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Susan McKinnon
Les choses précieuses de la Maison

Séminaire du Jeudi 12 mai 2016

Les précédentes analyses présentées sur les sociétés à maisons, qu'elles soient européennes ou asiatiques, nous ont éloignés du sujet de notre séminaire, Corps relationnels, théories natives et parenté, du fait entre autres raisons de l'absence d'une véritable ethnographie partant des formulations indigènes. Retour à l'ethnographie averc Susan McKinnon. Sous le mot tavu nous plaçons les choses précieuses de la Maison et la cosmologie qui lui est associée.

Les premiers extraits ci-dessous sont des citations de:

Susan McKinnon, The Tanimbarese Tavu. The Ideology of Growth and the Material Configurations of Houses and Hierarchy, in an Indonesian Society In Rosemary A. Joyce and Susan D. Gillespie, Eds., Beyond Kinship: Social and Material Reproduction in House Societies, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000, pp.161–176.

Enquête ethnographique en 1978–1980 à Tanimbar, archipel (dont sept îles sont habitées) dans l’est de l’Indonésie. Partons de la description des autels en bois (tavu) dédiés aux ancêtres, qui existaient encore au tournant du vingtième siècle, mais qui ont totalement disparu. Question de méthode en préalable: Quelle est la validité d'une ethnographie historique? Ces choses n'existent plus. Les Maisons nobles ont été abattues sur l'ordre des autorités hollandaises dans les 1920-1940, les tavu ont été brûlés, quand ils n'ont pas été envoyés dans les musées européens. McKinnon a dû recourir aux muséologues et aux témoignages des voyageurs et missionnaires pour donner matière à son ethnographie rétrospective. (Pour moi, sur la Maison nayar, il me faudra recourir ainsi aux romanciers mémorialistes dans un essai d'ethnographie rétrospective.)

L'autel en forme de corps relationnel

What is most striking about the tavu is that, while it unmistakably takes the form of a human (and occasionally gendered) figure, it is, at the same time, so abstracted and overwhelmed by filigreed designs [filigranes] that it almost intentionally seems to negate reference to any particular human.

Les deux bras d'un corps humain s'associant aux rinceaux (tendrils) et filigranes qui font de ce corps un nœud de relations.

Links to ancestral origins are embedded in the physical form of the altar and are enacted in the practical behaviors associated with it. The ancestors are the "root" (tavun) of the house as a social unit, and are represented by the tavu, the image of a standing human figure with upraised arms that seemingly supported the frame of the house itself.

The head of the house sat upon the bench at its base, representing thereby the "tip " that developed out of its ancestral "root." The living house head, physically juxtaposed with the image (and also the physical and spiritual essences) of his ancestors, forms a human icon for fundamental concepts of growth and continuity (the future) since the house's ancestral founding (the past), a time depth that is prerequisite for noble status.

Entre la matière et la vie

D’un côté, immobilité de la matière: This objectification is often expressed in the qualities of permanence, hardness, and immobility that characterize the wooden, metal, stone, and bone objects that constitute the material elaborations of the house.

De l’autre, un corps vivant: The house is often seen as a living, moving, growing body. Not only is it sometimes structured as a body and thought to breathe or possess a soul (Robert H. Barnes, Kédang, 1974; Carsten 1997; Carsten and Hugh-Jones 1995; Shelly Errington 1983a; James J. Fox 1993; RoxanaWaterson 1993), but, of course, it also encompasses and contains a proliferation of living occupants.

Un mot sur Robert H. Barnes, Professeur à Oxford de 1996 à 2012. Ecole d'Oxford (cf. Rodney Needham), qui recueille l'héritage intellectuel de l'Ecole de Leyde [Leiden]: archéologie de l'Asie du sud-est, Van Wouden. Kédang, 1974; Two Crows denies it, 1984 (Omaha); Dictionnaire de la langue Kedang, 2013. Ce que nous appelons théories natives, c'est ce que Barnes étudiait sous le concept de “collective thought” (sous-titre de Kédang), une tradition de recherche que nous avons perdue.

Connubium asymétrique

Un système de connubium asymétrique prévaut sur l'archipel de Tanimbar. Je suppose connu ce système d'alliances matrimoniales établi entre trois lignées — ici, trois Maisons — alternativement donneuses et preneuses d'épouses. Voir Enquête sur la parenté, pp.83–89. Ce qui frappe à la lecture de la monographie deSusan McKinnon, c'est l'extrême fragilité de la Maison, qui risque à chaque génération que les enfants d'Ego masculin ayant pris une épouse d'une autre Maison qui est pour lui donneuse d'épouses et en position de dua (maîtres), quittent la Maison de leurs parents et adoptent la résidence matrilatérale.

Cf. Susan McKinnon, Houses and hierarchy: The view from a South Moluccan society, in Janet Carsten and Stephen Hugh-Jones, About the House: Lévi-Strauss and Beyond, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 170–188. Tableau et phrase surlignée, p.179:

Uxorilocal

Si la Maison du jeune marié manque à payer à ses donneurs d'épouse, ses dua, les prestations requises et en particulier le prix de la fiancée, ses enfants quitteront la Maison, privés de filiation patrilatérale, et leur sera imposée une filiation matrilatérale. En conséquence, la Maison preneuse d'épouse va péricliter. L'idéologie patrilinéaire est contredite dans les faits par l'esclavage de l'homme en résidence uxorilocale et l'affiliation matrilatérale potentielle de ses enfants.

L'idéologie patrilinéaire objectivée dans le tavu

Village et Maisons

Le village, espace social centré sur l'autel en forme de bateau dédié à la divinité suprême, a pour homologues les Maisons nobles centrées sur le tavu, autel dédié aux ancêtres. Just as each village placed the altar to the supreme deity at its center, so too did each house place an altar to the ancestors at its center.

Village

At the turn of the century, all the villages on the seven main inhabited islands of the eastern Indonesian archipelago of Tanimbar were situated on cliff tops, encircled by thick walls of protective cactus and accessible only by steep flights of wooden or stone stairs, sometimes embellished with carvings of human or animal figures. Among the rows of raised bamboo and thatch houses, the larger and more imposing houses of the nobles reached skyward with their horn-shaped ridgepole decorations (kora). The center of the village was marked by a circle of stones (didalan) which, in some villages, took the form of a boat with prow [proue] and stern [poupe] boards (kora ulu and kora mun) of intricately carved stone. Seen as a boat with a captain, crew, and passengers, the village was unified as a ritual community in its worship of the supreme deity, Ubila'a, whose main altar found its place on the boat-shaped didalan.

Maisons nobles

Upon climbing the set of stairs that led up through a trap door in the floor of the house and standing up inside, one would have immediately encountered the striking image of the tavu, the magnificently carved wooden panel that stretched from its base on the floor up to the roof beam of the house. The "standing portion of the altar" (the tav dardirin) took the shape of a human figure — abstractly represented in a dance of filigreed designs — with arms spiraling gracefully upward. The upturned arms of the statue appeared to support one of the main roof beams that also constituted the shelf (kalulun tavu) upon which were placed the skulls and cervical vertebrae of the ancestors, a plate for offerings to the ancestors, and perhaps also a few small wooden statues of the ancestors.

Faute de pouvoir partir de textes, McKinnon part des dictionnaires et de l'étymologie.

The Fordatan [l'une des 4 langues parlées dans l'archipel] word for ancestor statue — tavu — immediately connects the statue to a set of ideas that were central to its meaning as a ritual center (Drabbe [missionnaire, cf. infra] 1932a:96). The noun form, tavun, refers to the "beginning, starting point, base, or root of something" and is often paired semantically with the words ni tutul, "its end or tip." The word tavu, then, especially when considered in relation to tutul, suggests not only an entity that has a beginning and an end but also a process that connects a source to that which issues from it. More specifically, it suggests a figure of growth, as in plants that have a base or root (tavun) and a tip (tutul), which is only a provisional ending point, one which has the potential for extending beyond itself. If we assume that the word tavu — as it refers to the house altar — is the same root word [Drabbe hésite sur cette étymologie], then we may well ask, what was the beginning, base, or root represented here, and what, then, would its end or tip be?

C'est bien un raisonnement sur le modèle de l'ethnoscience. Se rappeler Conklin, ou Frake. Nous partons des mots et de la sémantique, pour mettre des choses sous les mots. Mais c'est la version orientaliste de l'ethnoscience. Nous partons non pas de textes d'oralité indigène, mais de récits de voyageurs et missionnaires.

There is some confusion in the sources as to what the tavu did or did not /169/ represent. Forbes (1885:317-18), for instance, claimed that the tavu was a representation of the supreme deity, Ubila'a or Duadila'a. Riedel (1885:722, 1886:280-82) took Forbes to task for his error when he noted that there were no images of Ubila'a in the house, only statues of the ancestors, although he did not mention the tavu as such. Drabbe, a Dutch Catholic missionary who lived in Tanimbar from 1915 to 1935, claimed that the tavu statues no longer had any religious significance and had nothing to do with the worship of either the ancestors or Ubila'a (Drabbe 1940:36). However, from the writings of both Drabbe and his contemporary, Geurtjens (1941:19-21), the association of the tavu altar as a whole with the ancestors (ubu-nusi) is clear: it was the place where offerings were made to them and, indeed, the place where their skulls, neck bones, and images were kept.

The ancestors are, quite literally, the beginning, base, root, and source of the "house" (rahan); they are its tavun. When one remembers that the place reserved solely for the head of the house was the seat in front of the tavu, it is clear that if the ancestors were the beginning, base, and root of the house, their descendants — and, most particularly, the head of the house — constituted the end or tip that had issued forth from them.

L'idéologie patrilinéaire démentie dans les faits
par la domination des donneurs d'épouses

Je pars de la théorie des pathways to the ancestors. Problème épistémologique: Est-ce une théorie indigène? Ou bien, comme le lecteur en a l'impresssion faute de disposer de formulations en langue locale, le concept de pathways [chemins d'accès] est-il forgé par Susan McKinnon, pour faire ressortir la présence d'une idéologie patrilinéaire, accentuant le lien d'Ego masculin à ses ancêtres paternels, dans un système de parenté qui, au contraire, est dans les faits dominé par la matrilatéralité?

Enduring pathways that link contemporary occupants of a /171/ house to its origins in the founding ancestors. The tavu was but one of several such pathways; the others included the "forest estates" [les biens forestiers] (abat nangan) and "village estates" [les biens au village] (abat ahu) of the house and the heirloom valuables [les bijoux de famille] of the house.

Je laisserai de côté les bijoux de famille, les “heirloom valuables” au sens strict, qui se composent habituellement de boucles d'oreilles et d'un pendentif en or. Je privilégie les autres biens de la Maison que Susan McKinnon appelle “estates” et plus particulièrement le rapport aux arbres, qui donne matière à une très intéressante formulation native des liens hiérarchiques de parenté établis par les alliances matrimoniales entre donneurs d'épouses et preneurs d'épouses.

Les domaines forestiers des Maisons nobles, qui ont un Nom se composent à la fois de terres (tracts of land) et d'arbres (plantations of trees). Les terres sont un chemin d'accès permanent aux ancêtres (established pathways), tandis que les arbres dispersent la vie ancestrale (disperse the ancestral life out) sur de nouvelles lignes de développement fragiles et non permanentes.

Hence, the forest estates of named houses comprise both tracts of land and plantations of trees, while those of unnamed houses consist of trees only. Named houses thus maintain a permanent relation to estates of land and their generalized potential for fertility, which were bequeathed by the founding ancestors of the house. Unnamed houses, by contrast, maintain a more tenuous relation to the land through trees alone — trees that were planted by recent forebears and will endure, at best, only a few generations.

Les village estates d'une Maison sont la domination qu'elle exerce sur d'autres Maisons qui sont pour elle des preneuses d'épouses, dans le système de connubium asymétrique qui prévaut sur l'archipel de Tanimbar. Je suppose connu ce système d'alliances matrimoniales établi entre trois lignées — ici, trois Maisons — alternativement donneuses et preneuses d'épouses. Voir Enquête sur la parenté, pp.83–89. Il faut se référer à la monographie de 1991, From a Shattered Sun, pp.195–196, pour interpréter les alliances établies comme une propriété et un chemin d'accès aux ancêtres.

SusanMcKinnon, From a Shattered Sun. Hierarchy, Gender, and Alliance in the Tanimbar Islands,
Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

From the wife-givers' point of view, their acceptance of bridewealth prestations, their counter-prestations to their wife-takers, and their redemption of the bridewealth debts of their sisters' children all serve to substantiate their claim that their wife-takers are indeed "their people." The latter constitute a portion of the village estates of the wife-giver's house and, as such, the wife-givers are their masters or owners (dua). Yet while the inward and outward flow of valuables on behalf of these people indicates their continued encompassment by their dua, these prestations also effect the separation of the wife-takers and make possible their continued existence as an independent unit.

This is true in the immediate sense that their initial acceptance of bridewealth for an outmarried woman allows her husband to establish both patrilocal residence and the patrilateral affiliation of his children within the house of his own father. At the same time, their payment of the bridewealth debts of the sister's son — should he marry an "other woman" — effect the latter's patrilocal residence and the patrilateral affiliation of the sister's son's children. It is only because these prestations are accepted and made that any continuity in the male line of the wife-takers can be maintained and the permanence of their house as a separate unit be assured.

But a dua's role in assuring the independent existence of his wifetakers is also evident in another, more general, sense. For the continuity of the wife-takers is contingent upon their health, well-being, and fertility — upon their multiplying and not dying out. The power, and responsibility, of dua to ensure these conditions for their sisters and aunts (and lolat [the “rows” of wife-taking houses]) can be seen in the relation between the forest estates and village estates of a house.

Like plantations of trees, one's sisters and aunts must be cared for in order that they "multiply their sprouts a thousandfold." Just as the established trees of old plantations bear the fruit that contains the seed from which new plantations grow and expand, so the daughters of sisters become the basis for the growth and expansion of new exchange pathways. The wealth of a man and a house depends precisely upon the continued /196/ growth and expansion of their plantations of trees and their plantations of people. Where there are no trees, there is no fruit; where there are no women, there are no valuables. Wealth comes from these two sources.

It is with this understanding that people say: "We take from the forest estates in order to look after the village estates" (Tala abat nangan ala tsi'ik abat ahu), or, "The trunk belongs to us [the dua], the fruit belongs to them [the sister's children]" (Ita dida ni dii, ira rira vuan). These statements do not mean, for example, that the sister's son has the right to harvest a coconut crop for his own benefit. They do indicate, that, for their immediate use, a sister's child may always request the fruits of their mother's brother's trees (and gardens). A sister's child may also make a sign on a tree belonging to the mother's brother's forest estates: from then on it belongs to him, and the mother's brother may no longer use it. But this applies to a single tree and cannot be extended to the entire estate.

That the harvest of the forest estate exists at least in part to be passed along exchange pathways to the village estate, to care for the well-being of one's sisters and aunts, is most explicit in relation to sago and at what might be called "starving time." Sago trees are harvested at the end of the yearly cycle, when all other food stores have been severely depleted, and when people are truly close to starvation. The explicit assumption is that the sago harvest is meant for one's ura-ava [sisters and aunts], to keep them from starving and dying out.

La Maison concrétise ou objectifie ainsi dans ses «propriétés» (estates) les liens matrilatéraux établis par les alliances matrimoniales et les lignées issues de ces alliances, dont la subsistence et la pérennité sont inscrites pour un temps limité (impermanent) dans la croissance et la production des plantations d'arbres.