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there is spiritual or intellectual unity, corporeal diversity. Now the Melanesian
case does not present us with the viewpoints that humans and non-humans
have on one another, and the parallel with Amazonian perspectivism must be
tentative. But there is a kind of bodily perspective that does suggest differences
of an ontological order.
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DIVIDED ORIGINS AND THE ARITHMETIC OF OWNERSHIP


Lipset and Stritecky (1994: 15“17) themselves dismiss some of the more
obvious reasons why Murik men and women should count their children dif-
ferently, arguing that the disparity is not just about women recalling stillbirths
or men boasting about their social power. The reason Lipset and Stritecky put
forward has to do with the bodily interior of each sex and the in¬‚uences in-
ternal bodily powers have on others. It is simply that women are not bothered
about mentioning dead babies, whereas men are very bothered indeed. Men
are held responsible for the death of children at birth because this is a sign that
they have failed to follow pregnancy protocols. Adultery, for instance, puts the
husband™s interior body into a state that is lethal for the young child. When
it comes to adoption, women tend to mention children adopted-in but not
children adopted-out. To men the traf¬c is all part of their larger nurturing
roles (which they liken to mothering, speci¬cally suckling),8 including help-
ing others by sending them children. It is women who see the children they
have lost as truncating the kind of nurture they offer (˜cutting the breast™).
Like the observance of protocols at birth, the authors argue, women™s nurture
requires management of the interior body, for the nubile/parturient female
body is otherwise dangerous to adults in general.
Very crudely, then, the signs switch: men mother (nurture) adults and are
dangerous to children; women mother (nurture) children and are danger-
ous to adults. In this equation, the different effects that men and women
have lie in their being, a matter not so much of managing knowledge as of
managing the consequences of their bodily condition. The conditions are
speci¬c. Thus liability for danger comes from female bodies in the form of
young women of childbearing age and from men™s bodies when their wives
are pregnant. Insofar as such internal dispositions shape the world that people
perceive exists around them, then they (these dispositions) have ontological
status.9
But in what sense are they different effects? Is this a case of what Pedersen
(2001 : 413, after Vivieros de Castro; cf. Wagner 1977) calls analogous identi¬-
cation? We may recall the perspectivist contrast, spiritual unity: corporeal
diversity. In the Murik instance, male and female bodies seem alike in their
inner capacities to in¬‚uence others (inner unity); at the same time, bodies
are differentiated along another axis altogether, in being responsive to other
persons™ bodies in particular states of childhood or adulthood (reproductive
diversity.) For with some drama, Murik reveal a difference between male and
female persons through this other difference between persons, that between
adults and children.10 Temporality, or stage of growth, introduces crucial dis-
tinctions, so that under certain (temporally bounded) conditions men™s and
women™s bodies have differentiated effects on others.
142 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


It is clear that more than one kind of originating activity is going on. First
as child and then as adult, the person owes health and vitality to the care that
others take, and the care is of one of two kinds: observing rules or bestowing
nurture. The inner powers of parents “ both male and female “ set different
in¬‚uences into motion depending on the reproductive stage of the child or
adult. In turn, exterior form allows speci¬c social origins to be claimed at
certain moments.
Thus Murik men and women alike may claim the privilege of decorating
children™s bodies. Decorating takes place, for instance, at the climax of a series
of rituals conferring entry into a ceremonial group, with its titles and insignia,
and is the privilege of the title-holding senior of the group, male or female.
Indeed, the capacity to bestow certain named ornaments is described by the
ethnographers as a right and one exercised somewhat competitively. First born
children in particular ¬nd themselves subject to the claims of more than one
kin group that may be competing for the child (Lipset and Stritecky 1994: 5, 7).
Note that these are not unilineal descent groups but ceremonial groups that
may use ties through either sons (or brothers) or daughters (or sisters) to claim
af¬liates. Far from group af¬liation being settled at birth, then, allegiance is
established only once growth to adulthood is assured. The af¬liation of the
child is claimed by his or her seniors wishing to bestow their ornaments. We
may conclude that the design of the ornaments tells you which group the child
belongs to “ and insofar as they declare the child™s subject position then the
child, so to speak, belongs to the ornaments.


Counting Ancestors: Omie
How many bodies are made present when persons manifest their capacities as
though they had both inner and outer versions and when they move through
stages that may, as when maturation rites are performed, alter bodily states,
temporally or permanently? Or when bodies also hold the imprint of their
diverse kinship origins? The Murik child could be claimed by groups on either
the mother™s or the father™s side, and it is his or her body that they in turn claim
in decorating it. Where the bodies of children are held to take after the bodies
of parents, procreation can introduce a further dynamic. If persons derive
substance from both maternal and paternal kin, each generation has to take
into account the fresh combination/division introduced by the new bringing
together of the child™s two parents.11 But reproducing the same bodies in each
generation means reproducing the same number of origins. This is an explicit
aim of some Papua New Guinea kinship systems that consistently produce new
generations out of old ones with the same number of antecedents. They achieve
143
DIVIDED ORIGINS AND THE ARITHMETIC OF OWNERSHIP


this by deliberately shedding earlier connections, as in the famous conception“
deconception mathematics of the Bush Mekeo (Mosko 1983; 1985).12 Far from
the multiplier effect of Euro-American genealogies, each generation can point
to an identical number of ancestral origins.
Some people bypass the mathematics altogether. They cut through the
issues of multiplication and division by simply declaring that women belong
to their mother™s groups and men to their father™s. Such systems are rare in
the ethnographic record. Exclusive af¬liation along gender lines seemingly
¬‚ies in the face of the usual kinds of accommodations for combining group
membership with reproduction based on parental pairing. However, in one
famous case of ˜sex-af¬liation™, the symmetry of same-sex identi¬cation leads
to the extreme claim by the ethnographer that the sexes in themselves form
˜distinct social groups™.13
Writing about the Omie of Papua New Guinea as things were some thirty
years ago, Rohatynskyj14 observed:

It is clear that the sexes comprise two distinct groups. Men reside in collectivities
on land with which they are identi¬ed through a set of ma™i ma™i [land speci¬c
totems] and the anie [plant emblems]. Interspersed among them are isolated
women who, in consistently not bearing the anie of the groups within which they
reside, stand as a whole in opposition to the groups formed by men.
1990: 449

She goes on to argue that men and women are equally persons and equally
involved in group reproduction. This is through their anie af¬liation, for
women take their mother™s and men their father™s. And they have the same
kinds of emblems because, it is reported, they also have the same kinds of
bodies: Omie women have their mother™s bodies and men their father™s bodies.
Omie can think of themselves, then, as having either one (same sex) parent
or as having two. In other words, they can count the number of parents they
have in one of two ways. Rohatynskyj herself (1990: 434) opens her analysis by
saying that it is the sex of the child that determines group af¬liation. From the
child™s perspective, there is no alternative; each person has only one same-sex
parent (male and female are analogous here). At the same time, the group
af¬liation that follows from this divides parents quite radically into two kinds.
The opposite sex parent plays quite different and quite distinct roles; children
may show this parent™s imprint on their external features, for instance. But the
overwhelming nature of the same-sex tie means not only that same-sex parent
and child belong to (are identi¬ed with) one another but also that it is the
vital substance of that parent alone that causes the child to come into being
and gives it an origin. This Rohatynskyj (1990: 439) refers to as ownership.
144 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


It is worth noting that the same-sex parent is duplicated, through marriage
rules not necessary to spell out here, in that the girl is also, through this other
route, identi¬ed with her mother™s mother and the boy with his father™s father.
(Those who share the same plant emblem are spoken of as living together and
here men take precedence; men™s ties to the land introduce an important
asymmetry between adjacent generations, which the marriage rules resolve
in alternate generations.15 ) This shows in maturation rituals, some of which
assume that male and female bodies are externally analogous, boys and girls
having their septum pierced in the same way, and others of which diverge in
order to ensure the appropriate development of internal capacities. Hence boys
undergo re-birth at the hands of men, who refashion their insides through
dietary and other rules, the ¬‚edglings emerging from the initiation nest to take
the place of their grandfathers (father™s fathers).16 As they come out, senior
men sing songs that the candidates™ grandfathers composed personally, and
from this moment the juniors are able to use their grandfather™s totemic
names. Girls are taken care of by senior women, taught appropriate bodily
comportment, and we may, after Houseman 1988, read their own capacity to
give birth as their inheritance of their own mother™s and mother™s mother™s
capacity. The generations are united by the vitality they show.
Perhaps there is a similarity here to identi¬cations made elsewhere, and rad-
ically between dead and living. Pedersen™s (2001 ) analysis of certain (southern)
North Asian societies is germane. These people depart from the Amazonian-
type of human /animal perspectivism also found in (northern) North Asia but
instigate a perspectivism of sorts across interhuman relations and speci¬cally
relations between living persons and dead ancestor spirits. It takes shamans to
move across the divide and see through ancestral eyes. In the Melanesia cases,
there may be an equally dramatic denouement (a special performance), but
it is one that takes phase as a stage in the reproductive process that reveals the
unity of ancestors and descendants. An altered external body (the now mature
child) points to the ¬‚ow of internal powers across the generations. This is em-
phatically an embodied power; grandchildren appear as their grandparents.17
Put otherwise, the grandchild makes the grandparent appear.


Owners and Makers
Let me return to the issue of ownership. Rohatynskyj used the term when she
described a parent being the cause of his or her child, by which she meant the
cause of its being and condition in the world (battle for a child to be born as
either its mother™s offspring or its father™s takes place, she observes, hidden
away, within the womb). Yet there can be no ˜original™ in the in¬nite series
145
DIVIDED ORIGINS AND THE ARITHMETIC OF OWNERSHIP


D“M“MM (daughter“mother“mother™s mother), only the same state repli-
cated. As Houseman (1988) demonstrates, reduplication is a sign of indeter-
minacy. Perhaps we can regard the opposite sex parent as a kind of negative
presence, in which case its active elimination is the relational act that confers
the same-sex parent™s ownership.
Among its attributes, and like the songs sung at a boy™s coming-out cere-
mony, the anie emblem presents an image of what it is of the person that can
be replicated in the next generation.18 The emblem belongs to more than one
body, but is only produced through a particular body, that is, in being borne
by a living person. So it is an image of his antecedents that a person owns, or
equally we may say it is the image that owns the person (that is, through which
these antecedents own the person). The anie endures; a succession of persons
come to hold it, but the anie makes them all one (the son is both father and
grandfather). If the same person (S “ F “ FF) is counted innumerable times,
separate persons (S “ F “ FF) are equally counted as one. ˜The one™ may be
singular; its power derives from its having passed through several bodies.
Now there is an issue of moment in similarities with Amazonian perspec-
tivism and its emphasis on ontologically rather than epistemologically in-
formed points of view. An epistemological viewpoint produces not diverse
ways of being but diverse representations of the world. We may borrow the
latter vocabulary to include persons™ representations of themselves in the
world. This is one sense in which Euro-Americans understand intellectual
products. Yet the ornaments and songs and habits of comportment these
Papua New Guinea people produce are not ˜representations™. They are more
like demonstrations or certi¬cates, a point to which I shall return,19 or like
body products produced in the course of people™s production of one another.
Crook (1999: 237) recounts the dramatic gesture with which a senior man from
Bolivip (Papua New Guinea), in wishing to convey what/how he was trans-
mitting to the ethnographer, feigned an incision in his thigh; he had given
over part of himself, meat, muscle. More generally, knowing the protocols is
not suf¬cient for they cannot be represented in models for people to follow;
in coaching the next generation, the seniors™ job is not done until they have
witnessed juniors acting out the protocols. The seniors are originators of the
body transformations the juniors undergo.
What rescues this analysis from another Euro-American binarism (mind:
body) is the perspectivist question about whether such bodies inhabit one or
many worlds. Or rather, how many different kinds (Astuti 1995) of bodies there
are. It would be absurd to argue that bodily distinctiveness alone means that
people inhabit different worlds. But it is the case, across Papua New Guinea,
that people deliberately attempt to make new bodies in order to be persons in
146 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


a new world. Hirsch (2001 ) argues the point forcefully. Melanesians devise
new ways to be persons, giving evidence of an ability to transform themselves
in order to make themselves subjects in, have an existence in, a transformed
world. He gives a telling example from the days of ˜¬rst contact™ in Fuyuge,
when people killed several pigs in order to convert a certain kind of headdress
from a man-killing one to a pig-killing one. This transformation of the or-
nament meant that the headdress could continue to be worn but would give
the body quite new connotations. No longer would its appearance point to
prowess in killing people, but to the fact that its bearers were ˜persons of a
“new” kind, those who knew the ˜law”™ (2001 : 245). More generally, people™s
understanding of transformations in their lives affects their interpretations
of what it means to be the origin of something. Among recent transforma-
tions is a new language for the process of transformation itself that gives it an
intellectual cast: focus is on the knowledge involved.
Rohatynskyj™s (1997; 2001) description of present day Omie is apposite.
Omie now work with the notion of themselves as a group with a unique culture
(1997: 439), and this culture has become an ˜origin™ of their self-accounts. In
this context, people talk about what happens to knowledge [in English] such
as the knowledge their seniors have vested in the anthropologist.
To the anthropologist, her ¬ndings are inevitably representations; to the
Omie, whether as a reliable guide to the working out of land claims or as
a source of mischief used by the unauthorised, they are rather more than
that. But ˜knowledge™ offers a new idiom in which to talk about new trans-
formations, including people™s perceptions of themselves as people with a
˜culture™, much of which in turn consists of cultural knowledge. Betrayal or
loss of culture or knowledge is a language Papua New Guineans routinely
adopt for their present condition (cf. Kirsch 2001 ). When talking of the disap-
pearance of traditional songs, Omie thus lament, ˜We have lost our customs™
(Rohatynskyj 1997: 450). This is not the place to consider the nuances of
Melanesian ˜custom™;20 globally speaking, part of its power is the status the
concept of cultural knowledge has in the international community. Knowl-
edge pervades the language of UNESCO and WIPO.21 In standing for what
people transmitted to one another in the past, however, its usage may obscure
an intergenerational dynamic in which, in the eyes of some (usually seniors),
other people (usually juniors) appear to have lost interest in tradition (Sykes
2000; 2004).22 It may also obscure an ongoing shift from an ontological to an
epistemological sense of perspective.
New generation Omie no longer recognise the same-sex af¬liations, anie
and the totemic species through which people™s claims on one another had
once rested so ¬rmly. In turn, the ethnographer (Rohatynskyj 2001 ) must ask
147
DIVIDED ORIGINS AND THE ARITHMETIC OF OWNERSHIP


questions about the nature of the transactions by which she came to acquire
Omie cultural knowledge, what her ownership of it means and what then she
must do with its form embodied in narrative on tape.23


Propagating Images
Songs and narratives are forms of expression that Euro-Americans may class
as intellectual. I have embedded some Papua New Guinean examples in what
seems another description altogether, the way in which persons reproduce
themselves over the generations. That is deliberate. In this part of the world,
kinship relations offer a crucial clue to how such expressions are owned.
Chapter Five suggested that kinsfolk own that part of the person that is an
index of their relationship; here I stress a related point. When people are
identi¬ed as members of kin groups, these groups are being de¬ned by the
interest they have in their members™ reproductive capacity; they own persons
through the perpetuation of the identity (e.g., name, insignia) that the person
carries for them. More universally, we can talk of such persons as owning a
reproductive interest in other persons. This is what axiomatically divides kin
from non-kin, non-kin by de¬nition having no such interest. I now wish to
argue that what people can own in such persons is also what they can own in
artefacts, namely, regenerative capacity.
A case can be made for considering a range of tangible as well as intangible
artefacts here, including ornaments and decorations, although I particularly
have in mind items that circulate in exchange relations. These may be genera-
tive in the weak sense of creating or sustaining relationship, but they may also
be regarded as capable of magically multiplying themselves, as root crops in
the ground multiply. The owner™s own regenerative capacity is demonstrated
to the extent that he or she exercises the power to reproduce the artefact. That
in turn, the ownability of something, becomes one of its attributes. A case
can also be made for claiming that these particular conditions have broad
currency across Papua New Guinea. And although the data presented so far
have been largely historical, they are not out of place in understanding much
contemporary practice. Omie may have dropped anie and ma™i ma™i from the
way they think about one another, but they are very much concerned about
the form that various ˜cultural expressions™ take, including songs.
Items such as songs circulate readily between persons and groups.24 And
across Papua New Guinea they may do so precisely because of the mystical
burden they carry in reference to fertility and potency. It is widely the case that
although these forms of expression are in one sense detachable from persons,
their reference to persons is emphatically part of their value. In other words,
148 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


the origin of an artefact in the lives of others contributes to its distinctiveness
and importance. Conversely, it demonstrates the reproductive power of those
lives; the transferral of the right of possession is at once an example and a sign
of such.
This description (Leach 2000: 66“7, paraphrased) comes from the Madang
area of Papua New Guinea:

In 1998 people in a village called Goriong decided they wanted to purchase the
tune, words and carvings of a particular Tamberan [ancestral] spirit from the
neighbouring village of Seriang. Ten men who claimed to be the descendants of
the originator of the spirit voice went to receive payment. The Goriong purchasers
called each by name and placed money and other items in his hands, as well as
handing over a live pig. The men took the pig back to Seriang, cooked it and
distributed it among the villagers. Thus the transfer of the spirit voice was made
public.

The transaction enabled the Goriong to sing and dance in the name of this
spirit. Because they had made a payment, they became entitled to pass it on in
turn and pro¬t from the payments it would bring them. This contrasts with
situations in which someone may ask permission to use a song or dance but
acquires only use-rights, and not the right to be called an owner as the Goriong
were now entitled to be. In the process, the Seriang lost nothing: they could
still use the Tamberan (ancestral spirit) voice for their own celebrations.25
What is important is that the songs are rendered in a way that keeps their
integrity. They evoke memories of the dead and are highly charged for their
original owners, and the new owners should do nothing to defame or mock
the Tamberan spirit.26
The form eventually displayed may thus be an original and a derivative
at the same time. The new owners acknowledge the source from which the
Tamberan voice came, for it is a Tamberan originating at a particular place that
they dance and sing. Transactions at the moment of transfer not only secure
the release of the practices for use but multiply its origins; both those who
had it and the those who obtained it may be considered sources of the new
practices, even if not to the same degree. Beyond these originators, what is also
brought into being are multiple destinations for the creation, in the people
who will witness the display. The propagation of objects means attachment to
new people (Demian 2001 ).
That such items can be transacted introduces a further possibility in the
reproduction of persons: other people™s generative power can be appropriated
for oneself. So there is a form of generativity that can be transferred indepen-
dent of the propagation of an ˜originary™ group. In addition to the logic of
149
DIVIDED ORIGINS AND THE ARITHMETIC OF OWNERSHIP


same-sex af¬liation (if the same power is replicated over and over again, so
too is reference to its origin) is the logic of dual parenthood. When origins are
divided between persons, there need be no end to the process of division, to
the number of borrowings and transfers that are recalled, although it is likely
that distant antecedents will drop off. For interest is not just in the things
acquired through transactions; explicit value is put on maintaining ¬‚ow itself
(Wagner 1977). Borrowing, sharing and exchanging are all effected through
payments; keeping the ¬‚ow going acquires generative connotations of its own.
An ability to release generativity is bound up in the right to pass things on to
others.


III

Intellectual Products?
The comparisons with intellectual property are becoming evident. I have been
accumulating instances from this Melanesian material in which one might
draw parallels with items that in Euro-American legal regimes can become
subject to intellectual property protection. In addition to songs and names,
we have encountered carvings, performance, moral rights (in the integrity of
a piece of work), personal images or emblems and could even regard groups
as having a proprietary identity to protect. Although they are made visible
and manifest, many depend on performance to be so, so that they only appear
for a while and in the interim exist as memories of designs, patterns and
movements. Moreover, there are contexts in which control over reproduction
is restricted. It is not surprising that copyright is often taken as a model for
the protection of cultural property (Coombe 1998; Brown 2003).
The Papua New Guinean lawyer Kalinoe (2000) notes one bias that copyright
would introduce. When contemporary artists draw on traditional art forms,
such as Tamberan songs, copyright would appear to be the means to protect
their artistic expressions. But although copyright declares their originality,
as it is often said it does not deal with the other side of the equation “ the
simultaneously derivative nature of the work and its multiple origins.27
However, all this draws too quick a comparison between indigenous pro-
tocols governing the transmission and transaction of performances, artefacts
and so forth, and regimes seeking to protect the products of intellectual work.
We have already seen that loss of custom nowadays may be glossed as loss of
(traditional/cultural) knowledge. It may be necessary to scrape off that gloss.
Kalinoe (2000) has argued the case for considering the protection of various
items of value, especially the class that he calls sacred (such as those with
150 KINSHIP, LAW AND THE UNEXPECTED


ancestral value, ancestral not because they are antique but because it is the
living presence of ancestors in their descendants that guarantees continuity of
inner power). Signi¬cantly, his proposal is that these should be treated, for le-
gal purposes, simply as property “ emphatically not as intellectual property.28
This is worth pursuing.
The ethnographic record from Melanesia could have supplied many ex-
amples to convey the substance of the data presented here. Most notably, all
the items just mentioned (songs, names, carvings, performance, moral rights,

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