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Argonauts of the Western Pacific

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0881330847
ISBN-10: 0881330841
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Editorial Reviews


"Not only ethnographers and economists will delight in this book. The author's infinitely careful scientific method makes the material he has collected so completely trustworthy ... we commend it to all." --The Spectator

About the Author

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942), Anglo-Polish anthropologist, was born in what was then Austrian Poland of a long line of Polish nobility and landed gentry. He was educated at the Polish University of Cracow, from which he received his doctorate in 1908 with the highest honors of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He also studied at the University of Leipzig and later went on to London, where from 1910 he was associated with the London School of Economics. From 1914 to 1918 Dr. Malinowski was a member of the Robert Mond Expedition to New Guinea and North Melanesia, and it was the research done on this expedition that was later published in Argonauts of the Western Pacific. In later years Dr. Malinowski taught at the University of London, at Cornell University, and at Yale University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 527 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc (March 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881330841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881330847
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a real classic in the history of anthropology, published in 1922, and unlike another classic from the same decade, Coming of Age in Samoa, it has worn well, too. This is where modern ethnography begins. Malinowski tells us how to do ethnography, in no uncertain terms, as he explains Trobriand kula expeditions. I found it to be a delightful read and I was continually amazed at the intellectual sophistication of his work, given its age. I believe I learned more about ethnography from this book than from any other I have ever read, and I have been a professional anthropologist for 30 years. It is, I must warn you, a long book, and I doubt that many will be willing to read it from stem to stern, but I think every anthropologist should study the introduction at least. It is perhaps the "sacred charter" for the ethnographic project, complete with felicitous phrases such as the "ethnographer's magic," "the imponderabilia of actual life," "the native's point of view," and "the hold life has." In addition, it is certainly essential reading for anyone interested in magic, because it is as much about magic as it is about kula exchange.
I assigned this book to a junior-level college class in ethnography, but they weren't as pleased with it as I was. Many of the students understood the importance of the book, but most also found it tedious, dull, repetitive, hard to follow, and definitely too long.
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Format: Paperback
Don't be misled by the occasional discouraged student, this is an important work that must be read by someone seeking to understand the nature and history of the social sciences.
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Format: Paperback
Argonauts of The Western Pacific
Bronislaw Malinowski. London, George Routedge & Sons, LTD.
New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. 1922

Fairfield University

Malinowski's book is clearly written, in great detail of his experiences on the Trobriand Islands as an ethnographer. He introduces the reader into an explanation of how he is going to go about his findings, through experiments and observations of the growing cultures on the Trobriand Islands, which are located off the southern coast of New Guinea. The ethnographer begins by asking the reader to imagine himself as a "beginner," with no direction or help on where to begin his journey. He is trying express what it was like for him during the beginning of his journey on the islands. However, Malinowski explains how overtime he becomes more comfortable with his surroundings, which enables him to further his findings.
Malinowski's book is based mainly on his discoveries of the traditions of the Trobriand culture. He goes into detail of his observations of the Kula, who are the Trobriand natives. He recognizes their importance of exchanging valuables, or vaygu'a, through the male partners. In their culture, the two types of valuables of armshells and necklaces must be exchanged against each other for the main purpose of circulating around the Kula ring with the importance of relationship. Although, as Malinowski explains, it is not so simple, rather it is a very complex ritual.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Today, many books on ethnology are written by "theoreticians" who have not spent much time in the field and who rely on the work of others (being French, I think, for example, about Claude Levi-Strauss or Alain Testart). You have to believe them when they quote field anthropologists and, for this reason, it is refreshing to go back to basics and read books like this one.
It could be considered as a bit long, but it is full of stimulating insights. I'd like to mention, among others, the introduction on the methods of field inquiry, the different categories of gifts, the role of magic, the disappearance of primitive cultures under European influence (already in 1916...) but there's much, much more.
I warmly recommend this book to anybody who wants to get an (almost direct) insight into primitive culture ("la pensée sauvage"...).
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