Language and Bodies in Social Space: Samoan Ceremonial Greetings


  • Alessandro Duranti

    1. University of California, Los Angeles
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      Alessandro Duranti is Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024.


Samoan ceremonial greetings both assume and reconstitute particular views of a hierarchical social order. At the same time, they also display a relatively fluid system in which negotiation of status and authority is frequent and one's ability to access the desired place in the social order is made perceptually available for public assessment. The codes (language, gestures, gaze) and channels (voice, body, sight) employed during such activities can produce meaning only inside of a cultural space that is never neutral. Eye gaze avoidance during the greetings is discussed vis-à-vis pan-Polynesian taboos surrounding individuals with extraordinary mana.