discussion of primitive military organization. This analysis is based on a series of military principles suggested by Turney-High (1949) and concludes with a comparative study of military organization and the different types of war discussed in the previous chapter.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1972
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:26

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