The Magical Body
Power, Fame and Meaning in a Melanesian Society
By Richard Eves
Routledge – 1998
An intriguing exploration of the role and significance of the body in the world of a Pacific Islands People, the Lelet of New Ireland (Papua New Guinea). In vivid ethnographic detail, the monograph captures the fluidity and complexity of Lelet conceptions of corporeality and their significance to identity as they encounter the influences of modernity, in the form of colonialism, Christianity and cash-cropping. The author examines the importance of the body to constructions of identity and difference, and its role in the constitution of place and space. The book provides a richly detailed ethnographic study of magical belief and the body whilst paying particular attention to the polyvalent meanings of bodily images and metaphors as they are used in numerous contexts of magic.
"This book is a valuable addition to a growing body of literature offering perspectives on Melanesian phenomenology, particularly with respect to the indigenous engagement with Christianity and the paraphernalia of colonialism. The creative adaptation of the Lelet and their cultural vitality in a fast-changing world are nicely captured here, in a clear and easily readable text."