New podcast: Emilka Skrzypek on the Frieda Mine in Papua New Guinea

I’m excited to announce the my interview with Emilka Skrzypek is now available over at New Books Network. Emilka is a third- (or maybe fourth-?) generation scholar in the anthropology of mining in Papua New Guinea, and studies the Frieda River Mine, which doesn’t yet exist. How does one do an ethnography of a mine which hasn’t been built, but which is still making changes in the local communities which anticipate its coming? Or, rather, how do you a study of a mine which (as Paiyamo people might put it) exists in the sense that it is having an effect on people’s lives, but is still ‘invisible’ in that it hasn’t been built? Take a listen! As an anthropologist of mining of a slightly older generation *cough* it is great to see more work on this topic being produced.

I’m very proud of this special issue on Bernard Narokobi

After many years of work by my co-editor Lise Dobrin and myself (well, really, mostly Lise) as well as our authors, I am very proud to announce that we have published a special issue of the Journal of Pacific History on “The Legacy of Bernard Narokobi and the Melanesian Way”.

This is really special for me since I’ve been interested in Narokobi’s thought ever since I first encountered it. He is the kind of thinker who pulls you in. What’s more, I visited Narokobi’s village in the late 1990s when Lise was doing fieldwork there on his native language, Arapesh. I’m so proud to have published it in the JPH, which is such a classic journal and once which I have so often over the years — it’s not too much to say that one of my life goals has been met now that I’ve published there!

This collection is special because of how it deals with all aspects of Narokobi’s life. Jonathan Ritche and I cover the early part of his career. Vergil Narokobi, his son, discusses his legal thought. Philip Gibs discusses Narokobi’s Catholicism, and Ira Bashkow and Greg Bablis help contextualise Narokobi’s life by discussing the context he grew up in, as well as the legacy he left behind.

It was great to have two Papua New Guinean intellectuals involved in this project — and not just any intellectuals, but Arapesh thinkers (including Bernard’s son, Vergil) with kin ties to Narokobi. It’s a testament to Lise’s commitment to Wautogik, Narokobi’s village, that she came to the village decades ago as a linguist to record phonetic barred I and ended up producing this volume. I hope we inspire many other anthropologists and historians from the US to undertake this kind of work in the future.


My review of Victoria Stead’s “Becoming Landowners” is on available open access

I’m happy to say that my review of Victoria Stead’s Becoming Landowners is on available, open access, on the Pacific Affairs website. The sum of the article is: Setting aside my personal fondness for Tori — who is one of the most intellectually alive people I know — I think I can say with impartiality that the book is very good. There were some drawbacks for me: I personally would have preferred that it focus just on PNG, just because I’m a PNG chauvinist. I also think some readers might miscrecognize Stead’s distinction between ‘custom’ and ‘modernity’ as romantic or exorcizing. But this is definitely not the case if you read the book carefully. The book has many more strengths than weaknesses, and I especially appreciated her willingness to point out how often Papua New Guineans get the short end of the stick when it comes to resource development and industry. There is a cynical strand in the PNG literature which she is fighting against — which I probably give in to too often! — and I am really glad that she keeps us honest in this account. Overall, it’s a good book and I hope UH publishes it in a less-expensive and more accessible form.

My review of Keir Martin’s book is out

My book review of Keir Martin’s book The Death of the Big Men and the Rise of the Big Shots is now available in the latest number of Anthropological Forum. I liked Keir’s book a lot and highly recommend it. It clearly establishes him as a major scholar in this area. But I was disappointed that he didn’t flesh out what he means by ‘The West’ and its culturally specific form of individualism more.

Go take a look. You’ll learn a lot about New Ireland, and a fair but about Manchester as well.