Gunter Senft


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  • Senft, G. (1999). [Review of the book Describing morphosyntax: A guide for field linguists by Thomas E. Payne]. Linguistics, 37, 181-187. doi:10.1515/ling.1999.003, 01/01/1999.
  • Senft, G. (1999). A case study from the Trobriand Islands: The presentation of Self in touristic encounters [abstract]. IIAS Newsletter, (19). Retrieved from


    Visiting the Trobriand Islands is advertised as being the highlight of a trip for tourists to Papua New Guinea who want, and can afford, to experience this 'ultimate adventure' with 'expeditionary cruises aboard the luxurious Melanesian Discoverer. The advertisements also promise that the tourists can 'meet the friendly people' and 'observe their unique culture, dances, and art'. During my research in Kaibola and Nuwebila, two neighbouring villages on the northern tip of Kiriwina Island, I studied and analysed the encounters of tourists with Trobriand Islanders, who sing and dance for the Europeans. The analyses of the islanders' tourist performances are based on Erving Goffman's now classic study The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, which was first published in 1959. In this study Goffmann analyses the structures of social encounters from the perspective of the dramatic performance. The situational context within which the encounter between tourists and Trobriand Islanders takes place frames the tourists as the audience and the Trobriand Islanders as a team of performers. The inherent structure of the parts of the overall performance presented in the two villages can be summarized - within the framework of Goffman's approach - in analogy with the structure of drama. We find parts that constitute the 'exposition', the 'complication', and the 'resolution' of a drama; we even observe an equivalent to the importance of the 'Second Act Curtain' in modern drama theory. Deeper analyses of this encounter show that the motives of the performers and their 'art of impression management' are to control the impression their audience receives in this encounter situation. This analysis reveals that the Trobriand Islanders sell their customers the expected images of what Malinowski (1929) once termed the '...Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia' in a staged 'illusion'. With the conscious realization of the part they as performers play in this encounter, the Trobriand Islanders are in a position that is superior to that of their audience. Their merchandise or commodity is 'not real', as it is sold 'out of its true cultural context'. It is staged - and thus cannot be taken by any customer whatsoever because it (re)presents just an 'illusion'. The Trobriand Islanders know that neither they nor the core aspects of their culture will suffer any damage within a tourist encounter that is defined by the structure and the kind of their performance. Their pride and self-confidence enable them to bring their superior position into play in their dealings with tourists. With their indigenous humour, they even use this encounter for ridiculing their visitors. It turns out that the encounter is another manifestation of the Trobriand Islanders' self-consciousness, self-confidence, and pride with which they manage to protect core aspects of their cultural identity, while at the same time using and 'selling' parts of their culture as a kind of commodity to tourists.
  • Senft, G. (1999). [Review of the book Pacific languages - An introduction by John Lynch]. Linguistics, 37, 979-983. doi:10.1515/ling.37.5.961.
  • Senft, G. (1999). Bronislaw Kasper Malinowski. In J. Verschueren, J.-O. Östman, J. Blommaert, & C. Bulcaen (Eds.), Handbook of pragmatics: 1997 installment. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Senft, G. (1999). ENTER and EXIT in Kilivila. Studies in Language, 23, 1-23.
  • Senft, G. (1999). The presentation of self in touristic encounters: A case study from the Trobriand Islands. Anthropos, 94, 21-33.
  • Senft, G. (1999). Weird Papalagi and a Fake Samoan Chief: A footnote to the noble savage myth. Rongorongo Studies: A forum for Polynesian philology, 9(1&2), 23-32-62-75.
  • Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I., & Senft, G. (1991). Trobriander (Papua-Neu-guinea, Trobriand -Inseln, Kaile'una) Tänze zur Einleitung des Erntefeier-Rituals. Film E 3129. Trobriander (Papua-Neuguinea, Trobriand-Inseln, Kiriwina); Ausschnitte aus einem Erntefesttanz. Film E3130. Publikationen zu wissenschaftlichen Filmen. Sektion Ethnologie, 17, 1-17.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Senft, G. (1991). Forschungsgruppe für Kognitive Anthropologie - Eine neue Forschungsgruppe in der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Linguistische Berichte, 133, 244-246.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Senft, G. (1991). Research group for cognitive anthropology - A new research group of the Max Planck Society. Cognitive Linguistics, 2, 311-312.
  • Senft, G. (1991). [Review of the book Einführung in die deskriptive Linguistik by Michael Dürr and Peter Schlobinski]. Linguistics, 29, 722-725.
  • Senft, G. (1991). [Review of the book The sign languages of Aboriginal Australia by Adam Kendon]. Journal of Pragmatics, 15, 400-405. doi:10.1016/0378-2166(91)90040-5.
  • Senft, G. (1991). Bakavilisi Biga - we can 'turn' the language - or: What happens to English words in Kilivila language? In W. Bahner, J. Schildt, & D. Viehwegger (Eds.), Proceedings of the XIVth International Congress of Linguists (pp. 1743-1746). Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
  • Senft, G. (1991). Mahnreden auf den Trobriand Inseln: Eine Fallstudie. In D. Flader (Ed.), Verbale Interaktion: Studien zur Empirie und Methologie der Pragmatik (pp. 27-49). Stuttgart: Metzler.
  • Senft, G. (1991). Network models to describe the Kilivila classifier system. Oceanic Linguistics, 30, 131-155. Retrieved from
  • Senft, G. (1991). Prolegomena to the pragmatics of "situational-intentional" varieties in Kilivila language. In J. Verschueren (Ed.), Levels of linguistic adaptation: Selected papers from the International Pragmatics Conference, Antwerp, August 1987 (pp. 235-248). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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