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The Tuma Underworld of Love: Erotic and other narrative songs of the Trobriand Islanders and their spirits of the dead

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Senft,  Gunter
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Senft, G. (2012). The Tuma Underworld of Love: Erotic and other narrative songs of the Trobriand Islanders and their spirits of the dead. Talk presented at the 12th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Denpasar. 2012-07-02 - 2012-07-06.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-D287-B
Abstract
The Trobriand Islanders' eschatological belief system explains in detail what happens when someone dies. Bronislaw Malinowski described essentials of this eschatology in his famous articles "Baloma: the Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands" and "Myth in Primitive Psychology" There he also presented the Trobrianders' belief that a spirit of the dead, a "baloma" can be reborn; he claimed that Trobrianders are unaware of the father's role as genitor. In this talk I present not only a critical review of Malinowski's ethnography of Trobriand eschatology, finally settling the "virgin birth" controversy, I also document highly ritualized songs - the "wosi milamala" - the harvest festival songs. They are sung in an archaic variety of Kilivila - the "biga baloma" - the language of the spirits of the dead. Malinowski briefly refers to these songs but does not mention that they codify many aspects of Trobriand eschatology. The songs are still sung during the harvest festival and after the death of a Trobriander, but there are only a few people left who still understand the "wosi milamala". They are a moribund genre of Kilivila - and with them the Trobriand Islanders' complex indigenous eschatology will vanish.