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Why We Return to Papua New Guinea
Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington
Vol. 70, No. 3 (Jul., 1997), pp. 127-136
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317672
Page Count: 10
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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.
Anthropological Quarterly © 1997 The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research