The University of Wisconsin Press

Anthropology / Sociology / Psychology


The Lost Drum
The Myth of Sexuality in Papua New Guinea and Beyond
James F. Weiner

New Directions in Anthropological Writing

The Lost Drum is both a theoretical experiment in anthropology and a provocative analysis of myth and ritual in Papua New Guinea societies. James F. Weiner offers the first comprehensive attempt to fashion an anthropological method from the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan and extends his own previous work on Melanesian sociality and language.

Applying literary, psychoanalytic, and hermeneutic theories to myths of the Foi, Marind-anim, Yafar, and Gimi peoples, Weiner shows how mythic narratives reveal the productive and consumptive processes that compose the New Guinea person and body. He uncovers a discourse on sexuality, consumption, voice, and subjectivity that both challenges the neo-Freudian paradigm that has dominated psychological anthropology and disputes the reciprocity and exchange models of social integration that have characterized descriptions of Melanesian society.

Expanding upon Roy Wagner's theory of symbolic obviation, Weiner argues against constructionist readings of text: "myth does not represent social reality but only models a specific way of making it visible." In The Lost Drum, he traces the route of certain objects-the string bag, the drum, the bullroarer, the flute—as their meanings unfold in the mythical narratives of Papua New Guinea. In so doing, he illuminates the instability of social and sexual identities in Melanesia.

James F. Weiner
is professor of anthropology at the University of Adelaide. He is the editor of Mountain Papuans and the author of The Empty Place: Poetry, Space, and Being among the Foi of Papua New Guinea and The Heart of the Pearl Shell: The Mythological Dimension of Foi Sociality.

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Image of a tribal drum

December 1995

LC: 95-007739 DU
192 pp. 6 x 9
3 color, 3 black & white photos, 7 line drawings

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Paper $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-14864-5
Cloth $49.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-14860-7
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