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The ancestors remain: dynamics of matrilineal continuity in West Gao, Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands

Whiteley, Johanna (2015) The ancestors remain: dynamics of matrilineal continuity in West Gao, Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Drawing upon 21 months of ethnographic research in West Gao District of Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands, this thesis argues that relationships of absolute difference or 'alterity,' existing internally to one society, are central to processes of social reproduction. At the deepest level of ontology the West Gao lived world is based on a priori difference between three discrete categories of being. Each category - a matriclan, or kokolo - consists of a relational amalgam of genres of knowledge, human persons, and ancestral beings. These relationships are unified, bounded, and rendered distinct by virtue of a shared, inherent connection to a discrete territory. From a cosmogonic perspective, in isolation the three kokolo cannot reproduce their distinctiveness. To do so they must enter into relationships with each other. Consequently, two different forms of socio-cosmic relationships become crucial for understanding land-person connectivity in West Gao: those flowing internally to each exogamous matriclan; and those forged between different matriclans. I explore how these two forms of relationships are continually balanced against one another in both quotidian practices and ritualised exchanges. Whilst this balance is dictated by the poly-ontological structure of West Gao cosmology, I illustrate how the balance shifts in response to historical and politico-economic processes, in particular, conversion to Christianity and the increasing value of land as a monetary resource. Participant observation, extended interviews in Solomon Islands Pijin and the local vernacular - Gao, and two weeks of archival research in the National Library of Australia comprised the main methodologies used. I draw upon this data in seven analytical chapters that address: the role of ancestral agency in the shaping of historical processes; the 'ancestral' dynamics of Christian communities; place, personhood, and movement; origin narratives; the trans-generational reproduction of matrilineal identity; ritualised exchanges focused on the 'father-child' relationship; and practices surrounding mortality and burial.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Johanna Louise Whiteley
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Scott, Michael W. and Cannell, Fenella

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