Matrilineal Kinship at Sea in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Katharina Schneider(1*)

(1) Independent Researcher
(*) Corresponding Author


This paper explores matrilineal kinship in the Buka area, in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, from the perspective of saltwater people on Pororan Island. In Bougainville and elsewhere in Melanesia, anthropological research has highlighted the importance of joint work in the gardens, of sharing and exchanging garden food, and of negotiations of access to land for kinship and relatedness in the region. Where does this leave saltwater people, who often have only small areas of land of their own, take little interest in gardening and depend on traded sweet potatoes or imported rice for meeting their subsistence needs? In the first part of this paper, I indicate “landed” bias in anthropological research on kinship, including matrilineal kinship. I then suggest complementary descriptive and analytic terms that may be useful for researchers who want to understand kin relations among saltwater people, based on my experiences among Pororan Islanders in Bougainville. Finally, I indicate the theoretical contribution that these terms can make to research on kinship in landed settings, as well.


matrilineal kinship; saltwater people; maritime anthropology; Bougainville; Papua New Guinea

Full Text:



Bamford, S. (2004). Conceiving Relatedness: Non-Substantial Relations among the Kamea of Papua New Guinea. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 10, 287–306.

Barnes, J. (1962). African Models in the New Guinea Highlands. Man, 62(Januari), 5–9.

Battaglia, D. (1984). We Feed Our Fathers: Paternal Nurture about the Sabarl of New Guinea. American Ethnologist, 12(3), 427-441.

Blackwood, B. (1935). Both Sides of Buka Passage. Oxford: Clarendon.

Blackwood, B. n.d. Petats Field Notebooks. Beatrice Blackwood Collection. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum.

Bourke, M. and T. Betitis (2003). Sustainability of Agriculture in Bougainville Province, Papua New Guinea. Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Braitwaithe, J, Charlesworth, H., Reddy, P. and Dunn, L. (2010). Reconciliation and Architectures of Commitment: Sequencing Peace in Bougainville. Canberra: Australian national University EPress.

Brown, P. (1962). Non-Agnates among the Patrilineal Chimbu. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 71(1), 57-69.

Carrier, J. G. and A. H. Carrier (1985). A Manus Centenary: Production, Kinship and Exchange in the Admiralty Islands. American Ethnologist, 12(3), 505–22.

Evans-Pritchard, E. S. (1987). The Nuer. New York: Oxford University Press (orig. pub. 1940).

Carsten, J., ed. (2000). Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dove, J., T. Miriung and M. Togolo (1974). Mining Bitterness. In P. Sack (Ed.), Problem of Choice: Land in Papua New Guinea’s Future. Canberra: Australian National University Press.

Feil, D. K. (1985). Ways of Exchange: The Enga Tee of Papua New Guinea. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Filer, C. (1990). The Bougainville Rebellion, the Mining Industry and the Process of Social Disintegration in Papua New Guinea. Canberra Anthropology, 13(1), 1–39.

Filer, C. (1992). The Escalation of Disintegration and the Reinvention of Authority. In D. Spriggs (Ed.), The Bougainville Crisis: 1991 Update. Canberra: Department for Political and Social Change, RSPAS, ANU and Crawford Press.

Godelier, M. (1986). The Making of Great Men: Male Domination and Power among the New Guinea Baruya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Herdt, G. (1981). Guardians of the Flutes: Idioms of Masculinity: A Study of Ritualized Homosexual Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Herdt, Gilbert H. and Fitz J. Poole (1982). “Sexual Antagonism”: The Intellectual History of a Concept in New Guinea Anthropology. Social Analysis, 12(December), 3–28.

Kelly, R. C. (1993). Constructing Inequality: The Fabrication of a Hierarchy of Virtue Among the Etoro. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Kenema, S. (2010). An Analysis of Post-Conflict Explanations of Indigenous Dissent Relating to the Panguna Copper Mining Conflict, Papua New Guinea. eJournal of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies, 1(2) and 2(1): (, viewed 21.11.2014).

Langness, L. L. (1964). Some Problems in the Conceptualization of Highlands Social Structures. American Anthropologist, 66(4), 162-182.

Leach, J. (2003). Creative Land: Place and Procreation on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea. New York: Berghahn Books.

Levi-Strauss, C. (1969). Elementary Structure of Kinship. Boston: Beacon Press.

LiPuma, E. (1988). The Gift of Kinship: Structure and Practice in Maring Social Organization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meigs, Anna (1976). Male Pregnancy and the Reduction of Sexual Opposition in a New Guinea Highlands Society. Ethnology, 15(4), 393–407.

Meigs, Anna (1984). Food, Sex and Pollution. A New Guinea Religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Mamak, A. and R. Bedford (1974). Bougainvillean Nationalism: Aspects of Unity and Discord. Christchurch: University of Canterbury.

Merlan, F. and Rumsey, A. (1991). Ku Waru: Language and Segmentary Politics in the Western Nebilyer Valley, Papua New Guinea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Munn, N. (1986). The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in a Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nash, J. (1974). Matriliny and Modernisation: The Nagovisi of South Bougainville. Canberra: Australian National University.

Parkinson, R. (1907). Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee: Land und Leute, Sitten und Gebräuche im Bismarckarchipel und auf den Deutschen Salomoinseln. Stuttgart: Strecker & Schroder.

Poser, A. von. (2013). Foodways and Empathy: Relatedness in a Ramu River Society, Papua New Guinea. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.

Regan, A. J. (2010). Light intervention: Lessons from Bougainville. Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Richards, A. I. (1950). Some Types of Family Structure among the Central Bantu. In African Systems of Kinship and Marriage, ed. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown and D. Forde. London: Oxford University Press.

Rimoldi, M. and E. Rimoldi (1992). Hahalis and the Labour of Love: A Social Movement on Buka Island. Oxford: Berg.

Sagir, B. (2003). The Politics and Transformations of Chieftainship in Haku, Buka Island, Papua New Guinea. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Australian National University.

Sahlins, M. (2013). What Kinship is – And What it is Not. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Salisbury, R. F. (1956). Unilineal Descent Groups in the New Guinea Highlands. Man, 56, 2-7.

Salisbury, R. F. (1965). The Siane of the Eastern Highlands. In P. Lawrence and M.J. Meggitt (Eds.), Gods, Ghosts and Men in Melanesia: Some Religions of Australian New Guinea and the New Hebrides. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Sarei, A. H. (1974). Traditional Marriage and the Impact of Christianity on the Solos of Buka Island. Canberra: New Guinea Research Unit, Australian National University.

Schneider, D. (1968). American Kinship: A Cultural Account. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Schneider, K. (2011). The One and the Two: Mainlanders and Saltwater People in Buka. Bougainville. Oceania, 81(2), 180-20.

Schneider, K. (2012). Saltwater Sociality: A Melanesian Island Ethnography. New York: Berghahn Books.

Strathern, A. J. (1971). The Rope of Moka: Big Men and Ceremonial Exchange in Mount Hagen, New Guinea. London: Cambridge University Press.

Strathern, A. J. (1973). Kinship, Descent and Locality: Some New Guinea Examples. In The Character of Kinship, ed. J. Goody. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Strathern, M. (1972). Women in Between: Female Roles in a Male World: Mount Hagen, New Guinea. New York: Seminar Press.

Strathern, M. (1996). Cutting the Network. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2(3), 517–35.

Strathern, M. (1999). Property, Substance and Effect: Anthropological Essays on Persons and Things. London: Athlone.

Van Heekeren, D. (2004). Feeding Relationship: uncovering cosmology in Christian women’s fellowship in Papua New Guinea. Oceania,75(2), 89-108.

Wagner, R. (1967). The Curse of Souw: Principles of Daribi Clan Definition and Alliance in New Guinea. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wagner, R. (1972). Habu: the Innovation of Meaning in Daribi Religion. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wagner, R. (1974). Are There Social Groups in the New Guinea Highlands? In M. J. Leaf (Ed.), Frontiers of Anthropology. New York: D. van Nostrand Company.

Wagner, R. (1977). Analogic Kinship: A Daribi Example. American Anthropologist, 4(4), 623–42.

Wagner, R. (1986). Symbols That Stand for Themselves. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wardlow, H. (2002). Giving Birth to Gonolia: “Culture” and Sexually Transmitted Disease among the Huli of Papua New Guinea. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 16(2), 151-175.

Wood, M. and Dundon, A. (2014). Great Ancestral Women: Sexuality, Gendered Mobility, and HIV among the Bamu and Gogodala of Papua New Guinea. Oceania, 84(2), 185-201.

Weiner, J. (1988). The Heart of the Pearl Shell: The Mythological Dimension of Foi Sociality. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wiessner, P. and Tumu, A. (1998). Historical Vines: Enga Networks of Exchange, Ritual and Warfare in Papua New Guinea. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.


Article Metrics

Abstract views : 3438 | views : 3074


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Humaniora

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

ISSN 2302-9269 (online); ISSN 0852-0801 (print)
Creative Commons License Copyright © 2022 Humaniora. This website and its contents are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License