A Father's Perspective on Bridewealth in the Making of the Transnational Papua New Guinean Household

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That people value ‘people’ over ‘things’ is argued often by anthropologists, but how people value specific forms and qualities of relations as they do in the example of bridewealth is less so. I explore the perspective of Papua New Guinean‐born fathers in Australia as they advocate innovations in bridewealth traditions and thereby enable daughters to marry for love, cultivate a companionate marriage, and create a Papua New Guinean household. Past generations gauged the worth of traditional bridewealth by the quantity and distribution of items given and the number of exogamous clan connections forged as an index of past and future relations between clans. The current generation judges the value of even alternate forms of bridewealth for making new possibilities for those who share in it. If bridewealth enables the transnational household to emerge as the unit of decision making that replaces the clan, then innovations in bridewealth support, rather than undermine, a new normativity of companionate marriage that empowers that much wider net of kin. Drawing on a theory of value as the importance of social action towards the goal of the new normativity of the transnational household, I show how choosing a spouse is cultivated by women's fathers who refuse bridewealth, as often as it is by their husbands who provide new forms of wealth at marriage.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article numberOCEA5283
Pages (from-to)234 - 252
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Early online date28 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020