BACKGROUND

Introduction:


I first went to New Guinea in 1982 and 1983 to do doctoral research with a group of highlanders known as the Gende . I returned in 1986 to teach at the University of Papua New Guinea for three and a half years, during which time I revisited Yandera village on numerous occasions and extended my research to include urban Gende and men and women from other parts of the country. My most recent visits to Papua New Guinea were in the summers of 1994 and 1995, researching a Gende business woman and doing consulting for a mining company operating in the sparsely populated mountains to the north of the Gende villages. Altogether I have spent over five and a half years in Papua New Guinea building a rich base of field data and understanding of development and change among people who, in the case of the Gende, had no contact with the outside world until the 1930s.

Fieldwork and anthropology:


Fieldwork is fundamental to anthropology. During months, more often years of fieldwork anthropologists gather new data on human groups and the role of culture in the lives of human beings. The following quotes demonstrate the importance of fieldwork. That fieldwork is neither simple nor uncontested in relation to anthropology's finished products and interpretations is obvious in the quotes by Bohannan and Clifford:

"Living in the village with no other business but to follow native life, one sees the customs, ceremonies and transactions over and over again, one has examples of their beliefs as they are actually lived through, and the full body and blood of actual native life fills out soon the skeleton of abstract constructions.... As to the actual method of observing and recording in fieldwork these imponderabilia of actual life and of typical behaviour .... the main endeavour must be to let facts speak for themselves." Bronislaw Malinowski Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 18, 20

"It is by intimate, long-term acquaintance with culture groups that one gains insight...." Robert Redfield In Rubinstein, ed., Fieldwork, 126

"Without the continued grounding in the empirical that scientific aspects of our tradition provide, our interpretive efforts may float off into literary criticism and into particularistic forms of history. Without the interpretive tradition, the scientific tradition that grounds us will never get off the ground." Roy Rappaport "Cultural Anthropology's Future Agenda", 76

"Without an ethnographer, there is no ethnography ...." Paul Bohannan How Culture Works, 157

"Writing has emerged as central to what anthropologists do in the field and thereafter." James Clifford "Introduction," in Writing Culture, 2.


Copyright 1996 by Laura Tamakoshi and Brian Cross