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Since 1906-8, when Radcliffe-Brown conducted field-work for his classic ethnographic study The Andaman Islanders (1922, 1964), closely documenting the social organization of widespread groups of islanders, their ceremonial customs, religious and magical beliefs, myths and legends, the islands have changed immeasurably with only four dialect groups surviving.
In this transformed scenario, Vishvajit Pandya, on the basis of extensive field-work, looks afresh at the Andamanese, in particular to reinterpret the belief systems of the Ongees, and examine whether the Andaman Islanders still live in a state similar to that described by E.H. Man (1885) and Radcliffe-Brown (1922), whether their rituals are still based on a 'conception of the cosmos', what the changing power relations among humans, animals, and spirits indicate about the character of power and its possession, and the transformation of nature and culture.
Movements of natural elements like winds, properties like smell and forms of life, including spirits and animals, are reflected in the practice of daily life for the Ongee hunters and gatherers. Their world and cosmology is a construct of the essential unity of 'nature' (including humans) and supernature (including spirits). Within this world-view, awareness of the movement and presence of the elements acquires the position of an ideology that guides the activities of the Ongees and connects nature with culture. Using the case of initiation of young males and spirit-communicators, this account of the Andaman Islanders is structured around questions that are important for the Andamanese and their ethnography, and are also responses to significant writing of Radcliffe-Brown on how things in Ongee culture become known to people within it, the sources of power, the nature of 'ritual'...
By going beyond the level of abstraction, typically used by anthropologists when describing a social structure solely in terms of the principles of organization that unite the component parts of a system and by which structure exists independently of the cultural context, the author is able to present a holistic view of the cultural content and concepts of the cosmological structures and hierarchical system of the Ongees, providing thereby also an absorbing whole view of a vibrant and unique way of life rapidly disappearing from our midst.
Vishvajit Pandya, formerly with Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, teaches at the Department of Anthropology, Victoria University, Wellington.
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Descripción Oxford University Press, 1993. Hardcover. Condición: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. del artículo: P11019562971X