Incestuous Twins and the House Societies of Insular Southeast Asia

Essay Excerpt

This essay reconceptualizes groupings in insular Southeast Asia. I draw on two important insights from the discussions of the 1950s through the 1970s about Oceania. One is Levi-Strauss's (1982) concept of the "House" society, a type of social formation he sees as characteristic of a good part of the Pacific world. The principles informing the House differ from those of the corporate exogamous lineage as it has usually been conceived in anthropology (see C. Geertz's discus-sion of Bali, 1980:27ff.). Many peoples of insular Southeast Asia use a word meaning "house" for both a dwelling and for the major grouping(s) of the society. The other major useful insight comes from Schneider's (1964, 1968, 1972) work on kinship, which liberates us from looking for genetic blood connections between people who belong to a "House" and from confusing the analyst's ideas about relationship with local ones. After recasting social groupings of insular Southeast Asia as Houses and examining the House structures of two societies there, I examine the relevance to the Centrist Archipelago of some universalistic theories of the incest taboo, and, in conclusion, compare the meanings of the incest taboo in the symbolic-social organizations of the House societies of Eastern Indonesia and the Centrist Archipelago. (Errington, 405-406)

About the Author

Dr. Shelly Errington is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Errington has always been drawn to the arts (plastic, photographic, moving images, and performance) and by technologies used to create, shape, and distribute them. In recent decades she has written on the discourses and markets for the arts and crafts of marginal peoples, and she continues that work in both writing and a bilingual documentary video currently (Spring 2012) in post-production, El Oficio del Arte / the Work of Art. She exhibits photographs and has illustrated scholarly works with her humorous line drawings. Her current work concerns Contemporary Tribal Arts --or, ¿what happens to the arts of marginalized peoples when a lot of their production is geared to the market, from High Art to kitsch and souvenirs? She imagines this research as the sequel to her book The Death of Authentic Primitive Art and Other Tales of Progress, which was published at the end of the 20th century.

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