Early Malinowski

Malinowski, Bronisław 1911a. Review of Kwartalink Etnografioncy Lud. Tom. XVI., zesryt I. Lwów, 1910. Folklore 22(3): 382-385.

Much material has already been collected in Poland, although comparatively little has yet been done for its systematic investigation, and some of the older collections need to be revised, and probably also brought up to date on many points and controlled by a series of new and first-hand observations, while there still time to record customs and beliefs which are rapidly vanishing. (Malinowski 1911a: 383)

The impetus to fieldwork is the rapid vanishing of exotic customs and beliefs. This has been noted by some of his critics in the 1970s and 80s: he was constantly waxing poetic about how it used to be before "nowadays".

Malinowski, Bronisław 1911b. Review of La Race Slave by Lubar Niedrle and Louis Léger. Paris: F. Alcan, 1911. Man 11: 64.

Of special interest will be undoubtedly the part devoted to internal differences which obtain amongst some of the apparently homogeneous groups such as the Russians. There are many things concerning this point that come to the knowledge of Western Europeans in more or less official form and therefore distorted and falsified. In addition also the stress of national feeling in the case of each individual nation is so strong that it is difficult to trust any casual information obtained from any one of the interested parties about another. M. Niederle's book is written with a thorough knowledge of all the nationalities he describes and in an impartial spirit. (Malinowski 1911b: 64)

The trope of "national character" is a methodological issue as well - the national feeling of the "observer" can put partial stress to the national characteristics of those "observed".

Malinowski, Bronisław 1912. Review of Grundlinien einer Vergleichung der Religionen und Mythologien der Austronesischen Völker by Von. P. W. Schmidt. In Denkschriften d. K. Akademie d. Wissenschaften in Wien, 1910. Folklore 23(1): 141-143.

It is worth emphasising that the results of this pioneer study and extensive comparison are only loosely linked with the theoretical views of the author, which are often open to dispute. (Malinowski 1912: 142)

Oh the irony. This is the exact criticism raised against himself by the aforementioned critics. They may actually have gotten inspired by Malinowsi's criticism here.

Malinowski, Bronisław 1913c. Review of Across Australia by Baldwin Spencer and F. J. Gillen. 2 vols. Macmillan, 1912. Folklore 24(2): 278-279.

The home ethnologist can never know too much about the manner in which the facts he is using in his theories were obtained. Moreover, the easy colloquial way of treating the subject allows some glimpses into the homely facts of native life, and brings us into intimate touch with it, a thing almost impossible in a systematic and rigidly scientific work, such as the former volume of these writers. (Malinowski 1913c: 279)

A description that could well suit his own narrative style of writing in Argonauts and elsewhere. Arguably the "easy colloquial way" of these books is what made them accessible to non-anthropologists and even laymen.

Malinowski, Bronisław 1916. Baloma; The Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 46: 353-430.

They centre around the dead man's body, and are closely connected with the duties of mourning, wailing and sorrowing for the dead individuals. But - and this is the important point for the present description - these social activities and ceremonies have no connection with the spirit. They are not performed, either to send a message of love and regret to the baloma (spirit), or to deter him from returning; they do not influence his welfare, nor do they affect his relation to the survivors. (Malinowski 1916: 354)

So mourning (and the accompanying "expressions of sympathy") is the next "futile" (sensu Dorothy Lee) item after the economic activity of gardening? Is he treating here the futility of magic?

I remember well the first time I heard the kosi mentioned. It was a dark night, and I, in the company of three natives, was returning from a neighbouring village, where a man had died that afternoon and been buried in our presence. We are marching in Indian file, when suddenly one of the natives stopped, and they all began to talk, looking around with evident curiosity and interest, but without a trace of terror. My interpreter explained that the kosi was heard in the yam garden which we were just crossing. I was strick by the frivolous way in which the natives treated this gruesome incident, and tried to make out how far they were serious about the alleged appearance, and in what manner they reacted to it emotionally. (Malinowski 1916: 355)

"And it must be emphasised whenever anything dramatic or important occurs it is essential to investigate it at the very moment of happening, because the natives cannot but talk about it, are too excited to be reticent, and too interested to be mentally lazy in supplying details." (Malinowski 1922: 8)

A large party of men, with To'uluwa, the chief of Omarakana, went to Tuma. They landed not far from the Modawosi stone, when they saw a man standing there. They immediately identified him as Gi'iopeulo, a great warrior and a man of indomitable strength and courage, who had died recently in a village not more than five minutes distance from Omarakana. When they approached, he disappeared, but they heard distinctly "Bu kusisusi bala" ("You remain, I shall go") - the usual form of "Good-bye." (Malinowski 1916: 363)

An actual set phrase from the natives, something missing from PC (the Shakespearean expression I do not consider "native").

He used to boast that he could go to Tuma in order to eat. "I want to eat now; I shall go to Tuma; there is plenty of food there: ripe bananas, yams and taro, ready to eat; fish and pigs; there is plenty of areca nut and betel pepper, too; all the time I go to Tuma I eat." It may be easily imagined how strongly these pictures [|] would appeal to the natives' fancy, how they would enhance the personal prestige of the boaster and arouse the envy of the more ambitious. Boasting about food is the most prevalent form of native vanity or ambition. A commoner might pay with his life if he had too much food or too good a garden, and especially if he displayed it too boastfully. (Malinowski 1916: 364-365)

A catch of PC tropes, most importantly enhancing personal prestige, which mirrors "social pleasure and self-enhancement". Thus, ambition and vanity are directly related to social pleasure derived from social talk and the communion (or privation) of food looms in the background.

Days and weeks are spent in cleaning the tubers and piling them artistically into heaps, so that the geometrical form may be perfect and none but the very best tubers be visible on the surface. The work is done by the owner and his wife, if he has one, but parties from the village walk about the garden, paying each other visits and admiring the yams. Comparisons and parising are the main theme of conversation. (Malinowski 1916: 372)

Yams (taitu) and their houses are apparently a major topic of conversation.

The karibom, as it is called, gives the small children the opportunity to play, hopping about the across the slowly moving chain of grown-ups; it allows the old people and the women actively to enjoy, at least, a kind of imitation of dancing; it is also the proper time for amorous advance among the young people. (Malinowski 1916: 374)

Festivities very similar to those in Europe.

Towards the end of the milamala, visits are received almost daily from quite distant villages. Such visits in olden days had a very compound character. They [|] were undoubtedly friendly, and were intended to be so, but there was always danger lurking behind the official friendliness. The visiting parties were always armed, and it was on such occasions that the whole array of "ceremonial" arms came into display. Indeed, even now the carrying of arms is not entirely suppressed, though at present they are nothing more than articles of decoration and display, owing to the white man's influence. (Malinowski 1916: 374-375)

Familiar enough from Argonauts.

All the large wooden sword-clubs, some of which are beautifully carved in heavy hardwood; the carved walking-sticks and short, ornamental spears, all so well known from the New Guinea collections in the museum, belong to this class of weapon. They serve equally the purpose of vanity and of business. Vanity, display of wealth, of valuable, finely ornamented objects, is one of the ruling passions of the Kiriwinian. To "swagger" with a large wooden sword, murderous looking, yet nicely carved and painted white and red, is an essential element of the fun to a Kiriwian youth in festive paint, with a white nose sticking out of a completely blackened face, or one "black eye," or some rather complex curves running all across his face. (Malinowski 1916: 375)

Finally something for anchoring "wealth".

This display takes place during the last three days of the full moon, the articles being put up in the morning and removed at night. The proper thing, when visiting a village during the ioiova, is to look at the things, even handle them, ask their names (every individual piece of vaigu'a has a proper name), and, of course, express great admiration. (Malinowski 1916: 377)

The conclusion is of course "vanity" but the general picture is not that different from Blano's illustration of family pictures shown and discussed in the entry to the house.

Nowadays, people will go to their gardens and ptter about, or go on preparing wood for house building or canoe making, and the spirits do not like it. Therefore their anger, which results in rain and storm, spoils the milamala. This was the case at Olivilevi, and later on at Omarakana. At Omarakana there was still another cause for their anger, connected with the ethnographer's presence in that place, and I had to hear several times reproachful allusions and remarks from the elders and from To'uluwa, the chief, himself. (Malinowski 1916: 380)

Ethnographer, the stranger.

The boys from six to twelve years of age sounded the beat, and then the smaller ones began to address the spirits in the words I had been previously given by my informants. They spoke with the same characteristic mixture of arrogance and shyness, with which they used to approach me, begging for tobacco, or making some facetious remark, in fact, with the typical demeanour of boys in the street, who perform some nuisance sanctioned by custom, like the proceedings on Guy Fawkes' day or similar occasions. (Malinowski 1916: 382)

The jocular tone! Note the man-in-the-street here given as beys-in-the-street ("uneducated classes").

And to this (as to all leading questions which contain an untrue or doubtful statement) the natives always answer in the negative, or else they consider your view as a new one, and throwing some light on the problem, but such consideration and acquiescence is at once distinguishable from a direct endorsement of a statement. There was never the slightest difficulty in deciding whether an opinion obtained was a customary, well established, orthodox native view, or whether it was an idea new to the native mind. (Malinowski 1916: 383)

More verbal kindling for why PC is not a native concept and wholly "outside looking in", despite his own statements to the effect that we must keep the native point of view, particularly feelings and ideas, in mind when studying their customs.

The informant must know that you want from him exact and detailed statements of fact. A good informant, after a few days, will contradict and correct you even if you make a lapsus linguae, and to think of any danger from leading questions in such a case is absolutely groundless. Again, real ethnographical work moves much more in statement of actual details, details which, as a rule, can be checked by observation - where again there is in no case any danger from leading questions. (Malinowski 1916: 383ff)

Factual statements about the true state of the universe, only, no gossip or obvious observations. How PC originated from the research-goals of the ethnographer, and not from the field itself. Could it be that like much else in Malinowski's work, it's a case of others interpreting and theoretical what was for himself perhaps methodological?

Ethnological enquiry and judicial examination are essentially different, in that in the latter the witness has usually to express his personal, individual opinion, or to relate his impressions, both of which can be easily modified by suggestion: whereas in ethnological enquiry the informant is expected to give such eminently crystallized and solidified items of knowledge as an outline of certain customary activities, or a belief or a stetement of traditional opinion. (Malinowski 1916: 383ff)

"Ideas, if attainable at all, are the result of long and toilsome search on the part of philosophers." (Gardiner 1932: 44)

By the time a man is out of the radius of one village, he hears the music from the next. There is nothing of any oppressive atmosphere of ghosts, of any haunting presence, quite the reverse. The mood of the natives is gay and rather frivolous, the atmosphere in which they live pleasant and bright. (Malinowski 1916: 384)

Solidifying the notion that the pleasant "social" atmosphere of PC is directly opposed to the strange and unpleasant tension felt in the presence of a stranger who might harbour evil magic.

Again, it is to be noted that, though there is a certain amount of communion between the living and the spirits by dreams, etc., the latter are never supposed to influence in any serious way the course of tribal affairs. No trace of divination, taking counsel with the spirits, or any other form of customary communion in matters of any importance, is to be detected. (Malinowski 1916: 384)

Communion is used here in the dictionary definition sense of "the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level." In light of this, "phatic" communion is a communion consisting only of linguistic exchange without any exchange of thoughts and feelings. The "apophatic" definition really negates spiritualism by setting the exchange of thoughts and feelings aside.

Again, except in the cases of people recently dead, there is little personal feeling about the spirits. (Malinowski 1916: 384)

Perhaps why the sincerity of expressions of sympathy looking for pity is not to be trusted.

Or else the imaginary spectator would walk through a Kiriwinian new garden field, with its soil freshly moved and cleared [...] (Malinowski 1916: 387)

The question is still open: how much of my material should I put into the perspective of an imaginary spectator looking at Malinowski interacting with the natives, reading from his books, and coming to one or another conclusion though these routes?

The backbone of Kiriwinian magic is formed by its spells. It is in the spell that the main virtue of all magic resides. The rite is there only to launch the spell, to serve as an appropriate mechanism of transmission. (Malinowski 1916: 388)

Phraseology for the "transmission of thoughts".

It is in the formulæ, therefore, that the clue to the ideas concerning magic is to be found. (Malinowski 1916: 388)

Evidently not the approach he took with formulae of greeting or approach, though one George Barton did take.

But it was clear that to all my informants the fact of women being tolipoula was so natural that it had never occurred to them to question it previously. (Malinowski 1916: 397)

Question to be asked of PC: Was it so natural to Westerners that they never thought to question it before Malinowski went to New Guinea? The earlier conversation manuals prove this to be untrue, even with regards to modern phatic tropes (e.g. "maintaining" a conversation, which appears as early as 1836, cf. Anthony Bolmar's A Collection of Colloquial Phrases).

Again, Tudava used to walk on the road leading from the beach to the village, and there are some traditional spots connected with his doings on that road. The "traditional presence," if such an expression may be coined, of the hero is felt in all the fishing places. The whole neighbourhood is also enveloped in taboos, which are especially stringent when the fishing is going on. (Malinowski 1916: 397)

Genius loci.

In several cases the man was too old or too stupid to help in the, from the native point of view, extremely difficult and puzzling task of translating the archaic and condensed formula, and of commenting upon all its obscurities. (Malinowski 1916: 399)

Phraseology. In extenso theorizing.

It would be no good asking the natives "What would happen if you omitted to invoke the baloma?" (a type of question which sometimes reveals the ideas of the native as to the sanction or reason for a certain practice), becaus a magic formula is an inviolable, integral item of tradition. It must be known thoroughly and repeated exactly as it was learnt. A spell or magical practice, if tampered with in any detail, would entirely lose its efficacy. (Malinowski 1916: 401)

The cultural value of a linguistic formula. Replace efficacy with expedience.

Their rôle is purely passive. And out of this passivity they can be roused only by being put into bad humour, when they begin to show their existence in a negative manner, so to speak. (Malinowski 1916: 402)

By way of analogy, the passive role of the listener in PC is upset by antipathies. Otherwise the mechanical nature of the conversation can proceed ad nauseam; at one point the listener simply tires of the passing role. Link with literature on good or active listening.

We left the baloma settled to his new life in the nether world, more or less comforted concerning those left behind; having, very likely, married again and formed new ties and connections. (Malinowski 1916: 402)

So, "[connections] of union" (PC 6.1) and "a [connection] of some social sentiment or other" (PC 7.8).

These tenets form the main stratum of what can be termed popular or universal belief. If you question any man, woman, or even an intelligent child, you will obtain from him or her this information. But any further details are much less universally known; one obtains a fact here and a detail there, and some of them contradict the others, and none of them seem to loom particularly clear in the native mind, though here and there it is obvious that some of these beliefs influence behaviour, and are connected with some customs. (Malinowski 1916: 403)

He is talking about "the belief in reincarnation [spirit children], and the ignorance of the physiological causes of pregnancy" (ibid, 403). Is PC such "information"? Could you arrive at it by questioning any man, woman, or intelligent child? Because as it stands the literature, at least, is full of contradictory opinions.

It is characteristic that any inconsistency is noted in a view which is not the informant's own standpoint, while similar contradictions are most blandly overlooked in his own theories. The natives are, remarkably enough, not a whit more consistent on this point or intellectually donest than civilized people. (Malinowski 1916: 405)

Why is this remarkable? How many cultures contain the old saying about seeing the faults of your neighbour more clearly than your own?

For a time, the contradictions and obscurities in the information appeared to me quite hopeless; it was in one of the desperate blind alleys, so often encountered in ethnographic field work, when one comes to suspect that the natives are untrustworthy, that they tell tales on purpose; or that one has to do with two sets of information, one of them distorted by white man's influence. (Malinowski 1916: 411)

I am the serious ethnographer's paranoia of insincerity.

That this is so is proved, beyond any doubt, to my informants by the case of Tilapo'i, a woman living in Kabululo, a village close to Omarakana. She is half blind, almost an idiot, and so plain that no one would think of approaching her sexually. In fact, she is the favourite theme of a certain class of jokes all turning on the assumption of someone having had connection with her: jokes which are always relished and repeated, so that "Kuoi Tilapo'i!" ("Have connection with Tilapo'i") has become a form of jocular abuse. In spite, however, of the fact that it is supposed that she never had connection, she once gave birth to child, which died subsequently. (Malinowski 1916: 412)

It is subtly illuminating that an example of jocular abuse comes after an indication of paranoia.

"The connection between cohabitation and conception seems to be knonwn among the Mailu, but to direct inquiries as to the cause of pregnancy I did not obtain emphatic and positive answers." [...] Neither of these statements is very emphatic, and in fact they do not seem to imply a complete ignorance of physical fatherhood. (Malinowski 1916: 414)

If emphatic statements are positive and definite answers to questions, what about "phatic"? It's beginning to look like "phatic" negates both emphatic insistence of a thought and sympathetic sharing of a feeling.

The general character of the Kiriwinian mental attitude certainly would answer this question with an emphatic negation. (Malinowski 1916: 416)

Thus, "phatically meandering", non-commital, not taking a stance.

In the ignorance of physiological fatherhood we do not deal with a positive state of mind, with a dogma leading to practices, rites, or customs, but merely with a negative item, the absence of knowledge. Such an absence could not possibly be brought about by a positive belief. Any widespread gap in knowledge, any universal absence of information, any general imperfection in observation found among native races, must, pending contrary evidence, be considered as primitive. (Malinowski 1916: 417)

The absence of exact meaning.

Summing up all these considerations, we may say that all beliefs as implied in native customs and traditions must be treated as invariably fixed items. They are believed and acted upon by all, and, as customary actions do not allow of any individual varieties, this class of belief is standardized by its social embodiments. They may be called the dogmas of native belief, or the social ideas of a community, as opposed to individual ideas. One important addition has to be made, however, to complete this statement: only such items of belief can be considered as "social ideas" as are not only embodied in native institutions, but are also explicitly formulated by the natives and acknowledged to exist therein. (Malinowski 1916: 423)

You can just hear the creeping footsteps of "collective consciousness" behind this.

I am purposely not using the term "collective ideas," introduced by Professor Durkheim and his school, to denote a conception, which in their hands, more especially in the writings of Hubert and Mauss, has proved extremely fertile. In the first place, I am not able to judge whether the above analysis would really cover what that school denotes by "collective ideas." Remarkably enough, there does not seem to be anywhere a clear, condid statement of what they mean by "collective idea," nothing approaching a definition. It is obviosu that in this discussion, and in general, I am under a great obligation to these writers. But I am afraid that I am entirely out of touch with Professor Durkheim's philosophical basis of sociology. It seems to me that this philosophy involves the metaphysical postulate of a "collective soul," which, for me, is untenable. Moreover, whatever discussion might be carried on as to the theoretical value of the conception of a "collective soul," in all practical sociological investigations one would be left hopelessly in the lurch by it. In the field, when studying a native or civilized community, one has to do with the whole aggregate of individual souls, and the methods and theoretical conceptions have to be framed exclusively with this multiplex material in view. The postulate of a collective consciousness is barren and absolutely useless for an ethnographical observer. (Malinowski 1916: 423ff)

"I don't understand it, hence it is useless."

This allows us to formulate a definition of a "social idea": It is a tenet of belief embodied in institutions or traditional texts, and formulated by the unanimous opinion of all competent informants. The word "competent" simply excludes small children and hopelessly unintelligent individuals. Such social ideas can be treated as the "invariants" of native belief. (Malinowski 1916: 424)

Is PC a "social idea"? Can we find it manifested in literature before Malinowski? In Mahaffy and earlier conversation manuals, yes, apparently. In any case it has become a social idea due to Malinowski's influence, so that random journalists write things that could just as well be torn directly out of Malinowski's essay.

Again, watching the behaviour of the performers and spectators in a magical ceremony, certain small facts characterizing the general "tone" of the natives' attitude are to be found. (Malinowski 1916: 424)

"The above data concerning this aspect of native belief, insufficient as they are, show clearl that with more experience in method a systematic inquiry could be carried out into the emotional side of belief on lines as strict as ethnological observations admit." (ibid, 424)

Behaviour, referring to the emotional aspect of belief, can be described by showing its type, because the variations move within certain well-described limits, the emotional and instinctive nature of man being, as far as one can judge, very uniform, and the individual variations remaining practically the same in any human society. (Malinowski 1916: 425)

The uniformity of instincts and innate trends.

Malinowski, Bronisław 1918. Fishing in the Trobriand Islands. Man 18: 87-92.

But none the less, the customary forms of distribution must proceed along the prescribed channels. (Malinowski 1918: 90)

Just collecting channels.

The taboos become much more stringent when the fishing period at full moon approaches: all strangers are rigorously excluded from the beach and its approaches; on the other hand, all the men of Labai must be in the village or on the beach, and they may not be absent on travels during the fishing season. [...] When the season approaches, the owners of canoes needing repair, and the intended owners of new ones, consult with the magician and offer him presents. On an appointed day, the magician performs a rite in his house, offering some food to ancestral spirits and reciting a spell. [...] This is the period of the strictest taboos observed by the whole community. [...] The whole village have to keep the sex taboo, and all strangers are strictly forbidden access to the village. (Malinowski 1918: 91)

Another reason to keep a close watch on "the stranger".

Malinowski, Bronisław 1920a. Classificatory Particles in the Language of Kiriwina. Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London 1(4): 33-78.

That language is an ethnographic document of fundamental importance is a palin truism. [...] The study of the linguistic aspect is indispensable, especially if we want to grasp the social psychology of a tribe, i.e. their manner of thinking, in so far as it is conditioned by the peculiarities of their culture. (Malinowski 1920a: 33)

So if "such and no other is the nature of primitive speech", then primitive peoples are unable to think?

In saying this I am simply stating my own experience in this matter. It would require a volume to substantiate this statement. The reading of such works as Wundt's Sprache, Paul's Principles, Professor Tucker's and Professor Oertel's treatises has helped me immensely in my work - it has, so to speak, allowed me to see linguistic facts. [...] W. Wundt, Volkerpsychologie, first two volumes; Die Sprache, Leipzig, 1900; H. Paul, Principles of the History of Language, English translation, London, 1888; T. G. Tucker, Introduction to the Natural History of Language, London, 1908; H. Oertel, Lectures on the Study of Language, New York, 1901. (Malinowski 1920a: 35)

Hot damn. Years of work.

To disregard this linguistic usage would be as incorrect as to misuse the gender in an Indo-European language, and the natives might laugh, as rude people, uncorrupted by good manners, do laugh when their language is mutilated by a foreigner. (Malinowski 1920a: 49)

It is of course impolite to mock. I wonder if the natives laughed rudely when he was learning their language?

Nevertheless, such considerations can hardly be looked upon at present as anything but linguistic curios, as long as we are not in possession of a system of consistent definitions of parts of speech. (Malinowski 1920a: 60)

Were the peripatetic linguistic functions consistently defined at the time of writing about PC?

The bulk of such expressions are found with the suffic tala (or the archair form tana), which in this connexion plays a part similar to the indefinite article un (in French), ein (in German), and a (in English). (Malinowski 1920a: 62)

Tala Tribe Called Quest, Tala Perfect Circle, Tala Cat Called Fritz.

If parts of speech and other grammatical distinctions possess any deeper significance, correspond to real distinctions in human thinking and human Weltanschauung, then let us once and for ever find this out. And then, whenever we find new linguistic forms and groupings we shall be able to say what they mean in relation to human social psychology and the special psychology of the given nation. (Malinowski 1920a: 66)

Innate tendencies and national character.

But also it is to serve us as an example of a general proposition, namely, that there is an urgent need for an Ethno-linguistic theory, a theory for the guidance of linguistic research to be done among natives and in connexion with ethnographic study. (Malinowski 1920a: 69)

Should or does (in Dell Hymes) this include PC?

Further research is thus stimulated, and this leads to the discovery of new facts. And so on; theoretical analysis compels us to see gaps in the facts and to formulate problems - this elucidates new facts, which must be submitted to theoretical analysis again, and so on, until the limit is reached, where further details would be too vague and too insignificant for observation. (Malinowski 1920a: 73)

With PC there doesn't appear to be such limit.

Speaking of a Melanesian part of speech, he says: "These are here called 'Possessives' for want of a better term, and are not called Possesive Pronouns because Pronouns they are not." We are neither told why the author thinks so dogmatically and affirms so boldly that "Pronouns they are not", we have to take it on his word - nor does he even trouble to tell us what he understands by pronoun. (Malinowski 1920a: 76)

Likewise with his own subjective conditionals ("It would be even incorrect, I think...").

Codrington's distinction must therefore rest on some subtlety, which he has in his mind, but which he never explicitly states. (Malinowski 1920a: 76)

Hopefully context can draw out the full implications of vanity and sincerity.

Malinowski, Bronisław 1920b. Kula; the Circulating Exchange of Valuables in the Archipelagoes of Eastern New Guinea. Man 20: 97-105.

In this article is described a special system of trade, obtaining over a widespread area, and possessing several features remarkable in their bearing upon questions of primitive economics, as well as throwing some new light on native mentality. (Malinowski 1920b: 97)

I noted the kula described in a similar manner ("a special system") in the paper about baloma and thinking about the "special consideration" given to speech in purely social intercourse whether his patterns of theorization are not behind some of his observations about "native mentality" (primitive mentality?). Also, I wonder if the semicolon has its own idioconvention in these titles. I am tempted to emulate it in the survey compendium (i.e. "Phatic Communion; the [...]" and "Phatic Function, the [...]", and so on.)

The distant and perilous trading expeditions of the South Sea islanders are a well-known feature of their tribal life. (Malinowski 1920b: 97)

As to fleshing out the aforehinted argument, one must ask if PC is such a "well-known" feature of native tribal life that it merits special consideration as the one and only true primitive use of speech? Wouldn't "primal screams", interjections, the emotional monologues of inarticulate cries predate (ah, the problem of origin) or at least have some functionaly primacy before the social function? Phatic function, when employed in the vocative, interpellative, Zuckermanian "violence" sense, is little more than a re-dressed conative/"appeal" function.

This means that the main gift has to be repaid on a future occasion and the basi is given in token of good faith - but it, in turn, must be repaid by me in the meantime by a gift of small armshells. (Malinowski 1920b: 99)

What I haven't noticed before is the aspect of "goodwill" in this "good faith" in the exchange. It's almost a material medium for "mutual confiding".

Now all my partners - whether from overseas or from within the district - compete for the favour of receiving this particular article of mine, and those who are specially keen try to obtain it by giving me pokala (offerings) and kaributu (solicitory gifts). (Malinowski 1920b: 99)


But this is sufficient to make clear that the Kula involves a complicated system [|] of gifts and countergifts, ni which the social side (partnership), as well as the rules of give and take, are definitely established and regulated by custom. (Malinowski 1920b: 99-100)

Ties of union constitute "the social side" of PC.

It must be emphasized that all these natives, and more especially the Trobrianders, have both a word for, and a clear idea of, barter (gimwali), and that they are fully aware of the difference between the transactions at the Kula and common barter. (Malinowski 1920b: 100)

But do they have a word for and a clear idea of PC and its difference from communication?

As in many other native transactions, the main corrective force is supplied by the deeply engrained idea that liberality is the most important and the most honourable virtue, whereas meanness brings shame and opprobium upon the miser. (Malinowski 1920b: 100)

Something analogous awaits the conversationalist who takes PC, in its Malinowskian form, as a virtue instead of a vice, considers collective monologue the appropriate form of small talk, and is interested in the conversation partner only as a listener.

This, of course, does not completely exclude many squabbles, deep resentments and ever feuds over real or imagined grievances in the Kula exchange. (Malinowski 1920b: 100)


A whole cycle of beliefs centres round this main idea, and there is a system of rites which are always practiced in shipwreck, and which, if carried out properly, would ensure safety to those shipwrecked. (Malinowski 1920b: 104)

Phraseology for the contextual reading of PC.

Malinowski, Bronisław 1920c. War and Weapons Among the Natives of the Trobriand Islands. Man 20: 10-12.

They never fought without warning, nor would they fight at night, and though complete victory - death of the enemies and the destruction of their village - was the ultimate aim of a war, the mere fact of fighting as a sport, and the glory derived from a display of daring and skill, were an important incitement to warfare. (Malinowski 1920c: 10)

Somewhat related to social pleasure and self-enhancement. Also, notice the futility in "fighting as a sport".

A row over gardens, pigs, women, a breach of etiquette, or suspected sorcery would result in a preliminary fight on the spot with light weapons, such as sword clubs, throwing sticks, light spears, or walking-stick, which the natives always used to carry about with them. (Malinowski 1920c: 10)

The existential outcome that may result from the antipathies borne from gossip.

The "ceremonial" weapons, such as sword clubs, walking sticks, and throwing truncheons were used in village brawls only, and never in regular fighting. This type of weapon, very widely distributed over the South Seas, and well represented in all museum collections, deserves a few words of explanation. It illustrates well one of the typical features of the South Sea Islander - his ruling passion for display. (Malinowski 1920c: 12)

This passion is, really, vanity.

Malinowski, Bronisław 1921a. The Primitive Economics of the Trobriand Islanders. The Economic Journal 31(121): 1-16.

A student of economics, in possession of a systematic theory, might be naturally tempted to inquire how far, if at all, his conclusions can be applied to a type of society entirely different from our own. He would attempt in vain, however, to answer this question on the basis of the ethnographical data extant, or, if he did, his results could not be correct. (Malinowski 1921a: 1)

Surely there are variations of "national character" but how far can we compare fireplace cooking gossip to the small talk of western peoples waiting for a bus?

It is obvious that the series of magical rites - punctuating the progress of activities at regular intervals, imposing a series of rest periods, and, in the institution of standard plots (Leywota), establishing a model to the whole community - is of extreme importance. It acts as a psychological force, making for a more highly organised sytem of work, than it would be possible to achieve at this stage of culture by an appeal to force or to reason. (Malinowski 1921a: 6)

If the peripatetic triad holds then this psychological force is emotive/emotional, perhaps having to do with collective feeling.

The whole period of the Kayasa is punctuated by other feasts, also provided for by the chief, and everyone who takes part is under an implicit obligation to do his best, and work his hardest, so that the Kayasa may be a success. (Malinowski 1921a: 7)

Phraseology for discussing the felt duty of opening one's mouth to say something even when (or particularl when) there is nothing to say.

To return to this, we must first consider, what part of the whole tribal income is apportioned to the chief. By various channels, by dues and tributes, and especially through the effect of polygamy, with its resulting obligations of his relatives-in-law, about 30 per cent. of the whole food production of his district finds its way into the large, finely-decorated yam houses of the chief. (Malinowski 1921a: 8)

Collecting channels.

One of the greatest insults that can be uttered is to call someone "Man with no food,' and it would be bitterly resented, and probably a quarrel would ensue. (Malinowski 1921a: 8)

Far from primitive communism and communion of food. The role of food in Malinowski's field experience is still open-ended. He didn't eat with the natives and did have his own rations, so this wouldn't insult him, but still he is found listening to native gossip around the village fire.

To be able to boast of [|] having food, is one of their chief glories and ambitions. (Malinowski 1921a: 8-9)

The glory of the yam house.

Their whole conduct, in the matter of eating in public, is guided by the rule that no suspicion of scarcity of food can possibly be attached to the eater. For example, to eat publicly in a strange village would be considered humiliating, and is never done. [↩] Their ambitions in this direction are also shown by the keen interest taken in the display of food. On all possible occasions - at harvest time, when there is an interchange of gifts, or when the enormous food distributions (Sagali) take place - the display of the food is one of the main features of interest. And there are even special food exhibitions, in which two villages compete against each other, and which in the old days used to be taken so seriously that often war was the result. [↩] The chief is the only person who owns a big yam house, which is made with open interstices between the beams so that all may look through and admire the yams, of which the finest are always placed to the front. The chief is, as a matter of fact, also the only person who can accumulate, and, as a matter of privilege, the only one who is allowed to own and display large quantities. This gives him a definite status, is a sign of high rank, and satisfies his ambition. Finally, it enhances his power, broadly speaking, in the same manner as possession of wealth does with us. (Malinowski 1921a: 9)

Concerning "all the types of social sentiments such as ambition, vanity, passion for power and wealth" (PC 3.3). Interestingly, power and wealth are not as separable as they are in our society, or at least they're more entangled because food is the primary "currency" and wealth is intimately tied with the possibility of procuring food en masse.

Thus, on the one hand, the chief's economic function is to create objects of wealth, and to accumulate provisions for tribal use, thus making big tribal enterprises possible. On the other hand, in doing so, he enhances his prestige and influence, which he also exercises through economic means. (Malinowski 1921a: 12)

Touching upon "social pleasure and self-enhancement" more generally.

It is necessary to point out that, in such a short article, where the broad outline of the institutions and customs has to be given with a few strokes, I have had to summarise certain things. (Malinowski 1921a: 12)

Phraseology for giving context and expanding what is in very broad strokes in PC.

A greater wealth of detail, though it might blur certain outlines and certainly would make things look less simple, would have allowed us to draw our conclusions even more forcibly and convincingly. (Malinowski 1921a: 12)


This state of affairs might be called - as a new conception requires a new term - Tribal Economy. (Malinowski 1921a: 15)


Malinowski, Bronisław 1921b. Review of The Group Mind by William McDougall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Man 21: 106-109.

For there can be no doubt that McDougall's [Introduction to Social Psychology] is one of the most important contributions to the porblem of social psychology. A clear view of human nature in its instinctive and emotional aspects, the recognition of their importance; an analysis of how the instinctive, conative and emotional elements enter into the formation of belief and custom - all these are points of view of the utmost importance to the ethnologist, whether he works in the field or in the study. (Malinowski 1921b: 107)

How necessary is McDougall for my current paper? Can I push him and some others (like Shands) into the next one? Also, this is not the peripatetic triad - why are instincts in place of intelligence?

The author deals with his problem by analysing in the first part of the book the phenomena of the crowd, used as a type of the unorganised group, and of the army, taken as type of the highly-organised group. These two extreme forms of group life allow him to lay bare the essential features of collective mentality. (Malinowski 1921b: 107)

Familiar enough from footnotes. Is "the unorganised group" the primary locus of PC? Is "pleasantness" one such essential feature?

In the chapter on Group Spirit the author enters into the problem of the self-consciousness of the group. He discusses the importance of the realisation on the part of its members of what the group is, that is of the self-knowledge of the group and of the self-regarding sentiment towards the group by its members. The importance of the esprit de corps, of the interaction of various group-loyalties within the same individual, and of the hierarchy of groups and group-loyalties is very well brought out. (Malinowski 1921b: 107)

The question of "self-knowledge" can be put to ties of union. Notice that esprit de corps does not appear in PC but does appear in La Barre and others of his time.

The third part, in which the genesis of national character is studied, is again of considerable direct interest to the ethnologist, to those engaged in the study of race and of the physical basis of national character, even more than to the social anthropologist. (Malinowski 1921b: 108)

I may just have to read the damn book as soon as possible.

Conceptions and ideas must be treated on their own merit, and not according to their country of origin. We must try to keep passports and protective tariffs out of Science. (Malinowski 1921b: 108)


Malinowski, Bronisław 1922b. Ethnology and the Study of Society. Economica 6: 208-219.

Every branch of knowledge can be made useful; first, in its direct application to the practical management of the subject; secondly, in opening a widel outlook upon its subject matter, in allowing us to build up a more adequate theory of the phenomena in question. (Malinowski 1922b: 208)

More on the value of giving context.

Broadly speaking, the evil is mainly caused by the destruction of all vital interest for the native, by taking away from him of all that was dear and valuable to him, of all that gave him the joy of living. Whole departments of tribal law and morality, of custom and usage, have been senselessly wiped out by a superficial, haphazard legislation, made in the early days often by newcomers unused to native ways and unprepared to face the difficult problem. They applied to the regulation of native life all the prejudices of the uneducated man to anything strange, foreign, unconventional and to him incomprehensible. (Malinowski 1922b: 209)

The sentiment at the end of Argonauts.

The savage, like anyone else, must have his pastimes and amusements, [|] his sports and pleasures, which give zest and meaning to his life. Some of them are really fine, æsthetic and significant, beneficient, hygienically and psychologically, and devoid of any harm whatever, even from the point of view of European morality. (Malinowski 1922b: 209-210)

This was quoted in one of the papers about him. The argument has significance to PC: communication without meaning itself gives meaning to life.

In the Trobriand Island in the N.E. of New Guinea, no elements of sex enter at all into their dancing which, in part, consists of conventionalized imitation of animals, but mainly is a performance where athletic, rhythmic and musical skill is exhibited. Strong passions of vanity, ambition and rivalry are displayed, but sexual libido is entirely absent. (Malinowski 1922b: 210)

Already a familiar set of sentiments.

The only knowledge of past history we possess, we owe to the testimony of chroniclers and historians of past ages, whose views on social matters and human nature widely differ from our own. (Malinowski 1922b: 216)

Human nature is supposedly universal, while views of human nature change.


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