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Trobrianders: More Than Just A Dioscorea

1541 words - 6 pages

Much like our very own culture, the Trobrianders have a complex political system, a tangible currency, and a thriving economy. The Trobriander?s existence is dependent on the commingling of these aspects of life much like our own, although ours is connected in much less of a literal since. All of the political and economic power in the Trobriander culture is held by the persons that have an abundance of one thing. The Trobrianders do not cast their eyes towards gold or silver to assist them in their quest for political prowess. With the right political mindset, the only thing a man needs in the Trobriand culture to succeed is Yams.The yam is the very object that can give a man political and economic power, however it is the one thing he can not grow for himself. This fact is the basis for the way the Trobriander culture functions. To understand the importance of the yam in the Trobriander culture, one must understand who grows and distributes the yams. It all starts with the preparation of the land. Due to the poor soil in the area, the Trobrianders use ??slash and burn? or ?swidden? cultivation? to enrich the soil with minerals. Although married couples work together to prepare the yam fields, growing yams is primarily the man?s job. The man uses young people to help him in his yam garden. He will later pay them with yams he receives. They may use this to buy things from the trading store or to buy secrets about the land and how it came into possession by the owners. Although it is the man that labors rigorously to grow the yams, they are never really his to use. The yams are grown for a single woman, usually his sister; therefore the garden is named after her. Although the yams are grown for a mans sister, it is her husband that will use the yams for political maneuvering. The yams, after staying on display at the gardens for about a month, are taken directly to the woman?s husband?s yam house. The only one that can use the yams while they are still at the garden is the gardens namesake, and this is only under a dire emergency such as a death in the family. The amount of yams a man gives to his sister is a direct, and publicly viewed, reflection of the relationship between the woman?s husband and the grower.An abundance of yams can be given if the grower sees his brother-in-law as a hard worker, or good provider for his sister. This exchange is beneficial to the man giving the yams to a hard working man because he has repayment of woman?s wealth coming back to him. Because a man gives his sister yams, she must give banana leaf bundles, nununiga, to his wife?s family in the event of death. This creates a strong relationship between a man, his sister, and her husband. The grower may also give an abundance of yams to a woman whose husband is seen as a political force to be allied with. It is the obligation of the receiver of the yams to return the generosity for the gift of yams by giving him cooked yams, taro, and pieces of pork if available. The...

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