Volltext: Anthropos, 78.1983,1-4

D.K. Feil 
Anthropos 78.1983 
elsewhere in the Highlands (Salisbury 1962); Gregory (1980) has more 
recently shown how Motuan Christians in Hanuabada ceremonially and 
competitively give large sums of money to the United Church, thereby 
continuing, yet transforming an earlier exchange pattern. The tee exchange 
system, of the Tombema-Enga of the Western Highlands, the subject of this 
paper, is still of the highest concern despite all of the pressures noted above 
(Feil 1980). 1 Why are these systems of ceremonial exchange so lasting? The 
traditional significance of exchange and reciprocity in Melanesian societies 
has long been noted, and the vast literature demonstrating its significance 
pan Melanesia need not be reviewed here. 
The tee is, in Maussian terms (1954), almost an archetypal “total social 
phenomenon,” simultaneously encapsultating and expressing many values 
and social practices of Tombema society and culture. Elsewhere (Feil 1980, 
1982) I have examined its economic significance and its relation to Tom- 
bema-Enga political life. These are, perhaps, the tee’s most ostensible charac 
teristics, and, as I shall point out, these have often been the target of mission 
and government sanctions against ice-making. However, the tee is also about 
morality and is, more widely, a weathervane of Tombema “social health.” At 
least twice in the past, tee activities have ceased. This paper examines the 
circumstances surrounding the suspension of ice-making, and thereby suggests 
a perhaps less obvious aspect of its continuing relevance. 
1. Colonial Attitudes to the tee 
The Tombema-Enga have usually combatted the more blatant anti-ice 
forces of government and missions effectively (see Feil 1979). The colonial 
administration of the 1940s and 1950s alternately banned and permitted the 
tee. Some government officials thought the tee a distinct hindrance to 
civilizing the Enga; others were convinced (like most anthropologists) that 
the tee had some functional value in ameliorating conflict and dispute (see 
Meggitt 1974: 180-182) or at least, by banning it arbitrarily, more problems 
were created than allowing it to continue. Despite occasional official edicts, 
Enga carried on with their exchanges, calling them by names other than tee 
when it was officially in disfavour. There is little evidence, then, that govern 
ment measures ever had much effect in preventing tee practice. 
Christian Missions and the tee 
The missions have also been less than sucessful in their attempts to 
prohibit participation in the tee. The Australian Baptists, Lutherans, and 
Seventh-Day Adventists have forbade their members to take part in the 
1 Tombema-Enga number about 12,000 persons and inhabit the area around the 
Kompiama Patrol Post, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea. Tombema are one of a number 
of “Enga” dialect groups. The tee system percolates throughout all of Enga. Details of 
the system can be found in Feil (1978, 1980).


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