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Not Feasting with Friends: the Meaning of Meat in Anganen.


There are two general ways that meat is deployed in exchange among the Anganen of the Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. One is communion that forges co-identification between those eating together. The other is effectively the antithesis of communion. Food is given in formal prestation but explicitly through taboo or as an emergent property of how the exchange takes place; food giver and receiver do not consume meat from the same animal. These emergent properties variously come about through the meat being given raw, undercooked, or in portions far too large for the receiver to consume. My main interest is how these taboo or emergent acts of non-communion effectively involve non-food. Certainly part of the meaning of meat is that it will eventually be eaten. However, in the act of exchange because meat cannot be immediately eaten or shared that gives rise to its meaning. Part of this meaning is the degree of what I call politicisation. Acts of non-communion are politically charged events, be they aggressive or motivated by men seeking prestige. A number of different types of exchange are compared to explore the role of meat in Anganen politics.


Food, especially meat, is synonymous with both sociality and politics in Melanesia. Its importance stems from its seen nutritional and economic value, but as the widespread use of food in sorcery also suggests, food may convey meanings other than its positive local ideological evaluation. This article considers various uses of meat in exchange among the Anganen of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. In many respects it is a companion piece to a number of articles I have written comparing different forms of Anganen exchange (Nihill 1988a, 1988b, 1996a, 2000). Two of these (Nihill 1996a, 2000) focus on what I term politicisation. Politicisation concerns how a particular exchange engenders an overt degree of intensity of three key dimensions of Anganen politics, those of prestige, the magnitude of social opposition, and the degree of male aggression. Variation in politicisation may come about either through differing contextual factors affecting a single exchange form, or, as will be the case he re, an inherent structural orientation towards political intensity. While meat is used in other events, [1] the differing uses of pork and the, albeit somewhat rare, deployment of beef or marsupial and cassowary meat in some events is integral to how this politicisation process occurs. That is, meat does not simply reflect the degree of prestige or aggression, but is one factor that helps constitute it.

What concerns me most here is how meat in politically intense events may effectively be food-that-is-not-food. By this I mean that while the value of meat is due to the fact that givers and receivers alike know that it eventually will be eaten, in the act of its prestation in politically charged events the gift of meat is in a form that is not for immediate consumption. This article considers a number of instances where meat is food-that-is-not-food. It may be given raw, with an explicit taboo on givers and receivers sharing it when cooked. This is the case when a man gives marsupial meat to his affines upon his wife's pregnancy. An exchange pertaining to deaths in warfare, men kap, also features raw meat. Alternatively, gifts of meat may be in portions too big for the recipient to eat as with a feast that follows a death resulting from warfare or to commemorate a big man years after his death. The prestation of massive amounts of meat to individual men also features in the yasolu ceremonial pork distributio n. Moreover, this gift is undercooked, forcing the recipient to take it home for recooking and distribution among his kin. (Given my use of Anganen names, I have tabulated and briefly described each exchange below.) Each of these prestations, in and of themselves and through contrast to other events where givers and receivers eat meat in communion, articulate messages that are either not elaborated in local exegesis or convey meanings that are best unsaid. Instances of this are the shame men experience vis-a-vis their affines due to the highlighting of their engaging in sexual relations with these people's daughter or sister with these women's pregnancies or the politics of male violence that lies at the heart of the ambivalence of Anganen alliance. The discussion begins with events of low political intensity so as to provide a comparative baseline for those of greater politicisation.


As is common throughout Melanesia, the Anganen do not eat meat frequently. These days tinned food may supplement the diet that still has sweet potato as its staple. If so, the household and guests are the basis for consumption, with the expectation that all will receive a share. Occasionally, more out of adventure than dietary priority, men may hunt and, if successful, bring home marsupials or birds that the household communally share. The Anganen do not kill pigs for daily consumption, but if a pig meets misfortune then its owner may cook it. Here the expectation is that a wider group of kin will also be invited to eat pork. Gifts of meat for immediate consumption also occur in two notable and quite frequently staged contexts. The first instance of gifts of meat for immediate consumption is an event called anga-re (lit: 'talk-base').

The most common instance when the Anganen stage angare follows a child falling ill and his or her father suspects that the 'bad thoughts' (kone ope) of kin, especially the child's maternal kin, may be harming this person. Mostly, this is due to either the father mistreating his wife and the poor state of exchange relations with affines. Those invited should 'speak out', airing any grievances they may have. The father should agree to rectify his ways and offer reparation, even if only as meat. The Anganen feel that those still harbouring grievances despite speaking out or not speaking out when they should will fall ill if they consume this food. If the angare has worked properly, the child should recover. The Anganen feel that a successful angare restores and enhances harmonious relations between affines. In many respects it is like the omana (lit: 'death eat/feast') for the deaths of individuals stemming from non-warfare causes that will now be the focus of discussion.

About six months after a death, the Anganen commonly hold an omana. It 'finishes the sorry' as the Anganen put it. It also frees certain relatives, widows especially, from a number of prohibitions and constraints that begin with this death (see Nihill 1989). In non-warfare contexts, for women, children and men not regarded as big men, the event is very low key. One or two pigs are killed and cooked with vegetables and, increasingly, 'freezer meat', mainly frozen lamb purchased in town.

Any death in Anganen has political repercussions, especially for the affinal groups the person mediates. Agnates of men and children and a married woman's husband and son are expected to 'carry' (manda) them, that is, to care for and protect them. Their death clearly indicates they have failed to do so. A woman's agnates and the maternal kin of men and children act with intense grief but also anger that others have failed to 'carry' the deceased person. They may attack the property and gardens of those failing to 'carry' as they go to their deceased's village to mourn. Among other things, the ambula kala mortuary compensation given by agnates (a married woman's sons and husband) is explicitly seen to assuage this grief and helps repair the soured relations between the affinal groups that death threatens (Nihill 1996a, 2000). The omana for non-warfare deaths in many ways marks and helps constitute the successful resumption of cordial relations that death has threatened. As such, even though those who gave the mortuary compensation earlier are expected to provide the food, matrilateral kin (a woman's agnates) may also assist to show they harbour no persisting ill-will.

Those who provide food for omana have the right to invite and to give food to whom they please (though clearly men who provide pigs are under constraint to make sure that everyone receives pork). The men who provide these pigs receive the final and often smallest or poorest quality pieces. Women may buy 'freezer meat' with their share of coffee receipts and invite whom they please. Men too buy 'freezer meat', and this is a rare occurrence where meat does not have gendered associations. To invite someone means that he or she should receive food. Only those invited should attend.

The food is prepared in the conventional way for feasts, being cooked in the earth ovens layered with hot stones and covered with layers of ferns. Men butcher and gut pigs, but women take the entrails to a nearby stream for cleaning. Along with the blood, ferns and sometimes vegetables, the cleaned entrails are cooked, usually in bamboo tubes, as something reminiscent of a blood pudding. There are a number of varieties, though all are known as gris (Tok Pisin), 'grease'. The Anganen regard gris as highly nutritious and a delicacy. Even though men oversee the distribution, they say this gris is the woman's part (of pigs at least). It is inj yari, 'pig rope attach to stake in the ground' in reference to the tying of pigs for exchange. Inj yari is also the name of the acknowledgment men give to their wives' labour on the eve of the ceremonial pig kill (Nihill 1988a, 1988b). Gris and cooked vegetables are the female counterpart of the 'male' cooked flesh. Overall there is a strong sense of gender complementarity even if men still have most say over proceedings. Each person (or at least adults and older children) directly receives their share. Those present consume the food at the omana ground, very much as a form of communion. It does not simply indicate that both affinal parties wish to restore harmonious relations, but given the widespread use of food for sorcery in Anganen (Nihill n.d.b), it is also a marker of trust. Pork and gris have the further advantage that they are seen as highly nutritious. As such, even as a response to death, omana enhances life as well as social relations.

In all, the non-warfare death feast is not an occasion for heightened politicisation. Like angare, it may follow episodes of heightened political opposition when people are angry over a child's father's poor behaviour or following a person's death. However, this politics is submerged if not transcended once the feast begins. Furthermore, the emic function the Anganen assign to omana and angare is to promote harmony between affines through communion as the mutual consumption of food in Anganen forges co-identification between consumers. Political opposition is thus even less overt. There is also a lack of gender and affinal opposition within an image of unity These events bring no one great prestige. Rather, agnates of men and children and a woman's husband and sons stand to lose face if they do not stage omana. Similarly, the father in angare must endure some public humiliation when berated by his affines.


The yandare ('fight-base') is responsible for the deaths of allies recruited to assist them, and thus should offer compensation (rinkitame). However, unlike the omana for non-warfare deaths where there is a strong emphasis that it should be held, the base-of-the-fight and their allies need not jointly stage a death feast (although the dead person's agnates or a married woman's husband and sons should still 'finish the sorry' in this way). If a yand omana is held, it contrasts starkly with the death-feasts discussed above. Just as rinkitame is usually greater than standard mortuary compensation due to the involvement of a number of local groups of the alliance, yand omana contrast starkly with non-warfare death omana. The size, both of participants and the animals for slaughter, are the first and most obvious differences. Unlike the small band of close kin who assemble for most non-warfare death-feasts, there are hundreds in attendance, not only through the vast increase in the number of animal providers, but also spectacular occasions such as these attract widespread interest. As such, not all witnessing the event will receive food. Similarly, and often many years after his death, a big man may also be the focus of a large omana even if one was staged around six months after his demise. In practice, big man death feasts and those concerning warfare deaths are largely indistinguishable, with allies as well as the big man's kinsmen involved. In fact, there is substantial overlap between the two as big men are targets for sorcery, especially in times of widespread hostilities. The Anganen regard these attacks as alternate ways of attacking groups as big men are often metonymic of the groups around them. As such, for convenience I will refer to large death-feasts in order to cover both.

With large-scale omana, women and the symbolically female gris and vegetables are peripheral. Gris may still be prepared but it has less prominence than in the small death feasts. Vegetables are often absent. The emphasis is on meat per se. Exotic varieties of animals such as cassowaries may feature, and in one event the subclan of a deceased big man pooled their money in order to purchase a cow for the occasion. It is quite unlikely that any man will provide more than one pig with non-warfare death feasts (and many in attendance provide none). However, individual men often strive to gain prestige through quantity in these large omana. From the time the animals are killed, the male animal providers monopolise the centre of the ceremonial ground, whereas men and women intermingle in events such as angare or small omana. Beyond quantity, there is no great discernible difference in the preparation and cooking of the animals. However, the distribution is markedly different to small omana where individual persons of either gender receive substantial but not excessive amounts of food to consume on site. With big man and warfare omana, men give directly to the male recipients in quantities far too big for individual consumption. The receivers must divide it further in order to give to others such as women and children. This may happen at their place of residence rather than in the village staging the omana. There are now pronounced oppositions based on age and gender, and between giver and receiver.

There are also pronounced differences between male transactors. There are those who strive to gain prestige through the amount and kind of animals slaughtered, while there are those who only wish small involvement in the event. There is also clear competition between the individuals (and occasionally groups) who seek this prestige. Successful men are extremely boastful. This opposition is not necessarily that of the previous opposition of compensation between giver and receiver. All men of the alliance may compete, including those from the subclan or clan of the deceased man. Seeking prestige is a clear motivation for those providing more animals. That the deaths of big men may be marked with large omana extends this point, as men of his group may be endeavouring to lay a claim to this status while others endeavour to outdo them.

This political intensification of large scale death-feasts is one dimension of the overall politicisation of exchanges pertaining to warfare vis-a-vis most non-warfare related mortuary payments (Nihilll996a, 2000). While stylised and constrained, the presentation of rinkitame warfare compensation features male aggression, as the younger men of the base-of the-fight don warfare decoration and en masse charge into the dead person's village, circling the women keening over the corpse in its centre, chanting and clashing weapons together as they go. Later others carrying the wealth and leading pigs enter and the compensation is given, accompanied by the donors boasting over its size while the recipients denigrate it. Warfare compensation and large-scale omana together thus feature the three dimensions that are the key to politicisation: pronounced opposition between givers and receivers, the male propensity to violence (even if only symbolically represented), and the aggressive seeking of prestige through the la rge amounts and portions of the gift, together with, perhaps, the exotic varieties of animals killed.


In many respects the omana for warfare deaths or big men also bridges the gap between small pig kills like omana and the ceremonial pig kill and pork distribution, yasolu (also see Nihill 1996a). In yasolu, each man competes against his agnates, coresidents and allies by killing as many pigs as he can amass and through having the greatest number of partners. The Anganen plan yasolu years in advance. This allows men to maximise their pig numbers and size, not only through the labour of their households, but notably through 'finance' that allows them to harness the resources of other households as well (Nihill 1988b). The time frame and desire to maximise one's own herd mean that a great deal of friction takes place among those planning to stage the event together. Men may wish to bring it forward if pigs cause disputes when breaking into gardens, while others may wish to delay proceedings until their numbers peak. There may be splinter yasolu and overall just the timing of the event is highly competitive in an d of itself. Collusion between big men is the basis for actually determining when the event will take place.

I have written extensively on yasolu elsewhere (Nihill 1988a. 1988b, 1996a, 2000) and here I will concentrate on the significance of meat. Ideally, each prestation is of an entire side of pork, thus outdoing the large amounts of meat given in warfare and big man omana. On the ceremonial ground where yasolu takes place, each man should stake his pigs in a line or lines for all to see and to compare with others. After they are killed, each man places the pigs' heads on forked sticks (kapa) that hold the long ololo poles where the butchered sides are draped before cooking. Cooking occurs in the long earth ovens further to the centre of the ceremonial ground. Thus the number of stakes, number of heads, the number of sides, and the length of the civic and cooking pit section for each man together mark his achievement. Yasolu is the most prestigious event in Anganen, and these markers permit fine evaluations of any man's achievement.

As with warfare and big man omana, there is a stark emphasis on meat in yasolu. The gris that features in non-warfare death feasts has little prominence, and is parallelled by the peripherality of women once the killing starts and until the distribution ends. Anganen men claim that the killing of so many pigs scares women, and that women cannot endure the immense heat of the massive cooking pits prior to cooking. If at all possible, only adult men should be pork recipients. The yasolu arena is one of male exclusivity and triumph (Nihill 2000). What is most interesting about yasolu pork is that it is noticeably undercooked when distributed. The Anganen do not say that it has to be this way, and variously explained this observation that everyone is too excited to wait any longer or that it takes so long to kill and butcher pigs of this quantity that they simply run out of time. However, the undercooking of the pork in yasolu does not seem incidental.

This undercooking of pork is the final major difference between ceremonial exchange and these large omana. While large cuts of meat are given in such omana, effectively making them food-that-is-not-food, they can be cut into smaller sizes for consumption, perhaps at the omana ground. This is not possible with yasolu pork, and its recipients must take it 270 home for further cooking and division. Thus size and under-preparation render yasolu pork non-food in contrast to the much smaller cuts of meat featured in non-warfare omana. The size and the state of yasolu pork help constitute its prestige. The prominence of durable forms of wealth such as pearl shells (rather than meat for consumption) is integral to the political intensification of gift exchange in many Highland societies (see Feil 1982, 1987; A.Strathern 1971). This also applies to a degree with another major prestige exchange known as 'moka' in Tok Pisin, the incremental aropowe- a pe second stage of the mortuary exchange sequence (Nihill 1991, 1996 a, 2000). In this, as well as live pigs, shells and increasingly cash, feature. However, the Anganen adopted a different road to prestige with yasolu, with the large-scale destruction of wealth in the form of pigs as the source of renown.

There is thus a pronounced contrast between yasolu and, for instance, the small-scale omana discussed above. Sheer quantity alone marks this, but so too does the motivation for undertaking the event. When a man kills one pig six months after, say, his child dies, it is obligation that prompts him to do so. Indeed, perhaps it is the fear that he may lose status if he fails to do so that motivates him. Certainly men have obligations in yasolu, namely the need to reciprocate pork previously given by others, but the motivation is radically different, at least for the most ambitious men who kill a large number of animals. Whereas in small-scale omana pig killers act in terms of others, with yasolu, men act very much in terms of themselves, with prestige gain (rather than the fear of a loss of face) the conscious motivation.

Yasolu also shows the degree of social opposition, both that of gender and that between men, of the two death feasts. With small omana there is a sense of gender complementarity and a commonality among affines through the mutual consumption of food. Like warfare and big man death feasts, yasolu magnifies the increasing opposition between giver and receiver, and that between men and women. Women are peripheral and only receive pork once their male kin who received the large, undercooked amounts of pork take it home for recooking and division. Individuals cannot eat pork from the pigs they have killed. The killers only consume the heads previously hung on their kapa poles when the event is over. Thus, there can be no communion between givers and receivers. There is no explicit taboo covering meat they have received from others, but there is the maintenance of this opposition of giver and receiver in practice. All of these aspects constitute the contrasting politicisation of small death feasts and ceremonial ex change. The political is muted in the former, while yasolu has the greatest politics of prestige known in Anganen. I shall return to the comparison between different forms of Anganen exchange and in particular the variable deployments of meat in them after considering two more events. Both of these involve the initial prestation of raw meat. One, men kap, is a part of the mortuary exchange sequence. The other involves the prestation of uncooked and ungutted marsupials by a man to his affines on the occasion of his wife's pregnancy.


Many years after a death, it is possible to resume exchange relations between the groups who exchanged compensation. This is known as men kap or a kom. I was told that the former pertained to warfare deaths and the latter to non-warfare deaths, but the terms appear to be used interchangeably. As this prestation most frequently concerns the death of male warfare victims or big men, I shall use only men kap for convenience. There is no obligation that this event should be staged, and this flexibility allows men to instigate it for a number of reasons. It may be done as an invitation to plan a large omana (with the time period of years versus about six months another contrast). It is mostly undertaken, however, as a challenge to embark on 'moka' (see Nihill 1991, 1996a, 2000 for description). This is where those that received compensation earlier, the agnates of those killed in warfare or the maternal kin of big men give wealth known as aropowe to the base-of-the-fight and agnates respectively. These men should reciprocate with increment years later. At least double the original aropowe is expected. The earlier compensation receivers may try to initiate this, but most commonly it is the original compensation donors who do so. Even though a verbal request is possible, men kap is seen as the best method.

Men kap involves the killing and butchering of a small number of pigs in the same fashion as that described for yasolu, into sides. The butchers retain entrails and heads for later consumption as inj yari, the same term for the small prestations by men to their wives on the eve of yasolu as acknowledgment of their assistance or the gris of omana. The donors butcher the pigs in their own place, but, like warfare compensation, they take the sides to the receivers' village for prestation. In many respects it is like the presentation of warfare compensation described above. The givers may don the charcoal black and cassowary plumes associated with warfare when they take the uncooked sides to the recipient's ceremonial ground. Upon arrival they charge around it, and then all but throw the carcasses at the feet of the men present. The givers then leave without interaction and chant as if in victory. I have heard it described as 'giving the body back'. This probably refers to the pork as a reminder of the slain vic tim given the identification of pigs and people in Anganen. This fits with a metaphorical body logic that I (Nihill 1996a) argue elsewhere typifies 'moka'. Aropowe is a compound of 'man-body[corpse] plant [as in placing wealth]'; a pe means 'man make'. The meaning of this comes through wealth substituting for a body that needs compensation, and hence the necessity for increment.

What most immediately concerns me here is the meaning of the fact that this is the only prestation where pork is given completely raw. I have noted that death causes anger and opposition between those that should share harmonious relations, affines and allies. With the non-warfare omana this, if only symbolically, shows that good social relations have resumed. However, the competitive edge of warfare omana shows that, despite a general commitment to alliance, male politicking is overt. This is what men kap is all about. To refuse to commence 'moka' is a signal of the end of alliance, but to respond to it with aropowe shows the desire to enter into competitive exchange that may be a vehicle for substantial status gains, especially with the presentation of a pe (Nihill 1991, 1996a). Uncooked pork is inedible, and there is a prohibition on givers and receivers sharing the cooked meat of the carcass. The pork receivers cook and eat it, while the givers prepare and eat the in] yari as gris. The Anganen often use gender metaphorically to comment on male hierarchy (see Nihill 1994). The meaning here is that the men kap givers, if 'moka' commences, are like women as they will hold the pigs of the donor men for years until their triumph with a pe. Nonetheless, its principal meaning is to convey aggressively the opposition between giver and receiver, between the base-of-the-fight responsible for death, and the kinsman closest to that dead man.


Young Anganen men do not negotiate the bridewealth or the return payment of their marriages. In part this is because they do not provide wealth and thus do not have the right to speak. However, the Anganen emphasise that young men have great shame in the presence of their would-be affines due to the likely commencement of sexual relations with their daughter or sister. Despite his joy over his forthcoming fatherhood, the Anganen also say a young man is embarrassed when his wife becomes pregnant, with the emphasis here more on facing his wife's mother at this time. To announce that his wife is pregnant, especially for the first time, a man may give yapu ta kala ( 'marsupial kill/strike give'). This is a gift of dead, raw but not skinned or gutted marsupials that a man (and his agnates perhaps) captures before giving them to the pregnant woman to carry to her natal place. Her husband does not accompany her. Later his affines prepare and cook this meat that they then consume. Under no circumstances may a man con sume flesh of the same marsupial with his affines. The prohibition between giver and receiver consuming yasoluu pork from the one animal is not elaborated upon by the Anganen: it is because this is how their fathers did it they say. However, the explanation of the taboo of yapu ta kala is that mutual consumption of the marsupials by affines would make them gravely sick or even send them insane. This additional elaboration suggests an even heightened opposition between giver and receiver. Yapu ta kala is a rare event, but its frequency is a minor concern as my interest is with its meaning.

Yapu ta kala is the only exchange to feature marsupials. In fact, indeed marsupials have little material impact on Anganen social life, thus rendering the meaning of the event even more unique. Marsupials are referred to as the 'pigs of the ancestors'. The ancestors reside in the forest, and only occasionally enter the social space of the living. The Anganen say that forest, and the ancestors themselves, are highly fertile and productive. As pigs are often metonymic of humans, it may be that this exchange is one of a kind of reciprocity, with the fecundity associated with a man's ancestors given for that of his affines, namely his wife's fertility.

As the mixed emotions of joy and shame young men experience with their wife's pregnancy suggest, there is an ambivalence to sexuality in Anganen. It should be 'work', kongon, but often young men, especially when intoxicated in town, indulge in ran, 'fun' with prostitutes (see Nihill 1994). Such men are said to be 'wild' (kera), a condition that time (and often sobriety) overcomes, and in many respects like the ancestors who are thought to be wild and in need of temporary 'taming' through sacrifice (Nihill 1999). Similarly, even sex that is work has somewhat of a wild status. Hence sexual intercourse should not take place in villages, the domain of living human society, kumapi, 'tameness'. Yapu ta kala may also signal that the wildness of human sexuality has been 'tamed'. There is a confluence of ideas here: sexual intercourse may be metaphorically referred to as ta, to 'strike' or 'kill', and the killing of the marsupials is a first stage in how the wild may be the wherewithal of the social as cooked meat. A s the husband should be the marsupial killer (or one of them) his capacity to 'strike' may also signal his control of his wife's sexuality and its primary association with him. The gift is only partially a transformation of the wild into that suitable for sociality. Men could trap the marsupials in order to give them live, but they have to undergo the transformation of living to dead. However they are raw, ungutted and unskinned and need to undergo further transformation, most notably from raw to cooked (cf. Levi-Strauss 1970) in order for them to be edible. Like the 'work' of proper sexuality that transforms a woman's fertility once associated with her natal group into that productive for her husband, her husband gives that associated with his agnates, the 'pigs of his ancestors', to his affines to transform through work into that of benefit to them.

As elsewhere in Melanesia (e.g., see Meigs 1984), there are also strong metaphorical connections between eating and coitus. Both are productive for social ends and both involve the appropriation of that which is wild through its transformation. In one case, it is the transformational power of the work of sex. In the other, there is a series of possible transformations: live to dead, with skin-skinned, with entrails-gutted, uncleaned entrails to the material for gris, and, most profoundly, raw to cooked through the transformational power of cooking. While most of these pertain to animal flesh, tame in the wild-tame binary in Anganen, kumapi, strictly translates as 'softness'. This softness is best represented by sweet potato that must be cooked to be edible for humans. The strongest taboo on men consuming marsupials with their affines seems related to all this. Affines should not discuss sexual matters. Moreover, any union in Anganen prohibits all others between the respective subclans meaning that the women of these groups are no longer potential sexual partners. Like the consumption of marsupial with affines, these women are now taboo. The prominence of sexuality in yapu ta kala may imply that eating the 'pigs of the ancestors' with those with whom you cannot share a prior kinship, but now have a forbidden sexual relationship, means that men and their affines must be kept apart.

Although this prohibition is not incest, the taboo on affines jointly consuming its meat does not simply reflect that a woman's sexuality is no longer principally associated with their group, but that this sexuality is itself taboo. Madness is occasionally linked to incest (and vice versa) as only madmen and women would be so obsessed with sex to commit such a heinous act. [2] Moreover, even though the Anganen do not stress that ancestors act as moral guardians, incest is an exception, either directly through ancestral anger or through the spirits being provoked to act on the widespread unrest in the community. The meaning of yapu ta kala stems from it being a most intense expression of prohibited sexuality. Yapu ta kala 'says' things that cannot or should not be said.

In more general terms, all this highlights the ambivalence between affines. Although I will elaborate upon this point as I proceed, it is important to note that transformation also takes place in the very character of affinity itself. In many respects, marriage is only truly ratified with the birth of children, with failure to conceive in the first years of marriage just cause for divorce and the return of most of the bridewealth. Furthermore, while affines remain likely sorcerers due to being opposed in warfare or through anger over matters such as exchange, the political ramifications gain new dimensions, as such anger can now manifest itself through kone ope 'bad thoughts' and thus the sickness of children that yapu ta kala heralds. The uniqueness of yapu ta kala and the small range of relatives involved highlight the intensity of affinal relations generally despite its transformation with the birth of children.


On first appearance, this gift of marsupial meat seems at variance with the more politicised exchanges of yasolu, men kap, and the large omana. It is like the small omana for non-warfare/non-big man deaths in featuring affines, and unlike omana generally and men kap it is about life, pregnancy, not death. These differences are reconcilable. In Anganen, there is a strong if somewhat paradoxical confluence between life and death (Nihill 1999). It is not that all life ends in death, but that life also stems from death, the killing of animals and the sacrifice men and women undergo in order to give life to others. For instance, the loss of semen is debilitating to male health and women say similar things about the hard work of pregnancy, childbirth and caring for children.

There is also a strong confluence between affinity and alliance in Anganen (Nihill 1988b, 1996b). Those nearby are likely, where possible, to both intermarry and assist each other in political matters such as being willing recruits to each other's hostilities and staging yasolu together. Allies and men related via women such as cross-cousins and affines are major ceremonial exchange partners (Nihill 1988b). This structural conflation of marital and political alliance means that the same men may participate in any of the exchanges discussed (although, apart from yapu ta kala, more than affines may be involved). The Anganen emphasise the positive aspects of these forms of alliance. However, social reality does not always match the ideological emphasis on mutual help. I have noted the ambivalence characteristic of affinity that may lead to sorcery and 'bad thoughts' witchcraft. Similarly, political alliance is fragile. Allies may find themselves on opposing sides during hostilities. Indeed they may be the bases -of-the-fight. Anganen men possess a fierce chauvinism and disputes are common, giving rise to a general overall ambivalence to alliance (Nihill 1996a). It is also likely that, because of overlapping networks of alliance, allies oppose each other when acting as recruits for two different bases-of-the-fight who initiated proceedings. Certainly kin should endeavour to avoid directly engaging in hostilities with each other, but events such as these often cause anger, e.g., a man's mother's brother's son may kill his father's sister's son.

All the events described pertain to particular manifestations and transformations of relations between men, with these various highly politicised exchanges of yapu ta kala, men kap, yasolu, and large omana articulating a variety of themes concerning Anganen masculinity. Yapu ta kala is notable for not simply affinal opposition and its changing expression, but also the emotional ambivalence that sexuality may generate, the conflict between 'work' and 'fun', and the fact that men experience both joy and shame with their wife's pregnancy. The remainder of these more politicised events also may highlight the inherent opposition and inequivalence between affines, while pointing to an ambivalence of the male politics of violence and the competition of gift exchange,

I (Nihill 2000) argue elsewhere that the warfare decoration of black and cassowary plumes, together with the aggressive or triumphant chanting of performances associated with warfare and its exchanges and with ceremonial exchange 'say' things. As O'Hanlon (1989:17-21) argues for self-decoration, it may be that these prestations say the unsayable. This is most apparent with yapu ta kala. Here the shame associated with sexuality, the persisting debt a woman's fertility creates for her husband and sons, and the contradictory conflation I briefly noted between life and death gain expression. More generally, these highly politicised events say things that are better not said due to the ambivalence of affinity and alliance together with the attributes of aggression and ambition stemming from the cultural stress of male chauvinism.

Despite their differing forms, the meat of yasolu, men kap, and large omana highlight the attributes of prestige seeking and aggression as very much male concerns. The food of events like angare and small omana emphasise gender complementarity. Through their taking care of pigs, producing vegetables, their providing of 'freezer meat' and their labour in preparing gris, women are central in the material provisioning of these events. Vegetables and gris also have strong symbolic female association that complements the 'male' pork. With more highly politicised events, vegetables and gris become less important, with the emphasis very much on meat. The possibility of exotic animals in warfare and big man death feasts such as cassowaries and cows masculinise the event further. Men procure these animals through trade and purchase, and women have little or no role in their caretaking and preparation for cooking. Cassowaries are fierce creatures and the apt symbol of male aggression. People also often fear cattle (la rgely because of their size and unfamiliarity). Moreover, cattle symbolise the new economy initiated with colonialism that men especially covet. As such, cattle have a prestige that far outweighs pigs. This masculinisation of meat is accompanied by the visible shift from the complementarity of women and men together at the angare or small death feast ground, to the centrality of men both as givers and receivers in men kap, large omana and yasolu, where women are spatially peripheral (Nihill 2000). Although women actually transfer the marsupials of yapu ta kale, their husband's provision the exchange through hunting animals associated with their patriline ancestors.

There are two broad ways meat is used in Anganen exchange. The first is communion where kin consume food at the same feast and of the same beast. Communion features in angare and the small omana for non-warfare deaths. I use the term communion deliberately as Roman Catholicism has built upon existing notions of food, spirituality and identity. While the Anganen primarily reckon land ownership in terms of patrimonial inheritance, non-agnates may also enjoy full ownership privileges provided they have maintained long term residence (Nihill 1986: 71-83, 1996b). [3] The two most notable instances are matrilocal men and those that are said to be 'born to the land', that is, they reside in the territory of their birth. The Anganen largely explain this in terms of food. Food consumption coidentifies individuals in relation to group territory and the ancestors that are thought to vitalise it. The same applies to communion. The Anganen take transubstantiation seriously, and thus communion establishes a Roman Catholic community through consumption and mutuality in Christ. Angare and small omana operate in similar fashion. Concerned kin, irrespective of their particular connection to the sick child, submerge these differences in order to prioritise the afflicted person when endeavouring to secure her or his health during angare. At small omana people also submerge these differences and the anger over deaths in order to resume a shared social and moral order. Eating meat forges co-identification despite the structural difference and inequivalence that marriage always necessitates. What should result are 'healthy and happy' people.

The other general form of the prestation of meat is quite the opposite to communion. In the cases of yapu ta kala, warfare and perhaps big man omana, and in yasolu, the impossibility of communion emphasises difference. In these givers and receivers should not partake of meat from the same animal. Yapu ta kala is about extreme opposition: the inequivalence between affines at its greatest. Not only may the pregnant woman's husband not eat the meat, he is not even present when his affines receive it. That the meat is neither cooked nor prepared for cooking underscores this affinal opposition. These raw marsupials are the antitheses of the meat of communion of angare and omana where affinal opposition is highly muted.

Men kap has similar, if not so extreme, connotations to yapu ta kala. Along with the aggressive (though stylised and thus acceptable) decoration, dancing and chanting, it expresses the problematic of maintaining alliance and that in time allies may be enemies in the future. The pork sides are very much a hostile gift, even if the gift may succeed in having the two parties resume exchange, albeit the competitive 'moka'.

Large omana and yasolu feature the other dimension of politicisation, the politics of individual prestige, despite the general feeling that both reflect commitment to alliance. While many men may only wish to participate in small ways, ambitious men, through the exoticisation and quantity of meat, both the total number of animals killed and the large size of the portions given, endeavour to outdo each other, with status gains to the victors. This strategy is at its greatest with yasolu. Individuals give entire sides to individuals (unlike the group focus of men kap). This underwrites ceremonial exchange as the most prestigious event over all other forms of prestation known in Anganen. I have noted that it is also undercooked but not raw when presented. The recipient must take it home for recooking. This too highlights radical opposition, here stressing that, for prestige to be greatest, opposition between giver and receiver must be at its maximum. Thus both aggression and prestige in events of heightened pol iticisation are predicated on opposition, in contrast to the unity of communion in events with low overt political emphasis.

Overall, be it raw or undercooked, exotic or given in portions too large to eat, these more highly politicised events variously feature the problematics of sexuality and the structural opposition and inequivalence of marriage, the fragility of alliance and the politics of male violence, or the pursuit of prestige. All these dimensions are thus expressed and constituted through the gift being effectively non-food. Of course, all know that things will be cooked, divided and distributed, that is the prestation will become food, but this awaits further transformation. In the act of exchange, that given and received is non-food. There is no possibility of communion and thus commonality in community (even if the Anganen feel such practices may enhance harmonious relations and alliance). Gifts of meat that cannot be eaten thus facilitate the articulation of the Anganen politicisation process. There can be no feasting among friends as rawness, undercooking, and prestation so large no one person could eat it express the politics of affinal opposition, the politics of male and group violence, and the politics of prestige. In short, meat is not food.


In their discussion of the symbolism of wealth used in exchange, Rubel and Rosman (1978:305) argue for the distinction between feasting and goods, including meat, that are given to be taken home by the recipients. They (1978:305) observe that 'ceremonial exchange is not accompanied by feasting in many instances'. In my discussion of Anganen exchange, I have argued that these points need further elaboration so as to include the precise reasons why meat should not, and often indeed cannot, be consumed immediately. That is, in Anganen exchange the rules governing givers and receivers, and the state of the meat gift require consideration. Even where there is no taboo per se, giving meat raw, undercooked, or in portions too large for individual consumption is integral to the meaning any particular event articulates. While nearly all the instances discussed involve pork, the use and symbolism of exotic varieties and the yapu ta kala prestation of marsupial meat mean that the type of animals slaughtered also needs c onsideration. Along with the emphasis on pork in large quantities or cuts and the marginalisation of things symbolically female such as vegetables and gris, the aggressive cassowary, the prestigious cow and marsupials associated with a husband's hunting and his patrilineal ancestors also generate meaning vital to a transaction. Similarly, the emphasis on male-male transactions and the intense opposition between giver and receiver in large omana, men kap and yasolu also frame the meaning of an event, especially in opposition to these acts of communion. The emphasis on opposition constitutes both the status of giver and receiver and that of the relation between them. Overall, these dimensions in part underpin the politicisation process that variously finds expression in the politics of prestige, male aggression, or opposition between affines and allies.

While it is true that the raw marsupial of yapu ta kala, uncooked pork sides of men kap, the large cuts, exotic, or undercooked meat found in large omana or yasolu will become food, in the moment of prestation their meaning comes through their opposition to food in communion. Communion creates a coidentification of consumers in community. While constituting broader socialities, there is an anti-social and perhaps narcissistic element to these highly politicised exchanges. They are antithetical to the most basic way for constituting and affirming sociality in Anganen through the mutual consumption of food. Meat that is food-that-is-not-food underscores the political through saying that which cannot or should not be said. There is the inherent opposition of affinity and the problematic, if not paradoxical, role of human sexuality in constituting the social, the fragility of alliance and the potential of male violence, together with the intense opposition of giver and receiver (and of men and women) in the inhe rently higher politicised exchanges motivated by individual male ambition. I (Nihill 2000) argue elsewhere that Anganen exchange needs to be treated as an encompassing, multifaceted sensory experience for participants and audience, and that any form of exchange has its meaning constituted intrinsically and in relation to other exchange forms. This article has taken one dimension of this, the vision of meat and the particularity of both its symbolism and the state of its prestation, as integral to this sensory experience where things are said without words but through the nuances of exchange. Not feasting with friends is not merely in contrast to communion, but the masculinisation of meat that is not food intensifies its political dimensions in the moment of its exchange.


The ethnography on which this paper is based comes from twenty five months fieldwork generously funded by The University of Adelaide. I would like to thank the referees of Oceania. My thanks also go to Neil Maclean for his assistance and insightful advice.


(1.) The most notable of these is the competitive slaughter of cassowaries and pigs in rawa. This event is a complex one and I treat it in detail elsewhere. While it relates to the themes addressed here of meat and politicisation, much of my argument concerning rawa is somewhat tangential to the issues immediately at hand here. These points are the focus of Nihill n.d.a

(2.) Here I am referring to closely related agnates, as sexual relations between distantly related men and women have been known to precipitate clan fission.

(3.) Ownership is best exemplified by the right to extend usufruct to outsiders without consulting others, and these days is also signalled by where men plant coffee


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Meat consumed in communion in events of low politicisation.
Name Description
Angare Food given by a man to kin, including
 affines, following his wife's or child's
 illness potentially thought caused by the
 'bad thoughts' witchcraft of kin he has
 angered. All those invited should receive
 food for immediate consumption. Gris important.
Omana Food shared by kin some six some six months
 after the death of a person who mediated these
 kin relations. All those invited should
 receive food for immediate consumption. Gris
Meant not shared in communion in events of high politicisation.
Name Description
Yand Omana Large event featuring pork and exotic
 meats such as cassowary following the
 deaths resulting from warfare. Also highly
 reminiscent of the death feast for big
 men. Large portions given by individuals.
 Not all in attendance receive food.
 Emphasis on transactions between individual
 men. Competition between individuals
 through amount and varieties of meat given.
 May be consumed at the exchange ground
 but often is not. Gris secondary.
Yasolu Ceremonial pork distribution based on
 individual transactors who may strive to
 maximise prestige through killing the
 largest number of pigs and having the
 largest number of partners. Pork,
 ideally sides, given undercooked.
 Recipient men take it home to recook
 and distribute for consumption. Pig
 killers eat pigs' heads after. Gris
Men Kap Raw pork sides given by the yandare, the
 'base-of-the fight', the original party
 dying as result of this fight. May occur
 many years after this death. Usually
 done to encourge recipients to enter
 into the second stage mortuary exchange
 known as 'moka' in Tok Pisin, where
 aropowe is reciprocated with increment
 as a pe. Aggressive, Givers eat gris
 after presentation on returning home
 from recipients' village. Occasionally
 given by men to their affines following
 the deaths of wives or children not
 caused by warfare.
Yapu Ta Kala Dead, raw, unskinned and ungutted
 marsupials given by a man but actually
 physically transferred by him wife.
 Announces her pregnancy. Men do not
 interact with their affines or sisters.
 Explicit taboo on affines eating this
 meat when cooked. Said that to do so
 would send them insane.
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Date:Jun 1, 2001
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