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Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society »

Women’s lives in the Wahgi Valley

Authored by: Marie Olive Reay
Publication date: January 2022
Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society brings to the reader anthropologist Marie Reay’s field research from the 1950s and 1960s on women’s lives in the Wahgi Valley, Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Dramatically written, each chapter adds to the main story that Reay wanted to tell, contrasting young girls’ freedom to court and choose partners, with the constraints (and violence) they were to experience as married women. This volume provides readable ethnographic material for undergraduate courses, in whole or in part. It will be of interest to students and scholars of gender relations, anthropology and feminism, Melanesia and the Pacific. The material in this book, which Reay had written by 1965 but never published, remains startlingly contemporary and relevant. Marie Olive Reay was a social anthropologist who did research in Australian Indigenous communities and in the Wahgi Valley in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Employed at The Australian National University from 1959 to 1988 when she retired, Reay passed away in 2004. In 2011 this manuscript was found in her personal papers, reconstructed and edited by Francesca Merlan, augmented here by an additional introduction by eminent anthropologist of the Highlands, and of gender, Marilyn Strathern. Had this manuscript appeared when Reay apparently completed it in its present form – around 1965 – it would have been the first published ethnography of women’s lives in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Its retrieval from Reay’s papers, and availability now, adds a new dimension to works on gender relations in Melanesian societies, and to the history of Australian and Pacific anthropology.

Papua New Guinea »

Government, Economy and Society

Publication date: 2022
Papua New Guinea (PNG), a nation now of almost nine million people, continues to evolve and adapt. While there is no shortage of recent data and research on PNG, the two most recent social science volumes on the country were both written more than a decade ago. Since then, much has changed and much has been learnt. What has been missing is a volume that brings together the most recent research and reports on the most recent data. Papua New Guinea: Government, Economy and Society fills that gap. Written by experts at the University of Papua New Guinea and The Australian National University among others, this book provides up-to-date surveys of critical policy issues for PNG across a range of fields, from elections and politics, decentralisation, and crime and corruption, to PNG’s economic trajectory and household living standards, to uneven development, communication and the media. The volume’s authors provide an overview of the data collected and research undertaken in these various fields in an engaging and accessible way. Edited by Professor Stephen Howes and Professor Lekshmi N. Pillai, Papua New Guinea: Government, Economy and Society is a must-read for students, policymakers and anyone interested in understanding this complex and fascinating country.

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Wampar–English Dictionary »

With an English–Wampar finder list

Publication date: December 2021
This ethnographic dictionary is the result of Hans Fischer’s long-term fieldwork among the Wampar, who occupy the middle Markham Valley in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Their language, Dzob Wampar, belongs to the Markham family of the Austronesian languages. Today most Wampar speak not only Wampar but also PNG’s lingua franca, Tok Pisin. Six decades of Wampar research has documented the extent and speed of change in the region. Today, mining, migration and the commodification of land are accelerating the pace of change in Wampar communities, resulting in great individual differences in knowledge of the vernacular. This dictionary covers largely forgotten Wampar expressions as well as loanwords from German and Jabêm that have become part of everyday language. Most entries contain example sentences from original Wampar texts. The dictionary is complemented by an overview of ethnographic research among Wampar, a sketch of Wampar grammar, a bibliography and an English-to-Wampar finder list.

The Absent Presence of the State in Large-Scale Resource Extraction Projects »

Publication date: August 2021
Standing on the broken ground of resource extraction settings, the state is sometimes like a chimera: its appearance and intentions are misleading and, for some actors, it is unknowable and incomprehensible. It may be easily mistaken for someone or something else, like a mining company, for example. With rich ethnographic material, this volume tackles critical questions about the nature of contemporary states, studied from the perspective of resource extraction projects in Papua New Guinea, Australia and beyond. It brings together a sustained focus on the unstable and often dialectical relationship between the presence and the absence of the state in the context of resource extraction. Across the chapters, contributors discuss cases of proposed mining ventures, existing large-scale mining operations and the extraction of natural gas. Together, they illustrate how the concept of absent presence can be brought to life and how it can enhance our understanding of the state as well as relations and processes forming in extractive contexts, thus providing a novel contribution to the anthropology of the state and the anthropology of extraction. ‘The Absent Presence fills a major gap in our knowledge about the relationship between states and companies – at a time when resource extraction seems to be more contested than ever. Bainton and Skrzypek have curated an incredibly impressive volume that should be read by all those interested in exploring corporate and state power, and the ever-present impacts of extraction. A highly recommended read.’ — Professor Deanna Kemp, Director of the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland ‘Countless books have been written on the sovereign state and how it imposes a particular kind of order on economic and social interactions. What is original and compelling about this collection is the portrait of how two very different states converge when it comes to “extractive ventures”. From the presumption of exclusive sovereignty over mineral resources, to the bargains that are struck with major (often global) corporations, and the relative indifference to environmental impacts, there is a remarkable consistency in the patterns that are referred to as “state effects”. These effects are brought from the background to the foreground in this book through the blending of creative and critical thinking with detailed empirical research.’ — Tim Dunne, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland ‘This brilliant and intriguing title provides a timely contribution to understanding the actual functions and strategies of state (and state-like) institutions in resource arenas. The dialectics of presence-absence and its refractions at different levels and scales of government allow the authors to go beyond stereotypes about the (strong, weak, failed or corrupt) state, highlighting more commonalities than expected between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and even New Caledonia.’ — Dr Pierre-Yves Le Meur, Anthropologist, Senior Researcher, French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, Joint Research Unit SENS (Knowledge Environment Society)

Like Fire »

The Paliau Movement and Millenarianism in Melanesia

Publication date: July 2021
‘Like Fire consummates remarkable longitudinal ethnographic research on the Paliau Movement in Papua New Guinea, pursued from the 1950s into the 1990s by Theodore Schwartz, with Michael French Smith as his sometime assistant, and updated by Smith in 2015. The theoretical arguments are highly provocative and the book is well written and fascinating throughout. Like Fire poses important questions about the driving forces and contours of Pacific Island history and the place in it of cargo cults and other millenarian movements.’ —Aletta Biersack, Professor Emerita, University of Oregon ‘Like Fire synthesises old, but inaccessible, and new material on an important and long-lasting indigenous Melanesian movement, while making extensive use of the wider literature on cargo cults and millenarianism. I find the theorising in this book both very original and an important contribution to the debates on Melanesian religion, cargo cults, and millenarianism more generally. As the authors state, the topic of millenarianism has great relevance because of its ubiquity in the contemporary world.’ —Ton Otto, Professor of Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark, and James Cook University, Australia Like Fire chronicles an indigenous movement for radical change in Papua New Guinea from 1946 to the present. The movement’s founder, Paliau Maloat, promoted a program for step-by-step social change in which many of his followers also found hope for a miraculous millenarian transformation. Drawing on data collected over several decades, Theodore Schwartz and Michael French Smith describe the movement’s history, Paliau’s transformation from secular reformer and politician to Melanesian Jesus, and the development of the current incarnation of the movement as Wind Nation, a fully millenarian endeavour. Their analysis casts doubt on common ways of understanding a characteristically Melanesian form of millenarianism, the cargo cult, and questions widely accepted ways of interpreting millenarianism in general. They show that to understand the human proclivity for millenarianism we must scrutinise more closely two near-universal human tendencies: difficulty accepting the role of chance or impersonal forces in shaping events (that is, the tendency to personify causation), and a tendency to imagine that one or one’s group is the focus of the malign or benign attention of purposeful entities, from the local to the cosmic. Schwartz and Smith discuss the prevalence of millenarianism and warn against romanticising it, because the millenarian mind can subvert rationality and nourish rage and fear even as it seeks transcendence.

A Sketch Grammar of Pondi »

Authored by: Russell Barlow
Publication date: July 2020
This book provides the first grammatical description of Pondi, a severely endangered language spoken by fewer than 300 people, almost all of whom live in a single village in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Pondi is a non-Austronesian (i.e. Papuan) language, belonging to the Ulmapo branch of the Keram family. A Sketch Grammar of Pondi includes ethnographic information, with ample discussion of language vitality and endangerment. The grammatical description begins with phonetics and phonology, before turning to major and minor word classes. The description of nominal morphology focuses especially on Pondi’s irregular number affixation and stem alternation, while the description of verbal morphology is largely concerned with aspect and mood suffixation. Syntax is discussed both at the level of the phrase and at the level of the clause. Topics in syntax, such as questions, commands, negation and conditionals are discussed. Following the grammatical description, there is a lexicon of over 600 Pondi words, presented both as a Pondi-to-English word list and as an English-to-Pondi finder list.

Roars from the Mountain »

Colonial Management of the 1951 Volcanic Disaster at Mount Lamington

Authored by: R. Wally Johnson
Publication date: April 2020
Mount Lamington broke out in violent eruption on 21 January 1951, killing thousands of Orokaiva people, devastating villages and destroying infrastructure. Generations of Orokaiva people had lived on the rich volcanic soils of Mount Lamington, apparently unaware of the deadly volcanic threat that lay dormant beneath them. Also unaware were the Europeans who administered the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at the time of the eruption, and who were uncertain about how to interpret the increasing volcanic unrest on the mountain in the preceding days of the disaster. Roars from the Mountain seeks to address why so many people died at Mount Lamington by examining the large amount of published and unpublished records that are available on the 1951 disaster. The information sources also include the results of interviews with survivors and with people who were part of the relief, recovery and remembrance phases of what can still be regarded as one of Australia’s greatest natural-hazard disasters.

A Doctor Across Borders »

Raphael Cilento and public health from empire to the United Nations

Publication date: February 2019
In his day, Raphael Cilento was one of the most prominent and controversial figures in Australian medicine. As a senior medical officer in the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, he was an active participant in public health reform during the inter-war years and is best known for his vocal engagement with public discourse on the relationship between hygiene, race and Australian nationhood. Yet Cilento’s work on tropical hygiene and social welfare ranged beyond Australia, especially when he served as a colonial medical officer in British Malaya and in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. He also worked with the League of Nations Health Organization in the Pacific Islands and oversaw international social welfare programs for the United Nations. On one level, this professional mobility allowed ideas and practices of public health and government to circulate between colonial spaces of northern Australia, the Pacific Islands and Asia. On another, it meant that Cilento’s Pacific colonialism and colonial experience shaped his understanding of Australian national health and welfare. Rather than attempt a comprehensive biography of Cilento, this book instead uses this border-crossing career as a means to explore several material and discursive facets of Australia’s relationships to the Pacific and the world.

Island Rivers »

Fresh Water and Place in Oceania

Publication date: June 2018
Anthropologists have written a great deal about the coastal adaptations and seafaring traditions of Pacific Islanders, but have had much less to say about the significance of rivers for Pacific island culture, livelihood and identity. The authors of this collection seek to fill that gap in the ethnographic record by drawing attention to the deep historical attachments of island communities to rivers, and the ways in which those attachments are changing in response to various forms of economic development and social change. In addition to making a unique contribution to Pacific island ethnography, the authors of this volume speak to a global set of issues of immense importance to a world in which water scarcity, conflict, pollution and the degradation of riparian environments afflict growing numbers of people. Several authors take a political ecology approach to their topic, but the emphasis here is less on hydro-politics than on the cultural meaning of rivers to the communities we describe. How has the cultural significance of rivers shifted as a result of colonisation, development and nation-building? How do people whose identities are fundamentally rooted in their relationship to a particular river renegotiate that relationship when the river is dammed to generate hydro-power or polluted by mining activities? How do blockages in the flow of rivers and underground springs interrupt the intergenerational transmission of local ecological knowledge and hence the ability of local communities to construct collective identities rooted in a sense of place?

The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones »

Pacific Islands Perspectives

Publication date: May 2018
The moral economy of mobile phones implies a field of shifting relations among consumers, companies and state actors, all of whom have their own ideas about what is good, fair and just. These ideas inform the ways in which, for example, consumers acquire and use mobile phones; companies promote and sell voice, SMS and data subscriptions; and state actors regulate both everyday use of mobile phones and market activity around mobile phones. Ambivalence and disagreement about who owes what to whom is thus an integral feature of the moral economy of mobile phones. This volume identifies and evaluates the stakes at play in the moral economy of mobile phones. The six main chapters consider ethnographic cases from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu. The volume also includes a brief introduction with background information on the recent ‘digital revolution’ in these countries and two closing commentaries that reflect on the significance of the chapters for our understanding of global capitalism and the contemporary Pacific.