A Faraway, Familiar PlaceAn Anthropologist Returns to Papua New Guinea

A Faraway, Familiar PlaceAn Anthropologist Returns to Papua New Guinea

Michael French Smith

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824836863

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


Although the author first went to Papua New Guinea in 1973, in 2008 it had been ten years since he had been back to Kragur Village, Kairiru Island, where he was an honorary “citizen.” He finds in Kragur many things he remembered fondly, including a life immersed in nature and freedom from 9–5 tyranny. And he again encounters the stifling midday heat, the wet tropical sores, and the sometimes excruciating intensity of village social life that he had somehow managed to forget. Through practicing Taoist “not doing” the author continues to learn about villagers' difficult transition from an older world based on giving to one in which money rules and the potent mix of devotion and innovation that animates Kragur's pervasive religious life. Becoming entangled in local political events, he gets a closer look at how ancestral loyalties and fear of sorcery influence hotly disputed contemporary elections. In turn, Kragur people practice their own form of anthropology on the author, questioning him about American work, family, religion, and politics. The author returns to Kragur again, in 2011, to complete projects begun in 2008, see Kragur's chief for the last time (he died later that year), and bring Kragur's story up to date.