CHILDREN OF THE DESERT: The Western Tribes of Central Australia by Geza Roheim

CHILDREN OF THE DESERT: The Western Tribes of Central Australia

Email this review


One of the foremost proponents of ""psychoanalytic anthropology"" sifts the cultural life of the Australian aborigines (most of his research seems to have been conducted some forty years ago). Roheim argues that, "". . . we are dealing with a group of human beings whose most powerful motive force is their latent Oedipal striving, and who react to this striving by erecting a series of barriers -- none of which is really effective -- against the return of the repressed."" His presentation of their customs and character certainly supports his thesis: the elaborate kinship system of marriage, the position of the maternal uncle, the practice of subincision, the prevalence of rape, the valuation of the small penis, the symbolic tjurunga emblem, the common sexual play of the children. Yet Roheim is more concerned with offering data than proselytizing psychoanalysis; he explores the importance of the quest for food, the rank of the old men and the chiefs, and the myths and songs of the tribes. Although his vocabulary is somewhat technical, Roheim is not abstruse, and he presents a psycho-sexual perspective that other anthropologists tend to dismiss.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1974
Publisher: Basic Books