Argonauts of the Western Pacific (Introduction) **ALSO ON PAPER RESERVE!**

INTRODUCTION

THE SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE OF THIS
INQUIRY



The coastal populations of the South Sea Islands, with very
few exceptions, are, or were before their extinction, expert
navigators and traders. Several of them had evolved excellent
types of large sea-going canoes, and used to embark in them
on distant trade expeditions or raids of war and conquest.
The Papuo-Melanesians, who inhabit the coast and the out-
lying islands of New Guinea, are no exception to this rule. In
general they are daring sailors, industrious manufacturers,
and keen traders. The manufacturing centres of important
articles, such as pottery, stone implements, canoes, fine baskets,
valued ornaments, are localised in several places, according to
the .skill of the inhabitants, their inherited tribal tradition,
and special facilities offered by the district ; thence they are
traded over wide areas, sometimes travelling more than
hundreds of miles.

Definite forms of exchange along definite trade routes are
to be found established between the various tribes. A most
remarkable form of intertribal trade is that obtaining between
the Motu of Port Moresby and the tribes of the Papuan Gulf.
The Motu sail for hundreds of miles in heavy, unwieldy canoes,
called lakatoi, which are provided with the characteristic
ciab-claw sails. They bring pottery and shell ornaments, in
olden days, stone blades, to Gulf Papuans, from whom they
obtain in exchange sago and the heavy dug-outs, which are
used afterwards by the Motu for the construction of their
lakatoi canoes.*

* The Am, as these expeditions are called in Motuan, have been described
with a great wealth of detail and clearness of outline by Captain F. Barton,
in C. G. Seligman's "The Melanesians of British New Guinea," Cambridge,
1910, Chapter viii.



2 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

Further East, on the South coast, there lives the industrious,
sea-faring population of the Mailu, who link the East End of
New Guinea with the central coast tribes by means of annual
trading expeditions.* Finally, the natives of the islands
and archipelagoes, scattered around the East End, are in
constant trading relations with one another. We possess in
Professor Seligman's book an excellent description Qf the
subject, especially of the nearer trades routes between the
various islands inhabited by the Southern Massim.f There
exists, however, another, a very extensive and highly complex
trading system, embracing with its ramifications, not only the
islands near the East End, but also the Louisiades, Woodlark
Island, the Trobriand Archipelago, and the d'Entrecasteaux
group ; it penetrates into the mainland of New Guinea, and
exerts an indirect influence over several outlying districts,
such as Rossel Island, and some parts of the Northern and
Southern coast of New Guinea. This trading system, the Kula,
is the subject I am setting out to describe in this volume, and
it will be seen that it is an economic phenomenon of considera-
able theoretical importance. It looms paramount in the tribal
life of those natives who live within its circuit, and its impor-
tance is fully realised by the tribesmen themselves, whose ideas,
ambitions, desires and vanities are very much bound up with
the Kula.

II

Before proceeding to the account of the Kula, it will be well
to give a description of the methods used in the collecting of
the ethnographic material. The results of scientific research
in any branch of learning ought to be presented in a manner
absolutely candid and above board. No one would dream
of making an experimental contribution to physical or chemical
science, without giving a detailed account of all the arrange-
ments of the experiments ; an exact description of the apparatus
used ; of the manner in which the observations were conducted ;
of their number ; of the length of time devoted to them, and
of the degree of approximation with which each measurement
was made. In less exact sciences, as in biology or geology,

* Cf. " The Mailu/' by B. Malinowski, in Transactions of the R. Society
of S. Australia, 1915 ; Chapter iv. 4, pp. 612 to 629.

f Op. cit. Chapter xl.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 3

this cannot be done as rigorously, but every student will do
his best to bring home to the reader all the conditions in which
the experiment or the observations were made. In Ethno-
graphy, where a candid account of such data is perhaps even
more necessary, it has unfortunately in the past not always
been supplied with sufficient generosity, and many writers do
not ply the full searchlight of methodic sincerity, as they move
among their facts and produce them before us out of complete
obscurity.

It would be easy to quote works of high repute, and with a
scientific hall-mark on them, in which wholesale generalisations
are laid down before us, and we are not informed at all by what
actual experiences the writers have reached their conclusion.
No special chapter or paragraph is devoted to describing to us
the conditions under which observations were made and infor-
mation collected. I consider that only such ethnographic
sources are of unquestionable scientific value, in which we can
clearly draw the line between, on the one hand, the results of
direct observation and of native statements and interpretations,
and on the other, the inferences of the author, based on his
common sense and psycholgical insight.* Indeed, some such
survey, as that contained in the table, given below (Div. VI of
this chapter) ought to be forthcoming, so that at a glance the
reader could estimate with precision the degree of the writer's
personal acquaintance with the facts which he describes, and
form an idea under what conditions information had been
obtained from the natives.

Again, in historical science, no one could expect to be
seriously treated if he made any mystery of his sources and
spoke of the past as if he knew it by divination. In Ethno-
graphy, the writer is his own chronicler and the historian at
the same time, while his sources are no doubt easily accessible,
but also supremely elusive and complex ; they are not
embodied in fixed, material documents, but in the behaviour
and in the memory of living men. In Ethnography, the
distance is often enormous between the brute material of

* On this point of method again, we are indebted to the Cambridge School
of Anthropology for having introduced the really scientific way of dealing with
the question. More especially in the writings of Haddon, Rivers and Seligman,
the distinction between inference and observation is always clearly drawn, and
we can visualise with perfect precision the conditions under which the work
was done.



4 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

information as it is presented to the student in his own obser-
vations, in native statement, in the kaleidoscope of tribal life
and the final authoritative presentation of the results. The
Ethnographer has to traverse this distance in the laborious
years between the moment when he sets foot upon a native
beach, and makes his first attempts to get into touch with the
natives, and the time when he writes down the final version of
his results. A brief outline of an Ethnographer's tribulations,
as lived through by myself, may throw more light on the
question, than any long abstract discussion could do,

III

Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all
your gear, alone on a tropical' beach close to a native village,
while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away
out of sight. Since you take up your abode in the compound of
some neighbouring white man, trader or missionary, you have
nothing to do, but to start at once on your ethnographic work.
Imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous
experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you.
For the white man is temporarily absent, or else unable or
unwilling to waste any of his time on you. This exactly
describes my first initiation into field work on the south coast
of New Guinea. I well remember the long visits I paid to the
villages during the first weeks ; the feeling of hopelessness and
despair after many obstinate but futile attempts had entirely
failed to bring me into real touch with the natives, or supply
me with any material. I had periods of despondency, when I
buried myself in the reading ot novels, as a man might take
to drink in a fit of tropical depression and boredom.

Imagine yourself then, making your first entry into the
village, alone or in company with your white cicerone. Some
natives flock round you, especially if they smell tobacco.
Others, the more dignified and elderly, remain seated where they
are. Your white companion has his routine way of treating the
natives, and he neither understands, nor is very much concerned
with the manner in which you, as an ethnographer, will have
to approach them. * The first visit leaves you with a hopeful
feeling that when you return alone, things will be easier. Such
was my hope at least.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 5

I came back duly, and soon gathered an audience around
me. A few compliments in pidgin-English on both sides, some
tobacco changing hands, induced an atmosphere of mutual
amiability. I tried then to proceed to business. First, to
begin with subjects which might arouse no suspicion, I started
to " do " technology, A few natives were engaged in manu-
facturing some object or other. It was easy to look at it and
obtain the names of the tools, and even some technical expres-
sions about the proceedings, but there the matter ended. It
must be borne in mind that pidgin-English is a very imperfect
instrument for expressing one's ideas, and that before one gets
a good training in framing questions and understanding answers
one has the uncomfortable feeling that free communication in
it with the natives will never be attained ; and I was quite
unable to enter into any more detailed or explicit conversation
with them at first. I knew well that the best remedy for this
was to collect concrete data, and accordingly I took a village
census, wrote down genealogies, drew up plans and collected
the terms of kinship. But all this remained dead material,
which led no further into the understanding of real native
mentality or behaviour, since I could neither procure a
good native interpretation of any of these items, nor get
what could be called the hang of tribal life. As to obtaining
their ideas about religion, and magic, their beliefs in sorcery
and spirits, nothing was forthcoming except a few superficial
items of folk-lore, mangled by being forced into pidgin English.

Information which I received from some white residents in
the district, valuable as it was in itself, was more discouraging
than anything else with regard to my own work. Here were
men who had lived for years in the place with constant oppor-
tunities of observing the natives and communicating with them,
and who yet hardly knew one thing about them really well.
How could I therefore in a few months or a year, hope to over-
take and go beyond them ? Moreover, the manner in which my
white informants spoke about the natives and put their views
was, naturally, that of untrained minds, unaccustomed to
formulate their thoughts with any degree of consistency and
precision. And they were for the most part, naturally enough,
full of the biassed and pre-judged opinions inevitable in the
average practical man, whether administrator, missionary, or
trader ; yet so strongly repulsive to a mind striving after the



6 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

objective, scientific view of things. The habit of treating with
a self-satisfied frivolity what is really serious to the ethno-
grapher ; the cheap rating of what to him is a scientific treasure,
that is to say, the native's cultural and mental peculiarities and
independence these features, so well known in the inferior
amateur's writing, I found in the tone of the majority of white
residents.*

Indeed, in my first piece of Ethnographic research on the
South coast, it was not until I was alone in the district that I
began to make some headway ; and, at any rate, I found out
where lay the secret of effective field-work. What is then this
ethnographer's magic, by which he is able to evoke the real
spirit of the natives, the true picture of tribal life ? As usual,
success can only be obtained by a patient and systematic
Application of a number of rules of common sense and well-
known scientific principles, and not by the discovery of any
marvellous short-cut leading to the desired results without
effort or trouble. The principles of method can be grouped
under three main headings ; first of all, naturally, the student
must possess real scientific aims, and know the values and
criteria of modern ethnography. Secondly, he ought to put
himself in good conditions of work, that is, in the main, to live
without other white men, right among the natives. Finally,
he has to apply a number of special methods of collecting,
manipulating and fixing his evidence. A few words must be
said about these three foundation stones of field work, beginning
with the second as the most elementary.

IV

Proper conditions for ethnographic work. These, as said,
consist mainly in cutting oneself off from the company of other
white men, and remaining in as close contact with the natives
as possible, which really can only be achieved by camping right
in their villages (see Plates I and II). It is very nice to have
a base in a white man's compound for the stores, and to know
there is a refuge there in times of sickness and surfeit of native.
But it must be far enough away not to become a permanent
milieu in which you live and from which you emerge at fixed

* I may note at once that there were a few delightful exceptions to that,
to mention only my friends Billy Hancock in the Trobriands ; M. Raffael
Brudo, another pearl trader ; and the missionary, Mr. M. K. Gilmour.



PLATE I




Till- HTHNOOR API mil'S THNT ON THH UfiAOl Ob' NU'AC.ASi
This illustrates the manner of life among the natives, described in l)iv. IV, Note (with
cfererice to <ihs. IV and \') the dug-out log of a large canoe beside the tent, and the
canoe, beached under palm leaves to the left




THE CHIEFS LISIGA (PERSONAL HUT) IN OMARAKANA
To'uluwa, the present chief, is in front (cf, Oi, If, Div. V) ; to the left, the-

is the Ethnographer's tent (see Div. IV), with a group of natives squatting in f root of it,



PLATE III




STRFiKT (>!' KASANA'J (IN KIRIVC'INA, TROBRIAND ISUNDS)

An everyday scene, showing groups of people at their ordinary occupations. (See Oivs IV

and VIJl,)



PI.ATF IV




IN YOURAWQTO

A complex, but well-deflncd, act of a distribution) is going on, There is a

definite of sociological, economic and ceremonial at the of the

apparently confused proceedings. Divs. IV and V.)



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 7

hours only to " do the village/' It should not even be near
enough to fly to at any moment for recreation. For the native
is not the natural companion for a white man, and after you
have been working with him for several hours, seeing how he
does his garden's, or letting him tell you items of folk-lore,
or discussing his customs, you will naturally hanker after the
company of your own kind. But if you are alone in a village
beyond reach of this, you go for a solitary walk for an hour or
so, return again and then quite naturally seek out the natives'
society, this time as a relief from loneliness, just as you would
any other companionship. And by means of this natural
intercourse, you learn to know him, and you become familiar
with his customs and beliefs far better than when he is a paid,
and often bored, informant.

There is all the difference between a sporadic plunging into
the company of natives, and being really in contact with them.
What does this latter mean ? On the Ethnographer's side, it
means that his life in the village, which at first is a strange,
sometimes unpleasant, sometimes intensely interesting
adventure, soon adopts quite a natural course very much in
harmony with his surroundings.

Soon after I had established myself in Omarakana (Tro-
briand Islands), I began to take part, in a way, in the village
life, to look forward to the important or festive events, to
take personal interest in the gossip and the developments of the
small village occurrences ; to wake up every morning to a day,
presenting itself to me more or less as it does to the native. I
would get out from under my mosquito net, to find around me
the village life beginning to stir, or the people well advanced in
their working day according*to the hour and also to the season,
for they get up and begin their labours early or late, as work
presses. As I went on my morning walk through the village, I
could see intimate details of family life, of toilet, cooking,
taking of meals ; I could see the arrangements for the day's
work, people starting on their errands, or groups of men and
women busy at some manufacturing tasks (see Plate III).
Quarrels, jokes, family scenes, events usually trivial, some-
times dramatic but always significant, formed the atmosphere
of my daily life, as well as of theirs. It must be remembered
that as the natives saw me constantly every day, they ceased to
be interested or alarmed, or made self-conscious by my



8 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

presence, and I ceased to be a disturbing element in the tribal
life which I was to study, altering it by my very approach, as
always happens with a new-comer to every savage community.
In fact, as they knew that I would thrust my nose into every-
thing, even where a well-mannered native would not dream of
intruding, they finished by regarding me as part and parcel of
their life, a necessary evil or nuisance, mitigated by^donations
of tobacco.

Later on in the day, whatever happened was within easy
reach, and there was no possibility of its escaping my notice.
Alarms about the sorcerer's approach in the evening, one or two
big, really important quarrels and rifts within the community,
cases of illness, attempted cures and deaths, magical rites
which had to be performed, all these I had not to pursue, fearful
of missing them, but they took place under my very eyes, at
my own doorstep, so to speak (see Plate IV). And it must be
emphasised whenever anything dramatic or important occurs it
is essential to investigate it at the very moment of happen-
ing, because the natives cannot but talk about it, are too
excited to be reticent, and too interested to be mentally lazy
in supplying details. Also, over and over again, I committed
breaches of etiquette, which the natives, familiar enough with
me, were not slow in pointing out. I had to learn how to
behave, and to a certain extent, I acquired " the feeling " for
native good and bad manners. With this, and with the
capacity of enjoying their company and sharing some of their
games and amusements, I began to feel that I was indeed in
touch with the natives, and this is certainly the preliminary
condition of being able to carry on successful field work.

V

But the Ethnographer has not only to spread his nets in
the right place, and wait for what will fall into them. He must
be an active huntsman, and drive his quarry into them and
follow it up to its most inaccessible lairs. And that leads us
to the more active methods of pursuing ethnographic evidence.
It has been mentioned at the end of Division III that the
Ethnographer has to be inspired by the knowledge of the most
modern results of scientific study, by its principles and aims.
I shall not enlarge upon this subject, except by way of one
remark, to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding. Good



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 9

training in theory, and acquaintance with its latest results, is
not identical with being burdened with " preconceived ideas."
If a man sets out on an expedition, determined to prove certain
hypotheses, if he is incapable of changing his views constantly
and casting them off ungrudgingly under the pressure of
evidence, needless to say his work will be worthless. But the
more problems he brings with him into the field, the more he is
in the habit of moulding his theories according to facts, and of
seeing facts in their bearing upon theory, the better he is
equipped for the work. Preconceived ideas are pernicious
in any scientific work, but foreshadowed problems are the main
endowment of a scientific thinker, and these problems are first
revealed to the observer by his theoretical studies.

In Ethnology the early efforts of Bastian, Tylor, Morgan,
the German Volkerpsychologen have remoulded the older
crude information of travellers, missionaries, etc., and have
shown us the importance of applying deeper conceptions and
discarding crude and misleading ones.*

The concept of animism superseded that of " fetichism " or
"devil-worship," both meaningless terms. The understanding
of the classificatory systems of relationship paved the way for
the brilliant, modern researches on native sociology in the
field-work of the Cambridge school. The psychological
analysis of the German thinkers has brought forth an abundant
crop of most valuable information in the results obtained by
the recent German expeditions to Africa, South America and
the Pacific, while the theoretical works ol Frazer, Durkheim
and others have already, and will no doubt still for a long time
inspire field workers and lead them to new results. The field
worker relies entirely upon inspiration from theory. Of course
he may be also a theoretical thinker and worker, and there he
can draw on himself for stimulus. But the two functions are
separate, and in actual research they have to be separated
both in time and conditions of work.

As always happens when scientific interest turns towards
and begins to labour on a field so far only prospected by the
curiosity of amateurs, Ethnology has introduced law and order
into what seemed chaotic and freakish. It has transformed
for us the sensational, wild and unaccountable world of

* According to a useful habit of the terminology of science, I use the
word Ethnography for the empirical and descriptive results of the cience
of Man, and the word Ethnology for speculative and comparative theories.



io SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

" savages " into a number of well ordered communities,
governed by law, behaving and thinking according to consistent
principles. The word " savage," whatever association it might
have had originally, connotes ideas of boundless liberty, of
irregularity, of something extremely and extraordinarily quaint.
In popular thinking, we imagine that the natives live on the
bosom of Nature, more or less as they can and like, the prey of
irregular, phantasmagoric beliefs and apprehensions. Modern
science, on the contrary, shows that their social institutions have
a very definite organisation, that they are governed by author-
ity, law and order in their public and personal relations, while
the latter are, besides, under the control of extremely complex
ties of kinship and clanship. Indeed, we see them entangled
in a mesh of duties, functions and privileges which correspond
to an elaborate tribal, communal and kinship organisation
(see Plate IV). Their beliefs and practices do not by any
means lack consistency of a certain type, and their knowledge
of the outer world is sufficient to guide them in many of their
strenuous enterprises and activities. Their artistic pro-
ductions again lack neither meaning nor beauty.

It is a very far cry from the famous answer given long ago
by a representative authority who, asked, what are the manners
and customs of the natives, answered, " Customs none, manners
beastly/' to the position of the modern Ethnographer . This
latter, with his tables of kinship terms, genealogies, maps,
plans and diagrams, proves an extensive and big organisation,
shows the constitution of the tribe, of the clan, of the family ;
and he gives us a picture of the natives subjected to a strict
code of behaviour and good manners, to which in comparison
the life at the Court of Versailles or Escurial was free and easy.*

Thus the first and basic ideal of ethnographic field-work is
to give a clear and firm outline of the social constitution, and
disentangle the laws and regularities of all cultural phenomena

* The legendary " early authority " who found the natives only beastly
and without customs is left behind by a modem writer, who, speaking about
the Southern Massim with whom he lived and worked ** in close contact *' for
many years, says ** . . . We teach lawless men to become obedient,
inhuman men to love, and savage men to change." And again : " Guided
in his conduct by nothing but his instincts and propensities, and governed by
his unchecked passions. . . ." " Lawless, inhuman and savage f " A
grosser misstatement of the real state of things could not be invented by anyone
wishing to parody the Missionary point of view. Quoted from the Rev. C. W.
Abel, of the London Missionary Society, " Savage Life in New Guinea," no
date.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE n

from the irrelevances. The firm skeleton of the tribal life has
to be first ascertained. This ideal imposes in the first place
the fundamental obligation of giving a complete survey of the
phenomena, and not of picking out the sensational, the singular,
still less the funny and quaint. The time when we could
tolerate accounts presenting us the native as a distorted, childish
caricature of a human being are gone. This picture is false >
and like many other falsehoods, it has been killed by Science.
The field Ethnographer has seriously and soberly to cover the
full extent of the phenomena in each aspect of tribal culture
studied, making no difference between what is commonplace,
or drab, or ordinary, and what strikes him as astonishing and
out-of-the-way. At the same time, the whole area of tribal
culture in all its aspects has to be gone over in research. The
consistency, the law and order which obtain within each
aspect make also for joining them into one coherent whole.

An Ethnographer who sets out to study only religion, or
only technology, or only social organisation cuts out an
artificial field for inquiry, and he will be seriously handicapped
in his work.

VI

Having settled this very general rule, let us descend to
more detailed consideration of method. The Ethnographer
has in the field, according to what has just been said, the duty
before him of drawing up all the rules and regularities of tribal
life ; all that is permanent and fixed ; of giving an anatomy
of their culture, of depicting the constitution of their society.
But these things, though crystallised and set, are nowhere
formulated. There is no written or explicitly expressed code
of laws, and their whole tribal tradition, the whole structure of
their society, are embodied in the most elusive of all materials ;
the human being. But not even in human mind or memory
are these laws to be found definitely formulated. The natives
obey the forces and commands of the tribal code, but they
do not comprehend them ; exactly as they obey their instincts
and their impulses, but could not lay down a single law of
psychology. The regularities in native institutions are an
automatic result of the interaction of the mental forces of
tradition, and of the material conditions of environment.
Exactly as a humble member of any modern institution,



12 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

whether it be the state, or the church, or the army, is of it and
in it, but has no vision of the resulting integral action of the
whole, still less could furnish any account of its organisation,
so it would be futile to attempt questioning a native in abstract,
sociological terms. The difference is that, in our society,
every institution has its intelligent members, its historians,
and its archives and documents, whereas in a native society
there are none of these. After this is realised an expedient has
to be found to overcome this difficulty. This expedient for an
Ethnographer consists in collecting concrete data of evidence,
and drawing the general inferences for himself. This seems
obvious on the face of it, but was not found out or at least
practised in Ethnography till field work was taken up by men
of science. Moreover, in giving it practical effect, it is neither
easy to devise the concrete applications of this method, nor to
carry them out systematically and consistently.

Though we cannot ask a native about abstract, general rules,
we can always enquire how a given case would be treated.
Thus for instance, in asking how they would treat crime,
or punish it, it would be vain to put to a native a sweeping
question such as, " How do you treat and punish a criminal ? "
for even words could not be found to express it in native, or
in pidgin. But an imaginary case, or still better, a real
occurrence, will stimulate a native to express his opinion and to
supply plentiful information. A real case indeed will start the
natives on a wave of discussion, evoke expressions of indigna-
tion, show them taking sides all of which talk will probably
contain a wealth of definite views, of moral censures, as well
as reveal the social mechanism set in motion by the crime
committed. From there, it will be easy to lead them on to
speak of other similar cases, to remember other actual occur-
rences or to discuss them in all their implications and aspects.
From this material, which ought to cover the widest possible
range of facts, the inference is obtained by simple induction.
The scientific treatment differs from that of good common sense,
first in that a student will extend the completeness and
minuteness of survey much further and in a pedantically
systematic and methodical manner ; and secondly, in that the
scientifically trained mind, will push the inquiry along really
relevant lines, and towards aims possessing real importance.
Indeed, the object of scientific training is to provide the



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 13

empirical investigator with a mental chart, in accordance with
which he can take his bearings and lay his course.

To return to our example, a number of definite cases
discussed will reveal to the Ethnographer the social machinery
for punishment. This is one part, one aspect of tribal
authority. Imagine further that by a similar method of
inference from definite data, he arrives at understanding leader-
ship in war, in economic enterprise, in tribal festivities there
he has at once all the data necessary to answer the questions
about tribal government and social authority. In actual
field work, the comparison of such data, the attempt to piece
them together, will 'often reveal rifts and gaps in the infor-
mation which lead on to further investigations.

From my own experience, I can say that, very often, a
problem seemed settled, everything fixed and clear, till I began
to write down a short preliminary sketch of my results. And
only then, did I see the enormous deficiencies, which would
show me where lay new problems, and lead me on to new work.
In fact, I spent a few months between my first and second
expeditions, and over a year between that and the subsequent
one, in going over all my material, and making parts of it almost
ready for publication each time, though each time I knew I
would have to re-write it. Such cross-fertilisation of con-
structive work and observation, I found most valuable, and I
do not think I could have made real headway without it. I give
this bit of my own history merely to show that what has been
said so far is not only an empty programme, but the result of
personal experience. In this volume, the description is given of
a big institution connected with ever so many associated
activities, and presenting many aspects. To anyone who
reflects on the subject, it will be clear that the information
about a phenomenon of such high complexity and of so many
ramifications, could not be obtained with any degree of
exactitude and completeness, without a constant interplay of
constructive attempts and empirical checking. In fact, I have
written up an outline of the Kula institution at least half a
dozen times while in the field and in the intervals between my
expeditions. Each time, new problems and difficulties
presented themselves.

The collecting of concrete data over a wide range of facts is
thus one of the main points of field method. The obligation



14 .SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

is not to enumerate a few examples only, but to exhaust as far
as possible all the cases within reach ; and, on this search for
cases, the investigator will score most whose mental chart is
clearest. But, whenever the material of the search allows it,
this mental chart ought to be transformed into a real one ;
it ought to materialise into a diagram, a plan, an exhaustive,
synoptic table of cases. Long since, in all tolerably good
modern books on natives, we expect to find a full list or table of
kinship terms, which includes all the data relative to it, and
does not just pick out a few strange and anomalous relation-
ships or expressions. In the investigation of kinship, the
following up of one relation after another in concrete cases
leads naturally to the construction of genealogical tables.
Practised already by the best early writers, such as Munzinger,
and, if I remember rightly, Kubary, this method has been
developed to its fullest extent in the works of Dr. Rivers.
Again, studying the concrete data of economic transactions,
in order to trace the history of a valuable object, and to gauge
the nature of its circulation, the principle of completeness and
thoroughness would lead to construct tables of transactions,
such as we find in the work of Professor Seligman.* It is in
following Professor Seligman's example in this matter that I
was able to settle certain of the more difficult and detailed
rules of the Kula. The method of reducing information, if
possible, into charts or synoptic tables ought to be extended to
the study of practically all aspects of native life. All types of
economic transactions may be studied by following up con-
nected, actual cases, and putting them into a synoptic chart ;
again, a table ought to be drawn up of all the gifts and presents
customary in a given society , a table including the sociological,
ceremonial, and economic definition of every item. Also, systems
of magic, connected series of ceremonies, types of legal acts, all
could be charted, allowing each entry to be synoptically defined
under a number of headings. Besides this, of course, the
genealogical census of every community, studied more in detail,
extensive maps, plans and diagrams, illustrating ownership in
garden land, hunting and fishing privileges, etc., serve as the
more fundamental documents of ethnographic research.

A genealogy is nothing else but a synoptic chart of a number

* For instance, the tables of circulation of the valuable axe blades, op.
<*t., pp. 531, 532.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 15

of connected relations of kinship. Its value as an instrument
of research consists in that it allows the investigator to put
questions which he formulates to himself in abstraclo, but can
put concretely to the native informant. As a document, its
value consists in that it gives a number of authenticated data,
presented in their natural grouping. A synoptic chart of
magic fulfils the same function. As an instrument of research,
I have used it in order to ascertain, for instance, the ideas about
the nature of magical power. With a chart before me, I could
easily and conveniently go over one item after the other, and
note down the relevant practices and beliefs contained in each
of them. The answer to my abstract problem could then be
obtained by drawing a general inference from all the cases,
and the procedure is illustrated in Chapters XVII and XVIII.*
I cannot enter further into the discussion of this question,
which would need further distinctions, such as between a chart
of concrete, actual data, such as is a genealogy, and a chart
summarising the outlines of a custom or belief, as a chart of a
magical system would be.

Returning once more to the question of methodological
candour, discussed previously in Division 1 1, 1 wish to point
out here, that the procedure of concrete and tabularised
presentation of data ought to be applied first to the Ethno-
grapher's own credentials. That is, an Ethnographer, who
wishes to be trusted, must show clearly and concisely, in a
tabularised form, which are his own direct observations, and
which the indirect information that form the bases of his
account. The Table on the next page will serve as an example
of this procedure and help the reader of this book to form an
idea of the trustworthiness of any statement he is specially
anxious to check. With the help of this Table and the many
references scattered throughout the text, as to how, under
what circumstances, and with what degree of accuracy I arrived
at a given item of knowledge, there will, I hope remain no
obscurity whatever as to the sources of the book.

* In this book, besides the adjoining Table, which does not strictly belong
to the class of document of which I speak here, the reader will find only a few
samples of synoptic tables, such as the list of Kula partners mentioned and
analysed in Chapter XIII, Division II, the list of gifts and presents in Chapter
VI, Division VI, not tabularised, only described ; the synoptic data of a Kula
expedition in Chapter XVI, and the table of Kula magic given in Chapter XV II.
Here, I have not wanted to overload the account with charts, etc., preferring to
reserve them till the full publication of my material.



16 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF KULA EVENTS WITNESSED
BY THE WRITER

FIRST EXPEDITION, August, 1914 March, 1915.

March, 1915. In the village of Dikoyas (Woodlark Island) a
few ceremonial offerings seen. Preliminary information
obtained.

SECOND EXPEDITION, May, 1915 May, 1916.

June, 1915. A Kabigidoya visit arrives from Vakuta to
Kiriwina. Its anchoring at Kavataria witnessed and the
men seen at Omarakana, where information collected.

July, 1915. Several parties from Kitava land on the beach of
Kaulukuba. The men examined in Omarakana. Much
information collected in that period.

September, 1915. Unsuccessful attempt to sail to Kitava with
To'uluwa, the chief of Omarakana.

October-November, 1915. Departure noticed of three expeditions
from Kiriwina to Kitava. Each time To'uluwa brings home
a haul of mwali (armshells).

November, 1915 March, 1916. Preparations for a big overseas
expedition from Kiriwina to the Marshall Bennett Islands.
Construction of a canoe ; renovating of another ; sail making
in Omarakana ; launching ; tasasoria on the beach of
Kaulukuba. At the same time, information is being
obtained about these and the associated subjects. Some
magical texts of canoe building and Kula magic obtained.

THIRD EXPEDITION, October, 1917 October, 1918.

November, 1917 December, 1917. Inland Kula ; some data

obtained in Tukwaukwa.
December February, 1918. Parties from Kitava arrive in

Wawela. Collection of information about the yoyova.

Magic and spells of Kaygau obtained.
March, 1918. Preparations in Sanaroa; preparations in the

Amphletts ; the Dobuan fleet arrives in the Amphletts.

The uvalaku expedition from Dobu followed to Boyowa.
April, 1918. Their arrival ; their reception in Sinaketa ; the

Kula transactions ; the big intertribal gathering. Some

magical formulae obtained.
May, 1918. Party from Kitava seen in Vakuta,
June, July, 1918. Information about Kula magic and customs

checked and amplified in Omarakana, especially with regard

to its Eastern branches.

August, September, 1918. Magical texts obtained in Sinaketa.
October, 1918. Information obtained from a number of natives

in Dobu and Southern Massim district (examined in

Samarai).



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 17

To summarise the first, cardinal point of method, I may
say each phenomenon ought to be studied through the broadest
range possible of its concrete manifestations ; each studied by
an exhaustive survey of detailed examples. If possible, the
results ought to be embodied into some sort of synoptic chart,
both to be used as an instrument of study, and to be presented
as an ethnological document. With the help of such documents
and such study of actualities the clear outline of the frame-
work of the natives' culture in the widest sense of the word,
and the constitution of their society, can be presented. This
method could be called the method of statistic documentation by
concrete evidence.

VII

Needless to add, in this respect, the scientific field-work
is far above even the best amateur productions. There is,
however, one point in which the latter often excel. This is,
in the presentation of intimate touches of native life, in bringing
home to us these aspects of it with which one is made familiar
only through being in close contact with the natives, one way
or the other, for a long period of time. In certain results of
scientific work especially that which has been called " survey
work " we are given an excellent skeleton, so to speak, of the
tribal constitution, but it lacks flesh and blood. We learn
much about the framework of their society, but within it, we
cannot perceive or imagine the realities of human life, the even
flow of everyday events, the occasional ripples of excitement
over a feast, or ceremony, or some singular occurrence. In
working out the rules and regularities of native custom, and in
obtaining a precise formula for them from the collection of data
and native statements, we find that this very precision is
foreign to real life, which never adheres rigidly to any rules. It
must be supplemented by the observation of the manner in
which a given custom is carried out, of the behaviour of the
natives in obeying the rules so exactly formulated by the
ethnographer, of the very exceptions which in sociological
phenomena almost always occur.

If all the conclusions are solely based on the statements of
informants, or deduced from objective documents, it is of course
impossible to supplement them in actually observed data of
real behaviour. And that is the reason why certain works of



18 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

amateur residents of long standing, such as educated traders
and planters, medical men and officials, and last, not least, of
the few intelligent and unbiassed missionaries to whom
Ethnography owes so much, this is the reason why these works
surpass in plasticity and in vividness most of the purely
scientific accounts. But if the specialised field-worker can
adopt the conditions of living described above, he* is in a far
better position to be really in touch with the natives than any
other white resident. For none of them lives right in a native
village, except for very short periods, and everyone has his own
business, which takes up a considerable part of his time. More-
over, if, like a trader or a missionary or an official he enters into
active relations with the native, if he has to transform or
influence or make use of him, this makes a real, unbiassed,
impartial observation impossible, and precludes all-round
sincerity, at least in the case of the missionaries and officials.

Living in the village with no other business but to follow
native life, one sees the customs, ceremonies and transactions
over and over again, one has examples of their beliefs as they
are actually lived through, and the full body and blood of
actual native life fills out soon the skeleton of abstract con-
structions. That is the reason why, working under such con-
ditions as previously described, the Ethnographer is enabled to
add something essential to the bare outline of tribal con-
stitution, and to supplement it by all the details of behaviour,
setting and small incident. He is able in each case to state
whether an act is public or private ; how a public assembly
behaves, and what it looks like ; he can judge whether an event
is ordinary or an exciting and singular one ; whether natives
bring to it a great deal of sincere and earnest spirit, or perform
it in fun ; whether they do it in a perfunctory manner, or with
zeal and deliberation.

In other words, there is a series of phenomena of great
importance which cannot possibly be recorded by questioning
or computing documents, but have to be observed in their
full actuality. Let us call them the inponderabilia of actual life.
Here belong such things as the routine of a man's working day,
the details of his care of the body, of the manner of taking food
and preparing it ; the tone of conversational and social life
around the village fires, the existence of strong friendships or
hostilities, and of passing sympathies and dislikes between



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 19

people ; the subtle yet unmistakable manner in which personal
vanities and ambitions are reflected in the behaviour of the
individual and in the emotional reactions of those who surround
him. All these facts can and ought to be scientifically forma-
lated and recorded, but it is necessary that this be done, not by
a superficial registration of details, as is usually done by
untrained observers, but with an effort at penetrating the
mental attitude expressed in them. And that is the reason
why the work of scientifically trained observers, once seriously
applied to the study of this aspect, will, I believe, yield results
of surpassing value. So far, it has been done only by amateurs,
and therefore done, on the whole, indifferently.

Indeed, if we remember that these imponderable yet all
important facts of actual life are part of the reaPsubstance of
the social fabric, that in them are spun the innumerable threads
which keep together the family, the clan, the village community,
the tribe their significance becomes clear. The more crystal-
lised bonds of social grouping, such as the definite ritual,
the economic and legal duties, the obligations, the ceremonial
gifts and formal marks of regard, though equally important
for the student, are certainly felt less strongly by the individual
who has to fulfil them. Applying this to ourselves, we all
know that " family life " means for us, first and foremost, the
atmosphere of home, all the innumerable small acts and
attentions in which are expressed the affection, the mutual
interest, the little preferences, and the little antipathies which
constitute intimacy. That we may inherit from this person,
that we shall have to walk after the hearse of the other, though
sociologically these facts belong to the definition of " family "
and " family life," in personal perspective of what family truly
is to us, they normally stand very much in the background.

Exactly the same applies to a native community, and if the
Ethnographer wants to bring their real life home to his readers,
he must on no account neglect this. Neither aspect, the
intimate, as little as the legal, ought to be glossed over. Yet as
a rule in ethnographic accounts we have not both but either
the one or the other and, so far, the intimate one has hardly
ever been properly treated. In all social relations besides the
family ties, even those between mere tribesmen and, beyond
that, between hostile or friendly members of different tribes,
meeting on any sort of social business, there is this in -inflate



20 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

side, expressed by the typical details of intercourse, the tone of
their behaviour in the presence of one another. This side is
different from the definite, crystalised legal frame of the
relationship, and it has to be studied and stated in its own
right.

In the same way, in studying the conspicuous acts of
tribal life, such as ceremonies, rites, festivities, etc./the details
and tone of behaviour ought to be given, besides the bare out-
line of events. The importance of this may be exemplified by
one instance. Much has been said and written about survival.
Yet the survival character of an act is expressed in nothing as
well as in the concomitant behaviour, in the way in which
it is carried out. Take any example from our own culture,
whether it be the pomp and pageantry of a state ceremony, or a
picturesque custom kept up by street urchins, its " outline "
will not tell you whether the rite flourishes still with full vigour
in the hearts of those who perform it or assist at the performance
or whether they regard it as almost a dead thing, kept alive for
tradition's sake. But observe and fix the data of their
behaviour, and at once the degree of vitality of the act will
become clear. There is no doubt, from all points of socio-
logical, or psychological analysis, and in any question of theory,
the manner and type of behaviour observed in the performance
of an act is of the highest importance. Indeed behaviour is
a fact, a relevant fact, and one that can be recorded. And
foolish indeed and short-sighted would be the man of science
who would pass by a whole class of phenomena, ready to be
garnered, and leave them to waste, even though he did not see
at the moment to what theoretical use they might be put !

As to the actual method of observing and recording in field-
work these imponderabilia of actual life and of typical behaviour,
there is no doubt that the personal equation of the observer
comes in here more prominently, than in the collection of
crystalised, ethnographic data. But here also the main
endeavour must be to let facts speak for themselves. If in
making a daily round of the village, certain small incidents,
characteristic forms of taking food, of conversing, of doing
work (see for instance Plate III) are found occuring over and
over again, they should be noted down at once. It is also
important that this work of collecting and fixing impressions
should begin early in the course of working out a district.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 21

Because certain subtle peculiarities, which make an impression
as long as they are novel, cease to be noticed as soon as they
become familiar. Others again can only be perceived with a
better knowledge of the local conditions. An ethnographic
diary, carried on systematically throughout the course of one's
work in a district would be the ideal instrument for this sort
of study. And if, side by side with the normal and typical, the
ethnographer carefully notes the slight, or the more pronounced
deviations from it, he will be able to indicate the two extremes
within which the normal moves.

In observing ceremonies or other tribal events, such, for
instance as the scene depicted in Plate IV, it is necessary, not
only to note down those occurrences and details which are
prescribed by tradition and custom to be the essential course
of the act, but also the Ethnographer ought to record carefully
and precisely, one after the other, the actions of the actors and
of the spectators. Forgetting for a moment that he knows and
understands the structure of this ceremony, the main dogmatic
ideas underlying it, he might try to find himself only in the
midst of an assembly of human beings, who behave seriously or
jocularly, with earnest concentration or with bored frivolity,
who are either in the same mood as he finds them every day, or
else are screwed up to a high pitch of excitement, and so on
and so on. With his attention constantly directed to this
aspect of tribal life, with the constant endeavour to fix it, to
express it in terms of actual fact, a good deal of reliable and
expressive material finds its way into his notes. He will be
able to " set " the act into its proper place in tribal life, that is
to show whether it is exceptional or commonplace, one in which
the natives behave ordinarily, or one in which their whole
behaviour is transformed. And he will also be able to bring
all this home to his readers in a clear, convincing manner.

Again, in this type of work, it is good for the Ethnographer
sometimes to put aside camera, note book and pencil, and to
join in himself in what is going on. He can take part in the
natives' games, he can follow them on their visits and walks,
sit down and listen and share in their conversations. I am
not certain if this is equally easy for everyone perhaps the
Slavonic nature is more plastic and more naturally savage than
that of Western Europeans but though the degree of success
varies, the attempt is possible for everyone. Out of such



22 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

plunges into the life of the natives and I made them frequently
not only for study's sake but because everyone needs human
company I have carried away a distinct feeling that their
behaviour, their manner of being, in all sorts of tribal trans-
actions, became more transparent and easily understandable
than it had been before. All these methodological remarks,
the reader will find again illustrated in the following
chapters.

VIII

Finally, let us pass to the third and last aim of scientific
field-work, to the last type of phenomenon which ought to be
recorded in order to give a full and adequate picture of native
culture. Besides the firm outline of tribal constitution and
crystallised cultural items which form the skeleton, besides the
data of daily life and ordinary behaviour, which are, so to
speak, its flesh and blood, there is still to be recorded the
spirit the natives' views and opinions and utterances. For,
in every act of tribal life, there is, first, the routine prescribed
by custom and tradition, then there is the manner in which it
is carried out, and lastly there is the commentary to it, con-
tained in the natives' mind. A man who submits to various
customary obligations, who follows a traditional course of
action, does it impelled by certain motives, to the accompani-
ment of certain feelings, guided by certain ideas. These ideas,
feelings, and impulses are moulded and conditioned by the
culture in which we find them, and are therefore an ethnic
peculiarity of the given society. An attempt must be made
therefore, to study and record them.

But is this possible ? Are these subjective states not too
elusive and shapeless ? And, even granted that people
usually do feel or think or experience certain psychological
states in association with the performance of customary acts,
the majority of them surely are not able to formulate these
states, to put them into words. This latter point must certainly
be granted, and it is perhaps the real Gordian knot in the study
of the facts of social psychology. Without trying to cut or
untie this knot, that is to solve the problem theoretically, or to
enter further into the field of general methodology, I shall
make directly for the question of practical means to overcome
some of the difficulties involved.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 23

First of all, it has to be laid down that we have to study here
stereotyped manners of thinking and feeling. As sociologists,
we are not interested in what A or B may feel qua individuals,
in the accidental course of their own personal experiences we
are interested only in what they feel and think qua members
of a given community. Now in this capacity, their mental
states receive a certain stamp, become stereotyped by the
institutions in which they live, by the influence of tradition and
folk-lore, by the very vehicle of thought, that is by language.
The social and cultural environment in which they move forces
them to think and feel in a definite manner. Thus, a man
who lives in a polyandrous community cannot experience the
same feelings of jealousy, as a strict monogynist, though he
might have the elements of them. A man who lives within the
sphere of the Kula cannot become permanently and senti-
mentally attached to certain of his possessions, in spite of the
fact that he values them most of all. These examples are crude,
but better ones will be found in the text of this book.

So, the third commandment of field-work runs : Find out
the typical ways of thinking and feeling, corresponding to the
institutions and culture of a given community, and formulate
the results in the most convincing manner. What will be the
method of procedure ? The best ethnographical writers here
again the Cambridge school with Haddon, Rivers, and
Seligman rank first among English Ethnographers have
always tried to quote verbatim statements of crucial importance.
They also adduce terms of native classification ; sociological,
psychological and industrial termini technici, and have rendered
the verbal contour of native thought as precisely as possible.
One step further in this line can be made by the Ethnographer,
who acquires a knowledge of the native language and can use it
as an instrument of inquiry. In working in the Kiriwinian
language, I found still some difficulty in writing down the
statement directly in translation which at first I used to do
in the act of taking notes. The translation often robbed the
text of all its significant characteristics rubbed off all its
points so that gradually I was led to note down certain
important phrases just as they were spoken, in the native
tongue. As my knowledge of the language progressed, I put
down more and more in Iliriwinian, till at last I found myself
writing exclusively in that language, rapidly taking notes,



24 SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE

word for word, of each statement. No sooner had I arrived
at this point, than I recognised that I was thus acquiring at
the same time an abundant linguistic material, and a series of
ethnographic documents which ought to be reproduced as I
had fixed them, besides being utilised in the writing up of my
account.* This corpus inscriptionum Kiriwiniensium can be
utilised, not only by myself, but by all those who, through
their better penetration and ability of interpreting them, may
find points which escape my attention, very much as the other
corpora form the basis for the various interpretations of ancient
and prehistoric cultures ; only, these ethnographic inscriptions
are all decipherable and clear, have been almost all translated
fully and unambiguously, and have been provided with native
cross-commentaries or scholia obtained from living sources.

No more need be said on this subject here, as later on a
whole chapter (Chapter XVIII) is devoted to it, and to its
exemplification by several native texts. The Corpus will of
course be published separately at a later date.

IX

Our considerations thus indicate that the goal of
ethnographic field-work must be approached through three
avenues :

1. The organisation of the tribe, and the anatomy of its culture
must be recorded in firm, clear outline. The method of
concrete, statistical documentation is the means through which
such an outline has to be given.

2. Within this frame, the imponderabilia of actual life, and
the type of behaviour have to be filled in. They have to be
collected through minute, detailed observations, in the form
of some sort of ethnographic diary, made possible by close
contact with native life.

3. A collection of ethnographic statements, characteristic
narratives, typical utterances, items of folk-lore and magical
formulae has to be given as a corpus inscriptionum, as documents
of native mentality.

* It was soon after I had adopted this course that I received a letter from
Dr. A. H. Gardiner, the well-known Egyptologist, urging me to do this very
thing. From his point of view as archaeologist, he naturally saw the enormous
possibilities for an Ethnographer of obtaining a similar body of written sources
as have been preserved to us from ancient cultures, plus the possibility of
illuminating them by personal knowledge of the full life of that culture.



SUBJECT, METHOD AND SCOPE 25

These three lines of approach lead to the final goal, of which
an Ethnographer should never lose sight. This goal is, briefly,
to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realise
his vision of his world. We have to study man, and we must
study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold
which life has on him. In each culture, the values are slightly
different ; people aspire after different aims, follow different
impulses, yearn after a different form of happiness. In each
culture, we find different institutions in which man pursues
his life-interest, different customs by which he satisfies his
aspirations, different codes of law and morality which reward
his virtues or punish his defections. To study the institutions,
customs, and codes or to study the behaviour and mentality
without the subjective desire of feeling by what these people
live, of realising the substance of their happiness is, in my
opinion, to miss the greatest reward which we can hope to
obtain from the study of man.

These generalities the reader will find illustrated in the
following chapters. We shall see there the savage striving to
satisfy certain aspirations, to attain his type of value, to follow
his line of social ambition. We shall see him led on to perilous
and difficult enterprises by a tradition of magical and heroical
exploits, shall see him following the lure of his own romance.
Perhaps as we read the account of these remote customs there
may emerge a feeling of solidarity with the endeavours and
ambitions of these natives. Perhaps man's mentality will
be revealed to us, and brought near, along some lines which
we never have followed before. Perhaps through realising
human nature in a shape very distant and foreign to us, we
shall have some light shed on our own. In this, and in this
case only, we shall be justified in feeling that it has been worth
our while to understand these natives, their institutions and
customs, and that we have gathered some profit from the
Kula.
Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM