From a Shattered Sun: Hierarchy, Gender and Alliance in the Tanimbar Islands

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Among a growing number of ethnographies of Eastern Indonesia that deal with cosmology, exchange and kinship, this book confronts issues originally broached by Edmund Leach and Claude Levi-Strauss, concerning the relation between hierarchy and equality in asymmetric systems of marriage. Based on fieldwork in the Tanimbar Islands, this book analyzes the simultaneous presence of both closed, asymmetric cycles and open, asymmetric pathways of alliance - or both egalitarian and hierarchical configurations. The book demonstrates that Tanimbarese society is shaped by the existence of multiple, differentially valued forms of marriage, affiliation and residence. Rather than seeing these various forms as analytically separable types, this book demonstrates that it is only by viewing them as integrally related - in terms of culturally specific understandings of houses , gender and exchange - that one can perceive the process through which hierarchy and equality are created.