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Riggall, R.M. (1925). Applications: Bronislaw Malinowski, M.A., D.Sc. Complex and Myth in Mother-right. Psyche, 1925, Vol. V, p. 194.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 6:336-337.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Applications: Bronislaw Malinowski, M.A., D.Sc. Complex and Myth in Mother-right. Psyche, 1925, Vol. V, p. 194.

(1925). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 6:336-337

Applications: Bronislaw Malinowski, M.A., D.Sc. Complex and Myth in Mother-right. Psyche, 1925, Vol. V, p. 194.

Robert M. Riggall

This is the concluding instalment of Dr. Malinowski's criticism of Freud's use of the 'Oedipus complex' in relation to savage societies. Instead of the repressed desire 'to kill the father in order to marry the mother', the wish in the matrilineal complex of Melanesia is 'to marry the sister and to kill the maternal uncle'. Malinowski proceeds to show that this

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matrilineal complex can also be traced in the myth, legend and folk-lore of the Trobriand archipelago. In discussing disease and perversion the author was unable to find any traces of neurosis in these islanders. In the neighbouring Amphlett Islands, inhabited by people similar in race, custom and language, but differing in social organization and possessing a code of strict sexual morality, he found a community of neurotics. The Trobrianders, on the other hand, show a minimum of perversions. This of course is in accordance with Freud's correlation of sexual perversions with repression. Homosexuality only occurred in the Trobriands under the influence of the white man's morality, as occurs in a mission station.

In their dreams and day-dreams these natives differ from other savages. They dream little and show small interest in these dreams. It is suggested that this may be due to lack of repression and to their extraordinary licence in sexual matters. In questioning the natives on the subject of erotic dreams it was found that the only affective response was produced in association with dreams of the sister. Although brother-sister incest is most reprehensible, a breach of clan exogamy is considered smart and desirable owing to piquant difficulties in carrying it out. Stereotyped modes of abuse include three incestuous expressions directed against the mother, sister and wife, the worst insult being the saying: 'Cohabit with thy wife.' Reference to lawful sexuality in coarse language mortally offends the sensitive Trobriander. This discloses the fact that one of the main forms of abuse lies in the relation between the reality and plausibility of a desire and its conventional repression. The word 'my sister' is used in magic and signifies incompatibility and mutual repulsion. Myths concerning the origin of man possess matrilineal characteristics. Man originates from a hole in the earth, and the first ancestral group always consists of a woman never accompanied by a husband but sometimes by her brother or the totemic animal. These myths reveal the spontaneous procreative powers of the ancestral mother; the father is non-existent in the mythological world. In his study of these and other myths referring to cultural achievements due to heroic deeds, Malinowski does not quarrel with psychoanalytical explanations but claims to have corrected the sociology of these interpretations. Having referred to the intimate connection between magic and myth, instances are given in actuality as well as in myth in which the situation forms a matrilineal complex conflicting with the conventional tribal law. Myths of incest between brother and sister frequently occur among matrilineal peoples, while hatred and rivalry between brothers or between nephew and maternal uncle is found in the world's folk-lore. From this it will be seen that Malinowski's extremely interesting and pains-taking researches possess a much wider application than at first appears.

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Article Citation

Riggall, R.M. (1925). Applications. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 6:336-337

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