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Aesthetic Opposites in Social Organization—
An Aesthetic Realism Discussion of Oksapmin, Papua New Guinea

Chapter 3 of

Oksapmin Society and World View
Dissertation for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

by Arnold Perey, Ph.D., 
Columbia University, 1973

Combining Data and Emotion to Get Greater Accuracy


The problem in describing Oksapmin social organization is that formal boundaries between social units are not sharp. They are distinct neither to the anthropologist nor to the people of Oksapmin. The best way to show the interrelations between household, kindred, clan, neighborhood, and parish, is to describe specific corporate activities and show how each kind of unit plays a part. In the following we will describe specific events in Gwe Parish for the purpose of showing Oksapmin social units at work, or in action.

Before doing so, however, it is necessary to describe Figures 16 and 17 which will be used. These figures show the social units of Gwe Parish. Figure 16 shows, by means of ovals of various sizes and of different ways of overlapping, how the people of Gwe Parish form overlapping subdivisions.

Fig. 16 Gwe Social Organization

Figure 17 shows the households in which the more important men live, and the household members. They also show the overlapping groups.

Fig. 17 Hamlet Organization of Gwe Parish

Emotions are represented by these ovals too. People within the same oval feel closer to one another than to people of other ovals, and also tend to fight with each other more. This is because the ovals signify approximate boundaries of kinship ties, food-sharing obligations, and of adjacent or shared gardens. Diap and German, for example, are a clear instance: they are close relatives, share food, have adjacent gardens, and often were together. They are together in oval 2C, Figure 16.

The ovals were obtained this way: I assigned numbers to the kinds of closeness that people in Gwe had with one another, with the higher numbers representing more intense closeness than the lower numbers, as follows:

            a.         Kinship

                        3          = an agnatic relation

                        2          = a non-agnatic relation

                        1          = the men belong to friendly agnatic groups

            b.         Food Sharing [see Table 13]

                        3          = primary food sharing relation [see Table ]

                        2          = secondary food sharing relation [see Table ]

                        1          = tertiary food sharing relation [see Table ]


The three food sharing networks raw data is below. Click on each figure to get a larger image.

primary food sharing secondary food sharing tertiary food sharing
Table 7 (p. 219)                   Table 8 (p. 220)                               Table 9 (p. 221)


            c.         Land Sharing [see Table 16]

The number of adjacent plots owned were counted for all pairs of men, and their numbers were recorded. Numbers from 0 to 6 plots were obtained.



Quantifying How Close and How Distant All the People Feel to One Another

The original data on kinship, food sharing, and land sharing, are in Appendix IV [Tables 13, 14, 15, 16] and in Tables 5-9. After the above analysis, I obtained three numbers for each pair of men in Gwe. One number was for their degree of closeness as kin, one was for their degree of closeness as food sharing partners, and one was for their degree of closeness as land sharing partners. The result of adding these numbers was recorded in a Table 17 also in Appendix IV.

Diap and German, for instance, appear as Number 11 and Number 21 in my census, and are Number 11 and Number 21 in the charts in Appendix IV. Their overall degree of closeness is represented by the number 10, which appears at the junction of 11 and 21 in Table 17, "Table of Closeness" (Appendix IV). The number 10 was arrived at by adding the "3" because Diap and German are agnatic kin to the "3" because they have a primary food sharing relationship, and adding both to the "4" because they have four gardens which are adjacent.

Each possible pair of men were considered the same way, and those who were closer to one another than to "outsiders" were placed within the same oval in Figures 16 and 17. These figures, it appears, give a good picture of Gwe social organization. To illustrate their use in analysing particular events, four events will be described. Each description will have three elements: (a) a narrative of the event, (b) a description of the people participating, and (c) an analysis of their social relationships. The first event is described next.


Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded by Eli Siegel in 1941, is taught in classes, public seminars and presentations , and consultations at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City. Nationwide outreach includes speakers from the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, consultations by telephone outside New York City and internationally, and the work of the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company. The Class Chairman, Ellen Reiss, teaches the classes for Aesthetic Realism associates and consultants in which I study. I am proud to say that as a consultant on the Foundation's faculty I teach anthropology, teachers' workshops, and am an instructor in consultations for individuals who want to learn the aesthetic way of seeing the world and themselves.  More links are provided below so you can find out more.
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