Jour. Anth, Inst.


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We have seen [he says] that obscenity, in particular obscene songs, is often correlated with a definite act of joint labor. . . . Such obscenities are found accompanying sowing, smelting, fishing, launching canoes (Ba-Ila); pounding mealies, carrying roofs of huts, smearing floors of huts (Ba-Thonga); threshing, grinding, carrying stones in government labor (A-Zande); building cairns (didinga); cutting and carrying grass. . . .

The songs described in the early part of this paper have not only rhythm, but are all characterized by their erotic meaning. The special privileges allowed to the workers in singing vulgar songs, considered as shocking and indecent at other times, must be regarded as one of the concomitant palliatives of labor which assist the workers to combat weariness and monotony. Those who have seen natives beating millet or grinding malted grain for hours together know how exhausting a labor it is. Those who have seen native men carrying the roof of a hut from any distance, or who have seen a woman or girl pounding grain, know how arduous is the one, how monotonous is the other. Carrying canoes, sowing, fishing, smelting, can all be tiring occupations, and are carried out efficiently owing largely to the palliatives allowed to the workers.2

In America initiation of the African type did not prevail but among Plains tribes entrance into manhood was associated with the purchase of membership in societies, and at the time of purchase there was a toleration of license in the form of stealing, and also some sexual license as reward to the ceremonial "fathers" who had sponsored the purchasers. But both forms showed a good deal of restraint.

2Evans-Pritchard, E.E.n/an/an/an/a, "Some Collective Expressions of Obscenity in Africa," , 59: 328, 323, 330.


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Chicago: "Jour. Anth, Inst.," Jour. Anth, Inst. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024,

MLA: . "Jour. Anth, Inst." Jour. Anth, Inst., Vol. 59, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Jour. Anth, Inst.' in Jour. Anth, Inst.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from