The Committed Anthropologist

Seventeen years later……

Since creating the internet site The Anthropologist in the Field in 1996, I have continued to do research with the Gende in Papua New Guinea and have written both scholarly and more community-focused works on gambling, development, inequality, gender violence, the politics of culture and sexuality, and the internet as a teaching tool and a platform for cultural heritage projects and e-museums. In addition to teaching and writing, I was the first visual media review editor for Pacific Studies (1996-2001) and have acted in a variety of leading roles in the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania and Melanesian Interest Group. In 2007, having retired from teaching, I began several new research projects, one focused on Betty Higgins’ run for National Parliament in 2007, two cultural heritage books printed expressly for the Gende (The Gende: People of the High Country of New Guinea 2011 and Growing up Gende 2012), and a major social mapping/census project between 2007 and 2011 that included the residents and absentees of more than twenty Gende villages currently being impacted by Marengo Mining’s search for copper and the expansion of the “Yandera project”. While technology has made fieldwork easier (such as being able to email, skype, and Facebook friends and family both at home and in Yandera village; and the recent spread of cell phones throughout Gende villages and other areas of Papua New Guinea allowing me to ask questions from afar), fieldwork in remote villages still requires the efforts described in The Anthropologist in the Field (such as packing the right clothes, being prepared to undergo culture shock, fitting in and achieving rapport at the same time as one carries out organized research and interviews).

As I reflect back on the past thirty-one years since I first went to work with the Gende in 1982-83, I have many ideas about sharing that work and its results with the Gende and others, including a website I am working on that will include many of the old photos I took as well as those taken by early missionaries and several collections of stories focusing on the human side of the anthropologist in the field and the many transitions Gende individuals have been going through. Learning to write for a general audience while maintaining ethnographic verisimilitude is an exciting and necessary challenge in a world where all too many people see Papua New Guineans as stone-age survivors living in a Hollywood-like Navi-land.

Dr. Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi
May 2, 2013


Copyright © 1996 by Laura Tamakoshi and Brian Cross