Conceiving Cultures: Reproducing People and Places on by Shelley Mallett

By Shelley Mallett

Conceiving Cultures seriously displays at the methods anthropologists come to appreciate and signify the folks and cultures that they learn. those principles are built via an ethnographic research that explores notions of the gendered individual via wisdom and practices with regards to reproductive overall healthiness at the Massim island of Nuakata in Papua New Guinea. Conceiving Cultures makes specific anthropology's implicit venture to appreciate the self when it comes to the other.Shelley Mallett is study Fellow on the Key Centre for Women's healthiness in Society at Melbourne collage.

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Shelley: What would we do with it? No, it doesn’t belong there either. ŃŅ My metaphorical trunk unpacked, the baggage I carried is now revealed; what follows is a testimony of experiences shared, of my witness to Nuakatan people’s witnessing. qxd 6/25/04 12:51 PM Page ii Chapter One ŃŅ Tracing Nuakata Arriving As the plane began its descent toward Gurney airstrip on the outskirts of Alotau, I pressed my face to the glass straining to catch a glimpse of the view. The Owen Stanley Ranges stretched out to the west, while directly below us, at their foothills, oil palm plantations gave the landscape a strange uniformity, broken only by small village settlements and the eddies of dust churned by cars rocketing along unmade roads.

In the foreground and to the west of Nuakata were three small islands: Pahilele, Iabama, and to the southwest Hana Kuba Kuba. Later we learned that Iabama and Pahilele belong to East Cape, and the ‹fteen people living on Pahilele speak Tewala, the East Cape language. Hana Kuba Kuba belongs to Nuakata but, like Iabama, it is uninhabited. Around midnight we approached the northwestern side of Nuakata, entering the still waters of Halewa Una bay. Unable to see the shore in the dark, the captain steered the boat toward a distant ‹re burning on the beach—a beacon, anticipating our arrival.

The various dilemmas posed by participant observation ‹eldwork and the speculation and imagining that precedes it are never merely textual issues. At one point Geertz quite explicitly states that anthropologists “have been willed, not as so often thought, a research method, ‘Participant Observation’ (that turns out to be a wish, not a method) but a literary dilemma, ‘Participant Description’” (1988, 33). In Geertz’s hands, epistemological dilemmas—associated with intersubjective knowing, the identity of the ethnographer, the ability of the ethnographer to understand the experiences of others, if not the ethnographic project itself—become textual issues of authorship, “writerly” identity, narrative, and discourse construction.

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