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Why We Return to Papua New Guinea

Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington
Anthropological Quarterly
Vol. 70, No. 3 (Jul., 1997), pp. 127-136
DOI: 10.2307/3317672
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317672
Page Count: 10
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Why We Return to Papua New Guinea
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Abstract

In this article we reflect upon the continued significance of Melanesian ethnography to anthropology. To do so, we consider what of importance has compelled us to return frequently to Papua New Guinea. Focusing primarily on a confrontation between a Chambri big man and a Chambri evangelical woman, we establish what we think remains (rather) unique about contemporary Papua New Guinea (and perhaps about Melanesia more generally). Our analysis shows Papua New Guinea as a place where the global intersects the local in axiomatically condensed form. Within the lifetimes of most adults, colonialism, missionization, military occupation, independence, development, transnational capitalism, and charismatic Christianity have all provided contexts in which a diversity of local peoples, responding to the extensive transformation of their lives, have generated a range of desires and an active sense of the possibility of enacting those desires. Our analysis reveals, thus, a preoccupation with local agency that demonstrates with instructive immediacy the contingency and variability characteristic of the local instantiation and shaping of global processes.

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