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  • In Memoriam, Per Hage, 1935-2004
  • Jeff Marck

Per Hage died of leukemia on the 25th of July 2004, just as he was hitting his stride in world kinship studies. His interests in the Pacific had been especially welcome in a region that had seen little linguistic or other culture historic work on kinship. His obituary in l'Homme earlier this year speaks to his life from a social anthropologist's perspective. Per is remembered for his support of the linguists, part of which was showing deeper uses of extant data through markedness studies and other sorts of reasoning.

It was only roughly ten years ago that Per returned in earnest to the topic of some of his earliest publications: kinship. A period of work with the mathematician Frank Harary had seen publications from 1981 to 1998 that occasionally concerned kinship and typically involved application of Boolean reductions, graph models, hierarchical opposition, minimum spanning trees, and other such topics and methods that leaned toward the mathematical. His focus since about 1996 developed into a sustained assault on culture history issues, mainly kinship, including the publication of the Proto-Oceanic matrilineality hypothesis in 1998 (Was Proto-Oceanic society matrilineal?) and posthumous publications on the kinship situation in East Bantu (Dravidian kinship systems in Africa in l'Homme earlier this year, and Kin terms in the Bantu proto language ..., a forthcoming work completed after Per's death with the help of the Belgian linguist, Koen Bostoen, and the Congolese linguist, Jean-Georges Kamba Muzenga). So in addition to having first articulated the Proto-Oceanic matrilineality model, Per will be remembered as the social anthropologist on the seminal comparative Bantu kin term project.

I was troubled by his 1996 invitation to begin working together on the culture history of Oceanic kinship. I worried that he or I would somehow blunder or fail. I worried that he might have theoretical biases. But I eventually read his Unthinkable categories (1997) and realized, from that reading, that he was merely and quite thoroughly like many linguists: he simply liked puzzles. My fears allayed, I began reading more of his publications and began working with him in 1999.

His path had crossed with linguistics previously in work on proximity, dialect, and kinship in the Tuamotus and elsewhere (Island networks …, 1996). His kinship and kin term work then began to range from general culture history to markedness (The logical structure... [1996], Marking universals... [1999], Reconstructing ancestral Oceanic society... [1999], The marking of sex distinctions... [2001], and other works).

Hage published the Proto-Oceanic matrilineality model rather instantly upon deciding it was the best possible model (1998), while Polynesian kin terms and descent groups, published in that same year, still re³ects earlier opinions. In a grand sense, the matrilineality model is appealing because it states that the variability in Oceanic Austronesian [End Page 491] societies' descent systems is due to a matrilineal society that radiated and then made local or regional changes (where they are not still matrilineal). In that paper (Was Proto-Oceanic society matrilineal?) he expanded upon Blust's observation that matrilineal societies often have "dead mother" constructions for "orphan" while patrilineal societies often have "dead father" constructions for the same. Similarly, before his death, he often commented on finding, in instances where "man's sister" and "woman's brother" were collapsed into a single category and term ("cross-sex sibling "), that it was the "man's sister" term that often survived to name the "cross-sex sibling" in matrilineal societies while the "woman's brother" term often survived to name the "cross-sex sibling" category in patrilineal and cognatic societies.

The Proto-Oceanic matrilineality model was apparently the kind of overall argument that neither the linguists nor the anthropologists knew how to evaluate, and any reference to it at all seems lacking in the literature until after we published (Matrilineality and the Melanesian origin of Polynesian Y chromosomes [2003]) our opinion of why the emerging human genetic evidence could only be consistent with matrilocality (and the implication that a matrilocal society, over time, would only be matrilineal).

At the time of his death, we were working on Proto-East Bantu (PEB) and Proto Oceanic (POc...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9421
Print ISSN
0029-8115
Pages
pp. 491-496
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-24
Open Access
No
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