Paths of relationship, spirals of exchange: Imag(in)ing North Pentecost kinship

John (Jack) Taylor

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In Stone Men of Malekula: Vao (1942), a text that was published more than twenty-five years after he carried out long-term fieldwork in Vanuatu, John Layard introduced a new technique for rendering kinship data in diagrammatic form. Inspired in part by Gregory Bateson, his 'circular technique' was derived from diagrams drawn up according to the genealogical method, and was designed to overcome certain structural problems identified within these. One important implication of the 'circular technique' that is not made explicit in Layard's analysis is a resonance with many of the idioms and metaphors that ni-Vanuatu evoke in talking about relationships of exchange and kinship. Where processes of birth, death, marriage and exchange are conceptualised in terms of a broad flow of departures and returns across discernible trajectories, images incorporating circles and spirals are utilised as key metaphors for understanding social relationships through space and time. Focusing on the Raga-spcaking district of North Pentecost, Vanuatu, this article explores such idioms while presenting a revision of Layard's circular technique.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)76-94
    JournalAustralian Journal of Anthropology, The
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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