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Huli People of Papua New Guinea

An indigenous population may pertain to a group of people who are original inhabitants of a region. It may also refer to a group of people who identify with a particular, small-scale cultural heritage, as well as those who have no important role in the government. Classic examples of an indigenous population may include those small-scale cultures in Asia, as well as in the Americas, were influenced later on or in the past several centuries by the colonial powers (Ferraro, 416).

For the past decades, there are a lot of anthropologies who place great importance on the survival of these indigenous people, and among them are the Huli people, the indigenous population in Papua New Guinea, more specifically in the Southern Highlands. The Huli population is composed of more than 65,000 and they are currently living in their settlements for almost 600 years already. The language that these people are speaking includes English, Huli and Tok Pisin (Lomas, 1). “Hamigini” refers to the clans where the Huli people are divided. Moreover, “hamigini emene” refers to the subclans.

A Huli individual would belong to a specific clan and subclan depending on his or her hereditary descent. Belonging to a clan or subclan entitles an individual with a residential right over a particular territory in the Southern Highlands (Lomas, 1). The clans are logically, the aggregate of the subclans of Huli people. On the other hand, the subclans would refer to the small groups of Huli people with the same hereditary descent, meaning, members of the subclans would only include the Huli people who are related to the founder of the subclan or to any other member in that specific or particular subclan.

Sometimes, a Huli individual may belong to two or more subclans. A subclan is also generally referred to as the basic unit in the Huli society. The subclans of Huli people, declare war or peace over one subclan to another, perform tasks autonomously, or pay indemnities or give compensations whenever they would consult the whole clan. Considering that most of the people belonging to one particular subclan are all related to one another, it can be said that their idea of a family is generally broader. Half-brothers, half-sisters and even cousins in the Huli subclan or family are all thought-of as brothers and sisters (Glasse, 1968).

The Huli people normally live through hunting, as well as foraging or agriculture of plants and crops. It is in their farming skills where the Huli people are very notable of. Due to their outstanding skills as farmers, the Huli people have widely accepted the introduction of new crops in Papua New Guinea, which includes corn, cabbages and potatoes, aside from the usual sweet potato that is found in the Southern Highlands. Aside from being good farmers, the Huli people’s enthusiasms are also provoked by the idea of making private businesses (Schieffelin and Crittenden, 91).

Men and women in the Huli society on the other hand live in separate homes and it has already been noted in history that most of the men in the Huli society who did not marry are living in one huge house, specially made for their “Huli brothers”. From the point of view of the media greatly influenced by a feminist theory, a concept of “female agency” is likewise challenging in that “femaleness” may be only one in the middle of a person’s range of identifications, which can take account of sexuality, kinship relations, religion race, class, and so on.

In addition to this, gender itself has come to be seen as a kind of agency or practice, the act of doing or performing maleness or femaleness. In view of the fact that gender is a kind of doing, “an action, not an essence similarly a process not a category”, then there is always at least the chance that one could “do” or “perform” or else, again making gender seem conditional and unsteady, not sufficiently permanent or firm to bring about its own customary models of social action (Wardlow, 9).

Several responses can be made to these challenges to the idea of an established gendered society, and these responses can be made on conceptual levels, as well as on ethnographic levels. First, the majority Huli people appear to have a moderately firm and dichotomous concept of gender, what comprises or represents proper male and female behavior, how girls should be socialized in a different way than boys and so on. Huli mana, which is a customary lore or cultural knowledge, about gender is relatively sophisticated, taught at a very young age.

Therefore, any child can enumerate, “women are for bridewealth” or “women raise pigs, make gardens and have babies” (Wardlow, 10). It is not only to confirm that, as Lois McNay says “gender identities are not-free floating (rather) they involve deep-rooted investments on the part of individuals and historically sedimented practices which severely limit their transformability” (18). Among the Huli, bodily and spatial practices repetitively ratify a rigid duality of gender.

In the past, and to a huge amount nowadays, men and women still lived in separate houses and retained separate gardens. According to Glasse, “Huli men are domestically independent of their women, virtually all men prepare and cook their own food (and) only young boys and senile men would eat food cooked by a woman” (64). In many areas there were separate walking paths for men and women, and where there were not, men would carefully walk just to the side of paths to avoid stepping in women’s footprints.

Women, it is often said, should be “under the legs of men” which symbolically communicates or transmits that expectation that they be subordinate in male-female interactions, as well as indicating a general spatial rule in which women should never be higher than men. For example, in any discussion between brother and sister or husband and wife, women are physically located on the lower piece of ground. In any family compound, men’s houses are located higher on the hills from women’s houses. In parts where there are separate walking paths for women and men, the lower paths are for women.

The principles and beliefs of gender hierarchy are repetitively “instantiated in spatial arrangements and bodily comportment” (Wardlow, 11). Huli culture on the other hand, takes account of the use of colorful headdresses or wearing of traditional dress for women and colored clay for the men. A custom in the Huli society would incorporate exogamy, where one Huli individual belonging to one subclan must marry another Huli individual from another subclan. Marriage within the subclans is strictly prohibited in the Huli society.

In addition to this, most of the men in the Huli society have one or more wives, because of the existing polygynist culture. The women on the other hand, are only allowed to marry one Huli man (Glasse, 49). In addition to this, the bachelor cult and much of Huli these rituals were reactions to female sexuality, a power which had to be appropriated and restricted to slow down its hazardous capability to cause illness and death through pollution or sorcery. It seems that ritual, in conjunction with “ibagiya” shored up men’s ambivalence about their sexual identity in everyday interaction with women.

Incorporation into the state simultaneously exposed masculine fragility and denied to men many of the bases for asserting their manhood. The irony is that the Huli created institutions which subsequently created as well as coped with masculine ambivalence, but what was of their own making was undone by foreign institutional intrusion. Like Samson in his experience with the Philistine state, Huli men have to some level become powerless. In the early days of colonialism many Huli men scrutinized and understood the new power as a means of strengthening their masculinity.

This autonomy is swiftly dashed as local autonomy reduced and pragmatic changes or modifications had to be made to state incorporation. Huli men have, in a sense, lost their hair and today seldom make wigs. They are drawn into the amorphous zone of power outside the “anda” or “hama” boundaries where “pamuks”, those obscure objects of desire embodying the state, are the new Delilah (Manderson and Jolly, 210). Included in the Huli culture or society is the Huli narrative, which is a fusion of sacred history and imaginative literature.

Like make-believe play, they talk in the language of symbols to remake worlds by constantly shifting between the real and unreal. It is this property of imaginal potential that allows myths to make transformations as a sense-making exercise. On one level then, myth and make-believe play are structurally homologous patterns of frame shifting. But the Huli society’s “muthoi” as discourse also solicit others to collaborate with their implicit proposals to pretend, just like child pretenders in their fantasy interaction.

Adults and children reproduce their versions of social action then in remarkably similar ways (Goldman, 260). In all of the above respects, pretence plays with the borders between historical fact and nursery fiction, between lofty drama and burlesque comedy, and between adult and child visions of the unimaginable. To pose the question “How can a study of fantasy play become a theory-building part of anthropology? ” is surely to remain blissfully myopic to issues of symbolism, of identity and of intercultural universals.

Equally, it is to remain oblivious that some aspects in the role of imagination in human existence, the ontological status of representations and aesthetic constitution of imaginal products. It is not just these myth makers engender artifacts that are mutually incorporative of each other’s visions and images, but that they are both centrally predicated on the role, nature and function of renaming as quintessential pretenceful acts, as core transformational media (Goldman, 260). Religious syncretism is also present in the Huli society, particularly what the Huli people call as the “mbingi”.

Traditionally Hulis conducted earth magic or the “dindi gamu” in order to precipitate “time of darkness” or what they call “mbingi”, which consequently result to “paradisical plenty”. The arrival of white people, with their wealth and their ritual, held this same promise. The Huli people tell story about the inadvertent sacrifice of a Duna boy in a 1925 performance of “dindi gamu”. In addition to this, it is in this story and later Christian reinterpretations that Glasse locates the key syncretic link between traditional and Christian doctrine and ritual.

Pacification and apocalyptic expectations of the return of Christ and “cosmic cataclysm” in the 1979 period are greatly attributed to the way in which Hulis syncretically reinvented themselves as Christians. This act of reinvention is hardly surprising, since Melanesian cultures were traditionally open. Through trade, borrowing, and exchange, the Huli people constantly interacted, created and recreated themselves. Traditional “dindi gamu” itself is a syncretic rite combining Huli, Duna and Mt. Bosavi elements. Intercultural processes, whether precolonial or colonial are therefore seedbeds of culture (Biersack, 57).

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