Crawford House Publishing
Stories, Strength, and Self-Narration Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea

This book examines the challenges of identity formation that Papua New Guineans have experienced through the historical processes of colonialism, transfer of power through independence, and post-colonial social reconstruction. The authors focus on the Mount Hagen locality in Wester Highlands Province, and primarily present material from the Kawelka people, who have a well-documented history and a strong heritage of using sophisticated rhetorical skills in political, ritual and secular occasions.

This book is unique in several ways. First, it lets Papua New Guineans speak for themselves, something that has recently been recognised as an important aim in ethnography, but is not always followed in practice. The authors present a series of eloquent speeches from the pre-independence period, from when independence was being gained, and from the near and more remote post-independence periods. Through an analysis of these historical materials, a clearer picture of the Papua New Guinean experience can be gained one that has not been fully explored previously. Second, the authors present a rich array of supplementary photographs, which pictorially document alterations in self-presentation that the Highlanders of Papua New Guinea have expressed as their perceptions of their identities have shifted over the past forty years.

The speeches demonstrate the embeddedness of the people in their landscape, their conscious awareness of their history within their origin places, and their concerns for the future of their group. Their stories are engaging ones that reflect the cultural richness of their country. They indicate the rhetorical powers and astute sense of occasion that leaders exhibit, as well as their thoughtful abilities to synthesise problems and express them on behalf of their communities and themselves. As well, they allow the reader to see the puzzling and confusing aspects of change in the lives of people and the difficulties leaders have in coming to terms with issues that impinge upon their local lives from other levels within the Papua New Guinea state and beyond it in terms of global flows of influence.

The overall portrait will appeal to general readers interested in Papua New Guinea, as well as to political scientists, historians and geographers. The authors aim to establish these Hagen speech-makers not only as political leaders, but also as artistic performers in a genre of oral expression that is widely referred to but rarely presented in detail: public and persuasive speech in a community setting.


Andrew Strathern & Pamela J. Stewart


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20 black-and-white photographs; map


Portrait; softcover; xiv + 212 pages


204 x 135 mm



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