The authors present a historical picture of gender relations in
Highlands New Guinea by exploring domains of imagination as
revealed in courting songs, ballads, and folktales from across the
Highlands but with particular reference to field areas in the
western Highlands. Texts and/or translations are from a rich corpus
of materials previously unpublished in English. The examples draw
the reader into the imaginative world of the people, while the
analytical framework sets the discussion firmly into debates within
The aim is to re-examine the images of gender relations in
Highlands New Guinea by revealing the sensuous and emotional
modalities of expressive folk genres and their aesthetic qualities.
Ideas and practices centered on female spirit entities are shown to
be important and pervasive in cult contexts, and these spirits were
felt to have a significant influence on relations of courtship,
marriage, and reproduction. Both women and men are also shown to
have complex expressions of emotional dispositions in the spheres
of courting and the choice of marital partners. By entering into
these domains, the book modifies earlier analyses that have
concentrated on antagonism, behavioral taboos, separation, and
domination as themes in gender relations in Highland societies.
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