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Intensive Study of a Culture:
First Contact and its aftermath in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Starr Lectureship Course
by Alex Golub, 26 April 2002

Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Course Overview (one paragraph)

In the late 1920s and early 1930s Australian explorers discovered the highlands of Papua New Guinea, home to roughly one million people who had never encountered Europeans before. In the course of one generation highlanders experienced contact with Europeans, colonization, and decolonization, going from stone to steel in one generation and dealing with the massive cultural change this entailed. At the same time, the Australians who governed highlanders projected their own fantasies of empire, development, and benevolent paternalism onto their relationships with Papua New Guineans. This course examines in detail the patrols that first entered the highlands and their aftermath in contemporary Papua New Guinea. Using a lens sharply focused on the ethnography of both highlanders and their Australian rulers, the readings will draw out the implications of first contact and its aftermath for issues such as colonization and post-coloniality, globalization, whiteness, environmentalism, and the representation of indigenous peoples in local and global arenas.

Course Description (one page)

This course is designed with two related goals: First, it is intended to provide participants with specialized knowledge of first contact in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Second, it is meant to help participants understand larger theoretical issues in anthropology relating to culture contact, social change, and the place of fourth world peoples in a globalized world.

The course begins with two weeks of introductory readings. The first week lays out the main theoretic issues by examining the arguments of Levi-Strauss, Sahlins, and Kelly. The second week provides a brief introduction to the literature on colonization and the colonial history of the British Empire that served as the backdrop for exploration in Papua New Guinea. The third week covers Mick Leahys initial patrols into the highlands. This is the most well-known and dramatized instances of first-contact. Subsequent weeks work to progressively problematize the stereotypes presented by the Leahy patrol by focusing on the particularities of the Hagen-Sepik patrol, which presents a more nuanced and extended account of first contact. Readings about the patrol are accompanied by ethnography from the areas that the patrol traveled through.

The final section of the course considers the contemporary situation of the groups visited by the Hagen-Sepik patrol. It reviews the history of the region since the patrol, and the particular issues that highlanders have had with mining, forestry, and development work. A final week focuses on comparing highlanders with indigenous peoples elsewhere in the world.

Course Material:

The main text for the course is Bill Gammages outstanding The Sky Travellers, which will be on reserve as well as on sale. Hank Nelson's Taim Blong Masta and Sean Dorney's Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, and History Since 1975 will also be widely used. Additional articles will be on reserve in the Regenstein.

First contact in PNG is a remarkably well-researched area. The original explorers who entered the highlands took movie cameras with them. Their original footage is an arresting and unique record of the experience of culture contact. In addition, later filmmakers have created a series of extremely well-known and high quality documentaries. The result is an incredibly rich and fascinating body of movies regarding the highlands and their history. An important part of the course will be watching and discussing these films.

Course Requirements:

Active participation in class discussion is vital. Be come prepared to talk about the readings and what interested you or didn't! A short midterm paper (5-7 pages) will be assigned issues particular to first contact in Papua New guinea. A longer (10-15 pages) final paper will be due at the end of the quarter. The topic of this paper will be chosen by the students, and topics can range from other patrols in Papua New Guinea to similar situations in the Amazon, or to representations of first contact in Science Fiction.

Grading: Grading will be based on class room participation (30%), the midterm (30%), and the final paper (60%).

Week 1: Theoretical Approaches to Culture Contact

Monday: Introduction to Course

Wednesday: Tristes Tropes?

Tristes Tropes

Claude Levi-Strauss. Tristes Tropiques. Chapters 37-40. 39 pages.

Sahlins, Marshall. Goodbye to Tristes Tropes: Ethnography in the Context of Modern World History. Journal of Modern History 65(1). 25 pages.

Indigenization of Modernity?

Sahlins, Marshall. Economics of Develop-man in the Pacific. Res 21. 12 pages.

John Kelly. Time and the Global In Represented Communities. 35 pages.


Study Questions: How does Levi-Strauss understand the relationship anthropologists have to their own culture and the cultures they study? How does Levi-Strausss view of cultural creativity differ from that of Sahlins? How does Levi-Strauss envision the future of cultural diversity on the planet, and how does his view differ from Sahlins? What kind of underlying vision of cultures as separate entities or connected entities, or non-existent fictions seems to drive the writings of both authors? How does Kellys notion of sea change relate to issues of culture change in Levi-Strauss and Sahlins?

Week 2: Colonial Precursors: India, Africa, and Papua New Guinea

Monday: Colonialism and the British Empire

Cohn, Bernard. The Language of Command and the Command of Language In Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge. 41 Pages.

Comaroff and Comaroff. Africa Observed In Of Revelation and Revolution v.1 86-125. 41 pages.

Wednesday: Australia

Hank Nelson. You Had to be Firm and Never a Colony In Taim Blong Masta 160-160. 10 Pages.

Something on the essence of Australian Culture

Friday: Australia and Papua New Guinea

Dorney, Sean. Long Taim Bipo the Past. In Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, and History since 1975. 26 pages.


Study Questions: Anthropology is typically about other people. How do this weeks readings apply the anthropological lens to first worlders like us? How is colonialism a cultural project? How did the experience of British explorers and the British Empire affect the Australian imagination of Papua New Guinea, and Australians imaginations of themselves as colonizers?

Week 3: The Leahys, Gold, and First Contact

MOVIE: First Contact

Bernstein. The New Mistress and the Cursed Discovery In The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession. 219-238. 19 pages.

Nelson, Hank. 2001. Isla del Oro: Seeking New Guinea Gold in Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects of Australia ed. McCalman, Cook, and Reeves. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 17 pages.

Hank Nelson, Gold! and Moneymakers and Misfits in Taim Blong Masta. 18 pages.

Ian Willis. 1969. Who was First? The First White Man into the New Guinea Highlands. Journal of the Papua and New Guinea Society 3(1) 1969.

Connolly and Anderson, First Contact [selections].

Rumsey, Allen. The White Man as Cannibal in the New Guinea Highlands. In Anthropology of Cannibalism, L. Goldman ed. 106-121.

Strathern, Marilyn. The Decomposition of an Event. Cultural Anthropology 7:244-254. 10 pages.


Study Questions: How did highlanders react to the Leahys, and how did the Leahys react to them? What sort of cultural resources and sterotypes did each side in the encounter draw on to understand the people they met? Despite their differences, what did they have in common, and why? Who were the middlemen in the first contact situation, and how did they get to be middlemen? What role did violence and sex play in first contact? What do you think about it?

Week 4: Introducing the Hagen-Sepik Patrol

Introducing the Hagen Sepik Patrol

Gammage, Sky Travellers. Chapter 1-50. 50 pages.

Georg Simmel, The Stranger. In The Sociology of Georg Simmel, ed. Kurt Wolff. 402-408. 6 pages.

Kiaps: White in New Guinea

Kituai, August. The Role of the Patrol Officer in Papua New Guinea. In My Gun, My Brother. 23 pages.

Nelson, Hank. Gods Shadow on Earth, The Lonliness and the Glory, and On Patrol in Taim Blong Masta. 33 Pages.

Indigenous Police

Kituai, August. Policemen at Work In My Gun, My Brother. 28 pages.

Bob Cole, In Defense of Truth: A Response to August Kituai's My Gun My Brother. http://www.exkiap.net/articles/in_defence_of_truth/in_defence_of_truth.htm

Study Questions: Focus on Gammages concept of journeys what does it mean in an extended sense? What role did indigenous police play in the internal sociology of the patrol? What would Sahlins say about the biographies of these police? How did kiaps understand themselves and their jobs? Would Levi-Strauss have wanted to be a kiap?

Week 5: Sky Travellers. The Enga and the Huli.

The Patrol Sets Out

Gammage, Sky Travellers. Chapters 5-10. 60 pages.

Enga Speakers and Their Regional World

Wiessner and Tumu. Social Organization, Leadership, and Trade in the Early Generations of Oral History In Historical Vines. 23 pages.

The Huli and Their World

Ballard. Inclined to be Cheeky. 15 pages.

Chris Ballard. The Centre Cannot Hold: Trade Networks and Sacred Geography in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. Archaeology in Oceania 29. 18 Pages.

Frankel, A

Study Questions: Compare the Fox brothers patrol with the Hagen-Sepik patrol how did they vary, particularly in their use of violence? How did pre-existing trade routes in Enga and Huli territory affect the progress of the patrol? How did Enga and Huli culture challenge the patrols and our stereotypes of primitives? How did the Hagen-Sepik patrol differ from the Leahys in terms of their use of middlemen, violence, and creation of rapport with the people they encountered?

Week 6: Sky Travellers: The Min and Others

The Patrol

Gammage, Sky Travellers Chapter 10-15. 72 pages.

The Min

Brumbagh, R. Afek Sang: The 'Old Woman' Myth of the Mountain Ok. In Children of Afek. 29 pages

Jorgensen, Dan. The Telefolip and the Architecture of Ethnic Identity in the Sepik Headwaters In Children of Afek. 10 pages.


Study Questions: How do the Min and Hewa differ from Enga and Huli in terms of their social organization and culture? How did John Blacks sexual experiences in Telefomin vary from the Leahys in Hagen? How did Black deal with challenges to his leadership by other members of his patrol, and how did these challenges differ from those made in Hagen and in Wabag? How did Blacks personal transformation and the establishment of basecamps in Telefomin, Wabag, and Tari represent a sea change?

Week 7: Sky Travellers: The End of the Patrol and Contemporary PNG

The End of the Patrol

Gammage, Sky Travellers, Chapter 15-18. 24 pages.

Introducing Contemporary PNG

MOVIE: Joe Leahys Neighbors.

Sean Dorney. Fleeting Glimpses and Provincial Government Secessions First Solution In Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, History since 1975. 36 pages.

Local Imaginations of Global Situations

Ballard, Chris. The Fire Next Time. 10 pages.

Wardlow, Holly. Bobby Teardrops: A Turkish Video in Papua New Guinea: Reflections on Cultural Studies, Feminism, and the Anthropology of Mass Media. Visual Anthropology Review 12(1)30-45. 15 pages.

Robins, Joel. On reading 'world news': apocalyptic narrative, negative nationalism and transnational Christianity in a Papua New Guinea society In Social Analysis 42(2). 27 Pages.

Biersack, Aletta. The Mt. Kare Python and His Gold. American Anthropologist 101(1):68-88. 20 pages.

Study Questions: In the long run, who was more affected by their experiences of the patrol, the kiaps leading it or the people they encountered? Did Black and Taylor fulfill the ambitions that they had for themselves and Papua New Guinea? How do their ambitions mirror the larger Australian imperial project in Papua New Guinea and how successful was that project? How do people living in the highlands today imagine themselves to be part of a wider world, and how has that imagination been transformed by contact with whites? How has it stayed the same?

Week 8: Tribal Fighting and violence in Contemporary PNG

Tribal Fighting and Traditional Violence

Ferguson, Brian and Neil Whitehead. The Violent Edge of Empire In War in the Tribal Zone. 30 pages.

Gordon and Meggitt. The Decline of the Kiaps In Law and Order in the New Guinea Highlands. 39-71. 32 pages.

Strathern: Let the Bow Go Down in War in the Tribal Zone. 22 pages.

Crime and the State in Papua New Guinea

Dinnen, Sinclair. From Disintegration to Reintegration In Law and Order in a Weak State: Crime and Politics in Papua New Guinea. 19 pages.

Dorney, Sean. Crime, Punishment, Justice and the Future In Papua New Guinea: People, Politics, and History since 1975. 31 pages.

Study Questions: To what extent is violence in Melanesia a 'traditional' phenomenon, and to what extent is it a novel one? Is the weakness of the state a result of the failure of the Australian administrative project? How successful were the kiaps in establishing a lasting law and order in the highlands anyway?

Week 9: Issues in Resource Development

Traditional Landowners: global requirements for local organizations

MOVIE: People of Porgera

Ernst, Thomas. Land, Stories, and Resources: Discourse and Entification in Onabasulu Modernity. 10 pages

Thomas, Nicholas. Substantivization and Anthropological Discourse: The Transformation of Practices into Institutions in Neotraditional Pacific Societies. In History and Tradition in Melanesian Anthropology. 64-85. 22 pages.

Jorgenson, Clan-making, Clan Finding. Manuscript. 15 pages.

Burton, John. Social Mapping and the Response of the Hidden Valley Landowners to a Court Telling Them Who They Are. Manuscript. 9 pages.

Filer, Colin. The Melanesian way of menacing the mining industry. In Environment and Development in the Pacific Islands. 32 pages.

Environmentalism in Theory and Practice

Filer, Colin. How can Western conservationists talk to Melanesian landowners about indigenous knowledge? 27 pages.

Florence Brunois, In Paradise, the Forest is Open and Covered in Flowers. In Expecting the Day of Wrath. 20 pages.

Robbins, Joel. Welcome to Big Bush Urapmin. Manuscript. 9 pages.

Paige West. Environmental Non Governmental Organizations and the Nature of Ethnographic Inquiry. Social Analysis 54(2) 55-77. 22 pages.

Study Questions: What is the Melanesian way of menacing the mining industry? How is 'tradition' reified so that it can be represented to global forces? How do the agendas of indigenous people correspond with or differ from Western environmentalists? How do mining companies and environmentalists view indigenous peoples, and how are these views an extension of those held by Black and Taylor?

Week 10: Representing Indigenous People to the World and Vice-Versa: Concluding Comparative Reflections

Robbins, Joel. 1997 When do you think the world is going to end? Globalization, Apocalypticism, and the Moral Perils of Fieldwork in Last New Guinea. Anthropology and Humanism 22(1)6-30. 24 pages.

Conklin, Beth and Laura Graham. The Shifting Middle Ground: Amazonian Indians and Eco-Politics. American Anthropologist 97(4): 695-710. 15 pages.

Povinelli, Elizabeth. Settler Modernity and the Quest for an Indigenous Tradition. Public Culture 11(1):19-48. 29 pages.

Brody, Hugh. Maps and Dreams. Selections.

Study Questions: How did the Papua New Guinea experience differ from the experience of indigenous peoples in Australia and South America? How do Povinelli and Robbins's self-understanding as anthropologists differ from Levi-Strauss's? How do they differ from John Black? To what extent is first contact like fieldwork, and how do the 'journeys' in Gammage's sense that they involve create a 'sea change' in the people who undertake them?

Upload: 4/23/2003

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