Guardian Of The Flute - Video Notes
Guardian Of The Flute - Video Notes ANT 3241
Popular in Anthropology, Myth, Ritual and Mysticism
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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sharon Stambouli on Monday September 19, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ANT 3241 at Florida International University taught by Jean Muteba Rahier in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 5 views. For similar materials see Anthropology, Myth, Ritual and Mysticism in Anthropology at Florida International University.
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Date Created: 09/19/16
ANT MODULE 4 Film Analysis: Guardians of the Flute The ethnographic film, Guardians of the Flute, is the edited accumulation of footage and images obtained of the Sambian people, living in the eastern highlands of Papua -New Guinea, as collected and iterated by anthropologist Gilbert Herdt. The film, as wel l as Herdt’s written ethnography, focuses specifically on the Sambian people’s male initiation rites, which involve the consumption of semen and the practice of fellatio. The film certainly will call many a Western viewers concept of and confidence in cult ural relativism into question, but in an analysis rooted in anthropological theory and method, the film was very effective. If ethnography strives to be objective, this one comes very close in the sense that the filmmakers did interview as many different m embers of the culture as they could. Also, they made the film without strict adherence to the “ethnographic present”, which seriously hinders and warps the impression of a people to its viewers. Hearing members of the Sambian community talk about how their world was changing as the old traditions go “out of style” is almost more telling of their cultural values than the traditional practices alone. In Deborah Elliston’s (1995) Erotic Anthropology, which critically discusses in depth Herdt’s written work, she talks about how Herdt’s use of language, like the term “homosexual”, “imputes a Western model of sexuality to these Melanesian practices, one that relies on Western ideas about gender, erotics, and personhood and that ultimately obscures the meanings that hold for these practices in Melanesia” (Elliston 849). The same critique can be used for the film version of the ethnography of the Sambian peoples, although the film lacked the (as) graphic detailed descriptions as the text. In the film, the word “homosexual” does come up a lot, but the visual representation of the Sambian people and their ability to talk about their cultural practices in many ways does counter the subjectivity of the filmmakers. The Sambians have an interesting society which differs greatly from that of the western world. However, one basic concept is present throughout much of the world. That is that females are viewed as being inferior. All cultures have their own way of expressing its opinion of gender roles and status. In the Samb ian culture, females are viewed as being a form of pollution. Sambian men only have sex with women in order to procreate. They do not believe in having sex with women for recreational purposes. It is believed that men will become polluted by this, perhaps by temptation. The Sambian culture is very much so divided by gender. There are separate paths and residences for each gender. This can be seen in Gilbert Herdt’s article on the Sambia “There are two other types of dwellings. One is a menstrual hut built slightly below the village, wherein birth and menstrual events occur and women’s ceremonies are held. The other is a men’s house, where are all males dwell after initiation (at age 7 -10) until marriage (in the late teens to early twenties), when a separate residence is built. Military and secret male ritual activities occur in that clubhouse. The menstrual and men’s houses are taboo to the opposite sex.”(Herdt 1998: direct quotes require page numbers) in Sambian culture men focus on preparing boys for manhood while females do much of the work. The Sambians have unusual initiation rituals for boys. The initiation ritual involves several steps which are meant to cleanse the boy of pollution which he inh erited from his mother. After this the boy is strengthened for manhood. This involves drinking ejaculation. Eventually, the boys are to engage in oral sex with another male. The flute is the symbol of the penis. Before they engage in actual oral sex, they first play the flute, which is representative of what is to come. Sometime after such rituals, the men will be married to a woman. It seems that the only purpose of marriage is in order to procreate. According to the film, men are only married to “satisfy their penis”. At this point a woman is still viewed as a pollutant. This can be seen in Andrew P. Lyons review of some of gilbert Herdt’s writings “These customs reflected a system of thought in which mature male sexuality was tenuously achieved and always threatened by feminine, specifically menstrual pollution.”(Lyons 1999: direct quotes require page numbers ) Before having sex with a woman a Sambian man fills his nose with several aromatic leaves. The purpose of this is so the man cannot smell his wife’s vagina. This is further proof that Sambian men feel that women are a form of pollution. To offer some background to the notion of gender being so prevalent through the Sambia culture, a review of “Guardians of the Flute” by Paula Brown talks about how in m any New Guinean societies, myths have been recorded by anthropologists about times in which there were no gender differentiations, and that such strong gender difference now is due to heroic actions of distant ancestors or acts of theivery thievery of sexual symbols. It is said that the ancestors were either incomplete, not wholly formed or possessed the characteristics of both genders. Through these acts of theivery thievery and cutting that caused gender differentiation, men now guard their knowledge and power with utmost secrecy. Yet, though sexuality is such a prevalent theme, the people of New Guinea have been called “prudish” by Herdt, who explains that all sexual acts occur in private and are rarely talked about. (Brown, 1982) The Sambia people genderize nearly everything, including space, gardening practices, foods, and animals. Herdttalks writes about isolating the complementary activities of “perceptual splitting” and “focal projection”, which involves transforming perceptions into male or female categories by opposition, combining conceptions of either masculinity or femininity with characteristics of certain objects/plants/animals. (Dalton, remove comma1981direct quotes require page numbers ) Men of the Sambia culture find the power of young wome n's naturally developing abilities to create life threatening, and come by their powers through the ability to create death - as warriors and hunters. In a classic sense, oral insemination is a rite of passage that turns young boys into fierce independent w arriors.
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