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O'Brien, Denise 1969 The Economics of Dani Marriage: An Analysis of Marriage Payments in a Highland New Guinea Society, PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Yale University.
    © Denise O'Brien, 1969. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


The purpose of this dissertation is to explicate the structure and functions of the marriage payment system in a particular Highland New Guinea society, the Konda Valley Dani of West Irian, and to demonstrate the political significance of marriage payments for both individuals and groups within the society.

Data were collected during twenty-one months of field work in West New Guinea, extending from October 1961 to September 1963.

One political community in the Konda Valley, the Jukkwa-Wandik confederacy, was selected for intensive study and additional data were gathered from residents of five adjacent confederacies. The following statements, which are based on analysis of these data, constitute the major conclusions of this study and demonstrate the political importance of marriage and marriage payments:

1) political considerations are more important than kinship in contracting marriages, since the preference for confederacy endogamy is in actual behavior twice as prevalent as the supposedly congruent preference for marriage into the mother's clan;
2) affines are allies or remain neutral during war;
3) political leaders contract more marriages and, at any given moment, are more apt to be living polygynously than the average Dani man;
u) marriage payments confirm the legality of a marriage and give a husband control over sexual access to his wife;
5) marriage payments provide an arena for a man to both gain and affirm political status through the display and distribution of wealth;
6) marriage payments have the dual function of integrating the basic political community, the confederacy, and of reducing hostility among affinally linked confederacies.


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