Shooting the Sun reinterprets the Ida ritual of the Umeda society of Papua New Guinea, described in Alfred Gell's modern classic Metamorphosis of the Cassowaries: Umeda Society, Language and Ritual (1975). Bernard Juillerat and eight other distinguished scholars, including Gell, apply a range of theoretical constructs - Freudian, Marxist, gender-based, and Lacanian, among others - to Ida ceremonies and the similar Yangis ritual of the neighboring Yafar people.
Shooting the Sun begins with Juillerat's description and analysis of the Yangis ritual. Drawing on a secret exegesis provided by Yafar experts, Juillerat interprets the Ida-Yangis rituals as a reformulation of the oedipal ontogenetic scenario, with shooting arrows toward the sun as the ritual's finale, representing a decisive separation from the mother's womb (the earth) and the appropriation of the mother's breast (the sun).
Five anthropologists and two psychoanalysts - including Andre Green, Francois Manenti, Marilyn Strathern, Richard Werbner, and Roy Wagner - comment on Juillerat's and Gell's analyses. Juillerat assesses the proposed theoretical concepts, reconsidering Yangis and the mythology that sustains it in light of this assessment and providing some recently uncovered ethnographic material. Shooting the Sun is significant both for the ethnographic data it contains and for the theoretical sophistication it displays.