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Howes, D. (1997). Oedipus Out of the Trobriands: Sensory Order, Erotogenic Zones, and Psychosexual Development in the Massim Region of Papua New Guinea. Psychoanal. Psychol., 14(1):43-63.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 14(1):43-63

Oedipus Out of the Trobriands: Sensory Order, Erotogenic Zones, and Psychosexual Development in the Massim Region of Papua New Guinea

David Howes, Ph.D.

The Trobriand Islands, which are situated in the Massim reg on of Papua New Guinea, are one of the most famous testing grounds of Freudian theory. It was on the basis of data gathered there in the 1910s that the ethnographer Bror islaw Malinowski (1924) rocked the psychoanalytic establishment by questioning the universality of the Oedipus complex. Malinowski's argument was subsequently refuted by Melford Spiro (1982) in Oedipus in the Trobriands. In this article I take a new look at the Trobriands Oedipus controversy, paying special attention to the evidence of the senses, and I conclude that Malinowski was perhaps even more right than he suspected. I demonstrate that the sensory organization of the Trobriand psyche during the period ranging from infancy to the end of adolescence differs in certain important respects from that of the Western psyche and that these differences are conducive to the emergence of the alternative social organization of the psyche described by Malinowski in his original paper on the Trobriand complete.

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