Don Kulick

Oct 7, 2019

A Death in the Rainforest

How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea

Algonquin Books 2019

purchase at bookshop.org Called "perhaps the finest and most profound account of ethnographic fieldwork and discovery that has ever entered the anthropological literature" by the Wall Street Journal, A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea (Algonquin Books, 2019) is an account of Don Kulick's thirty year involvement with a single village in Papua New Guinea, Gapun. In it, Kulick tells the story of language loss in the village, as well as his own experiences of violence during fieldwork in a remarkable, engaging, and clearly-written book designed to engage all readers, not just academics. In this episode of the podcast Don and Alex talk about Papua New Guinea, where they have both done research. Don talks about the difficulty of producing accurate but negative portrayals of the community he worked with and cared about, and the academic politics of these sorts of representations. They talk about long-term fieldwork and how it shapes your career, as well as how Don's portrayal of Gapun people squares with Marilyn Strathern's well-known accounts of Melanesian 'dualism'. Don Kulick is the editor and author of more than a dozen books, including Fat: The Anthropology of Obsession, Taboo: Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Fieldwork, and Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction: Socialization, Self and Syncretism in a Papua New Guinea Village. His is currently Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology at Uppsala University in Sweden, where he directs the research program Engaging Vulnerability.
Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is the editor of a special number of Anthropological Forum on "The Politics of Order in Contemporary Papua New Guinea"

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