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The Severed Snake: matrilineages, making place, and a Melanesian Christianity in Southeast Solomon Islands

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Michael W Scott|
Carolina Academic Press (March 2007)

Examining the secretive dynamics of competing land claims among the Arosi of the island of Makira (Solomon Islands), Michael Scott demonstrates the explanatory power of ethnographic attention to the nexus between practice and indigenous theories of being.

His focus on the ways in which Arosi understand their matrilineages to be the bearers of discrete categorical essences exclusively emplaced in ancestral territories forms the basis for a timely and accessible rethink of current anthropological representations of Melanesian  sociality and opens up new lines of inquiry into the transformative relationships among gendered metaphors of descent, processes of place making and the indigenisation of Christianity.

Informed by original historical research and newly documented variants of regionally important mythic traditions, The Severed Snake is a work of multidisciplinary scope that proposes critical and methodological shifts relevant to historians, development professionals, folklorists and scholars of religion as well as anthropologists.


'Michael Scott's empirically rich study of the ontological foundations of social action combines the best aspects of classic ethnography and contemporary social theory. His attention to detail registers a keen sensitivity to local concerns and their historical specificity at the same time that his conceptual sophistication places those concerns in a broad comparative perspective. This book is a vindication of careful fieldwork's unparalleled ability to illuminate the great moral and metaphysical questions.'
Webb Keane, professor of anthropology, University of Michigan

'I know of no other book on a Melanesian culture that probes as deeply into the question of land and identity. Michael Scott's book is thoroughly researched, historically aware, sensitive on religion and always convincing.'
Garry Trompf, professor of studies in religion, University of Sydney

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