Malinowski and Ignorance of Physiological Paternity  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Malinowski and Ignorance of Physiological Paternity" (2004) by Bertrand Pulman in Revue française de sociologie 2004/5 (Vol. 45), pages 121 à 142[1]


"Malinowski?s main source was Spencer and Gillen?s The Northern Tribes of Central Australia (1904), and their conclusions are cited several times : ?The natives one and all in these tribes believe that the child is the direct result of the entrance into the mother of an ancestral spirit individual. They have no idea of procreation as being directly associated with sexual intercourse, and firmly believe that children can be born without this taking place. They are, for example, in the Arunta country certain stones which are supposed to be charged with spirit children, who can, by magic, be made to enter the bodies of women, or will do so of their own accord.? (Spencer and Gillen, quoted in Malinowski p. 209). Other authors are enlisted on the point, namely Frazer, who in Totemism and Exogamy (1910) had come to support the thesis of the Aborigenes?ignorance of physiological paternity : The view is shared by all the tribes of Central and Northern Australia. In point of fact, I am informed by the Bishop of North Queensland (Dr Frodsham) that the opinion is held by all the tribes with which he is acquainted both in North Queensland and in Central Australia including the Arunta; not only are the natives in their savage states ignorant of the true cause of conception, but they do not readily believe it even after their admission into mission stations, and their incredulity has to be reckoned with the effort of the clergy to introduce a higher standard of sexual morality among them.? (Frazer, quoted p. 226). It is striking how, contrary to the principles he himself has laid down, Malinowski does not hesitate to argue here from statements by a clergyman reported by a ?second-hand compiler?."

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