October 21, 2008

Sex Lives of Cannibals

Just finished this and no, it wasn't a naughty book. It tells the story of a man who lived two years on Tarawa, a teeny-weeny island in the middle of nowhere. J. Maarten Troost has excellent voice and it was a pleasure to be stuck on an island with him. The title? A marketing ploy, I'm sure.

Here is one of favorite passages:
Stealing, I was told, was a major offense in the I-Kiribati culture. I could see why. There is absolutely no good reason for stealing in Kiribati. That is because of the bubuti system. In the bubuti system, someone can walk up to you and say I bubuti you for your flipflops, and without a peep of complaint you are obliged to hand over your flipflops. The following day, you can go up to the guy who is now wearing your flipflops, and say I bubuti you for your fishing net, and suddenly you have a new fishing net. In such a way, Kiribati remains profoundly egalitarian.
Who needs government social aid in such a culture? Troost goes on to describe how the local people avoid well-paying jobs (leaving those to the I-Matangs -- the outsiders, who can refuse bubuti) as there is no point taking a good job as the bubuti demands would leave one worse off than before.

I learned a lot, and it was a pleasant read.


  1. Sweet concept! I would love to be able to go up to someone and say "I bubuti you for your Gucci purse" or "I bubuti you for your Calvin Klein outfit."

    Thos book sounds very interesting. I am always watching documentaries on TV about different cultures. I will have to check this one out.

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  3. Very interesting. I'll have to check it out!


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