In this work, the author propose a novel theory of ritual action founded upon an in-depth study of the wide variety of behaviors that the Iatmul of Papua New Guinea identify as naven: a transvestism rite studied by Gregory Bateson in the 1930s and documented by other anthropologists since. Ritual performance is shown to involve the construction of complex
relational networks entailing the condensation of contradictory modes of relationship in accordance with over-arching interactive forms.
In this volume, inquiry into the history of anthropology, detailed ethnographic analysis and theoretical discussion are combined. The first part examines Bateson's and others' understandings of naven; the second offers a reinterpretation of this ritual in the light of new ethnographic data; and the third proposes a general approach to the analysis of ritual and suggests how this perspective may be applied elsewhere.
Michael Houseman is Director of studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris) and Head of the Systems of African Thought Centre of the EPHE and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. He has published extensively on kinship and on ritual.
Carlo Severi is a Senior Fellow of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique and a member of the Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, Collège de France. He has published papers in the field of symbolic anthropology and is the author of a book on Cuna shamanism (
La memoria rituale, 1993).
Houseman and Severi's re-examination of the naven
ritual is an insightful and scholarly work which will prove useful to both students and researchers.'
Pamela J. Stewart,
Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde.
Anthropologists, students of comparative religion and others interested in the analysis of ritual action, as well as systemic therapists and persons working in the fields of pragmatics and that of cognition and culture.