Accepted paper:

The apologetics of an apology and an apologia

Author:

Andrew Moutu (National University of Ireland)

Paper short abstract:

In expressing her gratitude towards the generosity of hospitable Melanesians to the intrusive inquisitiveness of countless anthropologists, Strathern ends her acknowledgements in The Gender of the Gift in the following way. “It is not they who need this book or who would need to write one like it. But if any should care to read it, I hope the present tense and the use of ‘we’ to mean ‘we Westerners’ will prove not too much of an irritant…. Indeed, the work can be read both as an apology and an apologia for a language and a culture that does not make that particular possibility of central concern to the way it imagines itself”. If The Gender of the Gift is “both an apology and an apologia”, this paper embraces such a moral and epistemological gesture by responding to it with an apologetic commentary that comes from a Melanesian scholar who not only has the “care to read it” but also appreciates the irritation that comes from being a student of a language of description and analysis that works within the confines of its own terms of debate and discourse.

Paper long abstract:

In expressing her gratitude over the generosity of hospitable Melanesians to the intrusive inquisitiveness of countless anthropologists, Strathern ends her acknowledgements in The Gender of the Gift in the following way. "It is not they who need this book or who would need to write one like it. But if any should care to read it, I hope the present tense and the use of 'we' to mean 'we Westerners' will prove not too much of an irritant…. Indeed, the work can be read both as an apology and an apologia for a language and a culture that does not make that particular possibility of central concern to the way it imagines itself". If The Gender of the Gift is "both an apology and an apologia", this paper embraces such a moral and epistemological gesture by responding to it with an apologetic commentary that comes from a Melanesian scholar who not only has the "care to read it" but also appreciates the irritation that comes from being a student of a language of description and analysis that works within the confines of its own terms of debate and discourse. Because The Gender of the Gift distinguishes two types of socialities oriented around interpretation (commodity) and evaluation (gift), the term apologetics is used here advisedly as a commentary on the logic of recursiveness and the aesthetic decomposition of forms.

panel P17
Anthropological relationships as appropriations and investments: ASA-sponsored panel in honour of Marilyn Strathern