Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
The author's recent review of over 560 animal metaphors from the Nage language of Flores Island, eastern Indonesia reveals that a sizeable number--180--employ particular named kinds of birds. Of these, nearly 130 moreover, are used in evaluating and talking about human characteristics and behaviours. The paper discusses several aspects of bird metaphors, including how these might differ from metaphors featuring other sorts of animals; the relationship between metaphors and other sorts of human knowledge of and practice towards birds; the relationship between 'metaphor' and 'belief'; and how far changes in local bird populations (especially the decline or disappearance of certain species) might affect their appearance in metaphors and in other symbolic forms. Treated as a variety of cognition, conventional metaphors incorporating birds and their coexistence with other sorts of knowledge of avifauna facilitates a consideration of the claims of ontological pluralists, and focusing on the Nage, a small-scale society of cultivators and hunters, especially raises the question of whether the significance of birds in Nage metaphors points to a dominant ontology significantly different from the 'naturalism' that has been ascribed to Western cultures.