Anthroessay2 - Nathaniel Lempert Essay #2 Thursday 4pm...

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Nathaniel Lempert Essay #2 Thursday 4pm Chris Mercer Yams for the Ancestors The Abelam tribe of New Guinea is frequently discussed in class. To me, one of their defining characteristics is the importance of yams in their society. All Abelam men grow yams and many of their daily actions are dictated by yam’s growing cycles. This is shown by the many taboos that come into affect during the yam-growing season, which includes bans on sex, hunting, warfare, and any other activities considered to be “hot.” These taboos may seem a little strange to the outside observer, but they have very functional benefits to the Abelam people. Using both functionalism and the conflict perspective to evaluate Abelam culture provides an excellent example of how culture is integrated. The importance of yams in Abelam society can easily be viewed from a functionalist perspective. Using functionalism, we can examine how yams contribute to Abelam society and the roles of yams in their culture. Whether the Abelam know the functional implications of yam growing is rather unimportant. The important question of functionalism is how yams contribute and effect Abelam society. In other words, what do yams “do” for the Abelam. The two areas that I will focus on are the yam growing taboos and conflict in Abelam society The yam growing taboos, which forbid sex, hunting, and fighting have many noticeable effects on Abelam society. First, banning sex for six months during the growing of yams causes a yearly “baby season” because all babies will be born around the same time. This is very “functional” because (given the typical 9 month human gestation period) all births will occur
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towards the end of yam growing season when resources are plentiful. Also, since most of the labor involved in growing yams has already been completed by this time of year, the parents should have slightly more time to care for their newborns. The other yam growing taboos that forbid hunting of animals is also functionally beneficial to the Abelam people because it allows animal populations to recover. If the Abelam hunted all year long, they would probably end up with food shortages once the animal populations in the surrounding areas were depleted. The Abelam would have to become nomadic or regulate hunting in some way. As a side note, this is very similar to hunting laws in the United States. We have a season for hunting certain animals like deer. This prevents over-hunting in a very similar way to the Abelam yam taboos. Looking at conflict in Abelam society, we see that yams also serve a very important
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course ANTH 0780 taught by Professor Sanabria during the Fall '07 term at Pittsburgh.

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Anthroessay2 - Nathaniel Lempert Essay #2 Thursday 4pm...

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