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.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Senft, G. (1996). Zur Semantik der Verben INTRARE und EXIRE in verschieden Sprachen. In Jahrbuch der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft 1996 (pp. 340-344). München: Generalverwaltung der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft München.
  • Pederson, E., & Senft, G. (1996). Route descriptions: interactive games with Eric's maze task. In S. C. Levinson (Ed.), Manual for the 1996 Field Season (pp. 15-17). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.3003287.


    What are the preferred ways to describe spatial relationships in different linguistic and cultural groups, and how does this interact with non-linguistic spatial awareness? This game was devised as an interactive supplement to several items that collect information on the encoding and understanding of spatial relationships, especially as relevant to “route descriptions”. This is a director-matcher task, where one consultant has access to stimulus materials that shows a “target” situation, and directs another consultant (who cannot see the target) to recreate this arrangement.
  • Senft, G. (1996). [Review of the book Comparative Austronesian dictionary: An introduction to Austronesian studies ed. by Darrell T. Tryon]. Linguistics, 34, 1255-1270.
  • Senft, G. (1996). [Review of the book Language contact and change in the Austronesian world ed. by Tom Dutton and Darrell T. Tryon]. Linguistics, 34, 424-430.
  • Senft, G. (1996). [Review of the book Topics in the description of Kiriwina by Ralph Lawton; ed. by Malcolm Ross and Janet Ezard]. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia, 27, 189-196.

    Additional information

    Original with corrections
  • Senft, G. (1996). [Review of the journal Bulletin of the International String Figure Association, Vol. 1, 1994]. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2, 363-364.
  • Senft, G. (1996). Classificatory particles in Kilivila. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Senft, G. (1996). Past is present - Present is past: Time and the harvest rituals on the Trobriand Islands. Anthropos, 91, 381-389.
  • Senft, G. (1996). Phatic communion. In J. Verschueren, J.-O. Östman, & J. Blommaert (Eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics (loose leaf installment) (loose leaf installment, 1995). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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