Matrilineality and Kinship

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Topics: Kinship
Anthro 308/ Case Study #3/ Matrilineality and Kinship

To the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea, children are amongst the most important part of their lives. A child’s link is the key to creating a relationship linked by marriages between their mothers and fathers’ matrilineages. The strength in these lasting relationships is tied to their own future. The Trobrianders believe in spirit impregnation, this is why a matrilineage is so important. The father of the child is a Pater, not a genitor because a spirit of his wife’s matrilineage impregnates her, not a genitor. The husband/Pater plays a huge role in the child’s social and political status. He is the main caretaker of the child’s needs and social beauty and during pregnancy; it is believed frequent intercourse helps develop the fetus. Cultural and physical beauty show power, wealth and gives a social and political advantage. At death the spirit, or baloma, of the person who dies becomes youthful again and stays close to the island of Tuma. However, the spirit does not stay youthful and after a while, it must bath in seawater to return as it once was. When the spirit needs to bath in the seawater it becomes a spirit child, or waiwaia. Unlike the baloma, a waiwaia cannot stay on the island of Tuma. The spirit child must enter a woman’s body, which is believed to be a member of the same matrilineage of its original baloma, and cause her to be pregnant. The fetus of a Trobriander is believed to be formed by a woman’s blood and an ancestral spirit, or sibububula. When the spirit child is born, it is given a name that belonged to a deceased member of its mother’s matrilineage. This links each infant’s matrilineal identity to the past, meaning each dead person at in the end becomes the means of new life. In essence, every generation is linked to its matrilineal ancestors who continue to play an active role for future generations.
When a Trobriander woman is married, she first lives with her husband but in the

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