Tchambuli Tribe: Culture & Gender Roles

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  • 0:02 The Tchambuli
  • 0:26 Tchambuli Culture
  • 1:15 Tchambuli Gender Roles
  • 2:20 Tchambuli Family
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson describes the culture, gender roles, and some of the traditions of the Tchambuli tribe. This tribe's village is located in Papua New Guinea, where they continue to practice many of their cultural traditions.

The Tchambuli

The Tchambuli, now known as the Chambri are an ethnic group located in the Chambri Lakes region of Papua New Guinea. The social structure of the Chambri and their villages have been of particular interest to anthropologists and sociologists because of the diverse description of gender roles in their society. In 1933, Margaret Mead was the first cultural anthropologist to study the Chambri.

Tchambuli Culture

The three Chambri villages that exist contain only a few thousand people. The diet of this culture continues to consist mainly of sago and fish. The Chambri have been and continue to be a large fishing community. They were historically known for headhunting and their volatility. However, their society has changed due to Europe's cultural influences. It has been reported that the Chambri abandoned these practices once Papua New Guinea came under independent government. As anthropologists visited and studied the Chambri culture, their culture was affected. As the world modernized, the Chambri villages weren't financially stable, because their system of trading faltered. However, even through this financial distress, the Chambri villages have survived and continue to practice many of their cultural ways of living.

Tchambuli Gender Roles

In Margaret Mead's first field study, the position of women in the Chambri community was viewed as unusual to what had been considered the norm across cultures. Her observation was that Chambri women were the powerful individuals and leaders within their villages instead of the men. Chambri women were also the primary food suppliers because the women did the fishing for the entire community. Mead also observed that the extra fish they caught were used as a resource for trading. This responsibility seemed to give women significant power within this society. Converse to this, many of the men's activities that were observed would have been deemed as women's work in most other societies.

However, it was later discovered that even though women were the sole provider for the family, this didn't dictate the submission of the men in the village. Specified gender roles didn't control the relationships between men and women, but rather were simply the accepted standard. Simply stated, neither gender competed to be the dominant one because neither gender was viewed as following the other, nor was one submissive to the other.

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