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June 2022

The aesthetic of the sublime: An interpretation of Rawa shell valuable symbolism

Journal/Book: Amer Ethnologist. 1996; 23: 4350 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 640, Arlington, VA 22203. Amer Anthropological Assoc. 393-415.

Abstract: An examination of shell objects and their presentation, exchange, and roles in ritual self-decoration among Papua New Guinea Ka wa speakers relates them to a sublime aesthetic combination of pleasure and pain involving an indigenous ethos of pathos and sorrow and a sense of the inadequacy of symbolic shell images to convey the ideal concepts they embody. This sense is exacerbated in a colonial context, and the analysis of the sublime shows shells to be simultaneously repositories of indigenous meaning and influenced by colonial processes. In Melanesia the sublime is thus a colonially situated corporeally located phenomenon of present absence.

Note: Article DM Dalton, Longwood Coll, Farmville, VA 23909 USA

Keyword(s): shells; Melanesia; aesthetics; self-decoration; exchange; colonialism; change; PAPUA-NEW-GUINEA; SELF-DECORATION; EXCHANGE; HIGHLANDS; ANTHROPOLOGY; GIFT

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