Dialogics of material culture: Male and female in Murik outrigger canoes

Kathleen Barlow, David Lipset

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


We interpret material culture using a Bakhtinian model of dialogicality. Metaphoric differences in male and female perspectives of the building rites and iconography of premodern Murik outrigger canoes are adduced. Men view the vehicle in terms of initiation and their war cult while women view it in physiological images of pregnancy, birth, and nurture, as well as in terms of the seductive powers conferred upon female-cult initiates. We take these two points of view to constitute a contrapuntal dialogue about gender and agency in the reproduction of Murik society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-36
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Art and material culture
  • Bakhtin
  • Canoes
  • Dialogism
  • Male and female discourse
  • Melanesia/Sepik
  • Social reproduction


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