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Read till it shatters »

Nationalism and identity in modern Thai literature

Authored by: Thak Chaloemtiarana
Publication date: August 2018
This book introduces readers to modern Thai literature through the themes of modernity, nationalism, identity and gender. In the cultural, political and social transformations that occurred in Thailand during the first half of the twentieth century, Thai literature was one of the vehicles that moved the changes. Taking seriously ‘read till it shatters’, a Thai phrase that instructs readers to take apart the text, to break it down, to deconstruct it, Thak Chaloemtiarana challenges the Thai literary canon from the margins and suggests ways of expanding and enriching it. Thai literature is scarce in translation and requires the skills of a scholar fluent in Thai to comprehend it. Thak is a political scientist turned literary scholar who is bilingual in Thai and English and an avid reader of Thai fiction by authors up and down the social scale. Here he offers lively insights into his favourite literary genres with fresh readings of early Thai novels, Sino-Thai biographies and memoirs of the rich and famous. ‘Thak Chaloemtiarana is an inquisitive man. Late in his career he switched from politics to literature. In these chapters, he draws on a lifetime of reading about writers and writing in Thailand over the past century. He nods towards the usual big names—King Vajiravudh, Luang Wichit, Kulap Saipradit, Kukrit Pramoj—but spends more time on those found in the lesser visited stacks of the libraries, the secondhand bookstalls, and the shelf by the supermarket checkout. His themes are familiar—Thailand and the West, Thai nationalism, the Thai-Chinese, and women under patriarchy—but the angles of vision are original. With a cast ranging from motor-racing princes through sexy Egyptian mummies and a feminist serial murderer to starlets touting breast-enhancement techniques, this book educates, enlightens, and entertains.’ — Dr Chris Baker, Bangkok-based author with Pasuk Phongpaichit, A History of Ayutthaya (Cambridge 2017)

Carl Strehlow’s 1909 Comparative Heritage Dictionary »

An Aranda, German, Loritja and Dieri to English Dictionary with Introductory Essays

Edited by: Anna Kenny
Publication date: August 2018
Carl Strehlow’s comparative dictionary manuscript is a unique item of Australian cultural heritage; it is a large collection of circa 7,600 Aranda, 6,800 Loritja (Luritja) and 1,200 Dieri to German entries compiled at the beginning of the twentieth century at the Hermannsburg Mission in central Australia. It is an integral part of Strehlow’s ethnographic work on Aboriginal cultures that his German editor Baron Moritz von Leonhardi published as Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien (Strehlow 1907–1920) in Frankfurt. Strehlow and his editor had planned to publish a language study that included this comparative dictionary, but it remained unpublished until now due to a number of complicated historical and personal circumstances of the main characters involved with the dictionary. Strehlow’s linguistic work is historically and anthropologically significant because it probably represents the largest and most comprehensive wordlist of Indigenous languages compiled in Australia during the early stages of contact. It is an important primary source for Luritja and Aranda speakers. Both languages are spoken in homes and taught in schools in central Australia. The reasons for presenting this work as a heritage dictionary—that is, as an exact transcription of the original form of the handwritten manuscript—are to follow the Western Aranda people’s wishes and to maintain its historical authenticity, which will prove to be of great use to both Indigenous people and scholars interested in language.

German Ethnography in Australia »

Publication date: September 2017
The contribution of German ethnography to Australian anthropological scholarship on Aboriginal societies and cultures has been limited, primarily because few people working in the field read German. But it has also been neglected because its humanistic concerns with language, religion and mythology contrasted with the mainstream British social anthropological tradition that prevailed in Australia until the late 1960s. The advent of native title claims, which require drawing on the earliest ethnography for any area, together with an increase in research on rock art of the Kimberley region, has stimulated interest in this German ethnography, as have some recent book translations. Even so, several major bodies of ethnography, such as the 13 volumes on the cultures of northeastern South Australia and the seven volumes on the Aranda of the Alice Springs region, remain inaccessible, along with many ethnographically rich articles and reports in mission archives. In 18 chapters, this book introduces and reviews the significance of this neglected work, much of it by missionaries who first wrote on Australian Aboriginal cultures in the 1840s. Almost all of these German speakers, in particular the missionaries, learnt an Aboriginal language in order to be able to document religious beliefs, mythology and songs as a first step to conversion. As a result, they produced an enormously valuable body of work that will greatly enrich regional ethnographies.

Tides of Innovation in Oceania »

Value, materiality and place

Publication date: April 2017
Tides of Innovation in Oceania is directly inspired by Epeli Hau‘ofa’s vision of the Pacific as a ‘Sea of Islands’; the image of tides recalls the cyclical movement of waves, with its unpredictable consequences. The authors propose tides of innovation as a fluid concept, unbound and open to many directions. This perspective is explored through ethnographic case studies centred on deeply elaborated analyses of locally inflected agencies involved in different transforming contexts. Three interwoven themes—value, materiality and place—provide a common thread.

New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory »

Publication date: March 2017
‘This volume brings together a diversity of international scholars, unified in the theme of expanding scientific knowledge about humanity’s past in the Asia-Pacific region. The contents in total encompass a deep time range, concerning the origins and dispersals of anatomically modern humans, the lifestyles of Pleistocene and early Holocene Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, the emergence of Neolithic farming communities, and the development of Iron Age societies. These core enduring issues continue to be explored throughout the vast region covered here, accordingly with a richness of results as shown by the authors. Befitting of the grand scope of this volume, the individual contributions articulate perspectives from multiple study areas and lines of evidence. Many of the chapters showcase new primary field data from archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Equally important, other chapters provide updated regional summaries of research in archaeology, linguistics, and human biology from East Asia through to the Western Pacific.’ Mike T. Carson Associate Professor of Archaeology Micronesian Area Research Center University of Guam

Master poets, ritual masters »

The art of oral composition among the Rotenese of Eastern Indonesia

Authored by: James J. Fox
Publication date: April 2016
This is a study in oral poetic composition. It examines how oral poets compose their recitations. Specifically, it is a study of the recitations of 17 separate master poets from the Island of Rote recorded over a period of 50 years. Each of these poets offers his version of what is culturally considered to be the ‘same’ ritual chant. These compositions are examined in detail and their oral formulae are carefully compared to one another. Professor James J. Fox is an anthropologist who carried out his doctoral field research on the Island of Rote in eastern Indonesia in 1965–66. In 1965, he began recording the oral traditions of the island and developed a close association with numerous oral poets on the island. After many subsequent visits, in 2006, he began a nine-year project that brought groups of oral poets to Bali for week-long recording sessions. Recitations gathered over a period of 50 years are the basis for this book.

New Mana »

Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures

Publication date: April 2016
‘Mana’, a term denoting spiritual power, is found in many Pacific Islands languages. In recent decades, the term has been taken up in New Age movements and online fantasy gaming. In this book, 16 contributors examine mana through ethnographic, linguistic, and historical lenses to understand its transformations in past and present. The authors consider a range of contexts including Indigenous sovereignty movements, Christian missions and Bible translations, the commodification of cultural heritage, and the dynamics of diaspora. Their investigations move across diverse island groups—Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Hawai‘i, and French Polynesia—and into Australia, North America and even cyberspace. A key insight that the volume develops is that mana can be analysed most productively by paying close attention to its ethical and aesthetic dimensions. Since the late nineteenth century, mana has been an object of intense scholarly interest. Writers in many fields including anthropology, linguistics, history, religion, philosophy, and missiology have long debated how the term should best be understood. The authors in this volume review mana’s complex intellectual history but also describe the remarkable transformations going on in the present day as scholars, activists, church leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs take up mana in new ways.

Strings of Connectedness »

Essays in honour of Ian Keen

Edited by: P.G. Toner
Publication date: September 2015
For nearly four decades, Ian Keen has been an important, challenging, and engaging presence in Australian anthropology. Beginning with his PhD research in the mid-1970s and through to the present, he has been a leading scholar of Yolngu society and culture, and has made lasting contributions to a range of debates. His scholarly productivity, however, has never been limited to the Yolngu, and he has conducted research and published widely on many other facets of Australian Aboriginal society: on Aboriginal culture in ‘settled’ Australia; comparative historical work on Aboriginal societies at the threshold of colonisation; a continuing interest in kinship; ongoing writing on language and society; and a set of significant land claims across the continent. In this volume of essays in his honour, a group of Keen’s former students and current colleagues celebrate the diversity of his scholarly interests and his inspiring influence as a mentor and a friend, with contributions ranging across language structure, meaning, and use; the post-colonial engagement of Aboriginal Australians with the ideas and structures of ‘mainstream’ society; ambiguity and indeterminacy in Aboriginal symbolic systems and ritual practices; and many other interconnected themes, each of which represents a string that he has woven into the rich tapestry of his scholarly work.

Songs of the Empty Place »

The Memorial Poetry of the Foi of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea

Authored by: James Weiner, Don Niles
Publication date: July 2015
For 31 months between 1979 and 1995, James F. Weiner conducted anthropological research amongst the Foi people in Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. This book contains the transcriptions, translations, and descriptions of the songs he recorded. The texts of women’s sago songs (obedobora), men’s ceremonial songs (sorohabora), and women’s sorohabora are included. Men turn the prosaic content of womenís sago songs into their own sorohabora songs, which are performed the night following large-scale inter-community pig kills, called dawa. While women sing sago songs by themselves, men sing their ceremonial songs in groups of paired men. Women also have their own ceremonial versions of such songs. The songs are memorial in intent; they are designed to commemorate the lives of men who are no longer living. Most commonly they do so by naming the places the deceased inhabited during his lifetime. These song texts and translations are introduced by Weiner. Ethnomusicologist Don Niles then brings together information about each type of song and considers these Foi genres in relation to those of neighbouring groups, highlighting aspects of regional performance styles. Consideration is also given to the poetic devices used in Papua New Guinea songs. Eighteen recordings illustrating the Foi genres discussed in this book are available for download. It remains uncertain how such songs may be affected by the major oil extraction project that has been undertaken in the region for more than two decades. This book will interest students of anthropology, ethnomusicology, linguistics, verbal art, aesthetics, and cultural heritage.

From 'Stone-Age' to 'Real-Time' »

Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities and Religiosities

Publication date: April 2015
There are probably no other people on earth to whom the image of the ‘stone-age’ is so persistently attached than the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, which is divided into independent Papua New Guinea and the western part of the island, known today as Papua and West Papua. From ‘Stone-Age’ to ‘Real-Time’ examines the forms of agency, frictions and anxieties the current moment generates in West Papua, where the persistent ‘stone-age’ image meets the practices and ideologies of the ‘real-time’ – a popular expression referring to immediate digital communication. The volume is thus essentially occupied with discourses of time and space and how they inform questions of hierarchy and possibilities for equality. Papuans are increasingly mobile, and seeking to rework inherited ideas, institutions and technologies, while also coming up against palpable limits on what can be imagined or achieved, secured or defended. This volume investigates some of these trajectories for the cultural logics and social or political structures that shape them. The chapters are highly ethnographic, based on in-depth research conducted in diverse spaces within and beyond Papua. These contributions explore topics ranging from hip hop to HIV/ AIDS to historicity, filling much-needed conceptual and ethnographic lacunae in the study of West Papua.