cover of book

They Make Themselves: Work and Play among the Baining of Papua New Guinea
by Jane Fajans
University of Chicago Press, 1997
Paper: 978-0-226-23444-1 | Cloth: 978-0-226-23443-4
Library of Congress Classification DU740.42.F35 1997
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.0899912

For generations of anthropologists, the Baining people have presented a challenge, because of their apparent lack of cultural or social structure. This group of small-scale horticulturists seems devoid of the complex belief systems and social practices that characterize other traditional peoples of Papua New Guinea. Their daily existence is mundane and repetitive in the extreme, articulated by only the most elementary familial relationships and social connections. The routine of everyday life, however, is occasionally punctuated by stunningly beautiful festivals of masked dancers, which the Baining call play and to which they attribute no symbolic significance.

In a new work sure to evoke considerable repercussions and debate in anthropological theory, Jane Fajans courageously takes on the "Baining Problem," arguing that the Baining define themselves not through intricate cosmologies or social networks, but through the meanings generated by their own productive and reproductive work.
Nearby on shelf for History of Oceania (South Seas) / Smaller island groups / New Guinea: