Oedipus in the Trobriands

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Abstract

Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1994, Vol 39(1), 95–96. Reviews the book, Oedipus in the Trobriands by Melford E. Spiro (see record 1992-98879-000). In the 1920s, Bronislaw Mahnowski, a well-known and highly regarded anthropologist, decided to apply psychoanalytic structure to his study of primitive people. His approach was upsetting to traditional anthropologists of the time, like Ruth Benedict, but he created quite a stir. He studied the natives of New Guinea and concluded that there was no oedipal complex among the Trobriand Islanders there. In fact, lacking an oedipal complex, they had no neuroses either. The book is written in a very clear and expository manner. In addition to anthropologists and psychoanalysts, others–those who do not comprehend the details of the workings of the Oedipus complex–would have an opportunity to understand how it works and, in this case, how it is applied to the Trobriands. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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