The Abandoned Narcotic

By Ron Brunton,

Book cover of The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia

Book description

Ron Brunton revives a problem posed by the great anthropologist W. H. R. Rivers in History of Melanesian Society (1914): how to explain the strange geographical distribution of kava, a narcotic drink once widely consumed by south-west Pacific islanders. Rivers believed that it was abandoned by many people even before…


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1 author picked The Abandoned Narcotic as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Anthropologist Ron Brunton delves back into 19th-century theory that proposed two waves of Pacific immigrants, one that chewed betelnut (Areca catechu kernels mixed with Piper betle vine and lime), and the other that preferred kava. He wonders why kava is mostly absent in the Solomon Islands despite its presence in scattered communities in New Guinea to the west, and then in Vanuatu, Fiji, and much of Polynesia to the east. He proposes that kava originated in the Bismarck Archipelago and that Solomon Islanders subsequently abandoned kava consumption, perhaps as an element of some religious innovation. We now know that…

From Lamont's list on kava (piper methysticum).

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