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Euphoria and BC's Museum of Anthropology Papa New Guinea Exibit

abstract:Coincidence behold. My Vancouver book group just finished reading and discussing Lily King's book, Euforia (Harper Collins) based on a period in the life of Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist who studied and reported on the indigenous peoples along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea.

Two days later, as a member of the BC Museum of Anthropology, I received an invitation to the opening of a new MOA exhibit titled, "In The Footsteps of Crocodile Man: Contemporary Art of the Sepik River", which features modern artifacts and video footage of some of the same indigenous peoples featured in Lily King's book. What a spot of luck! My whole group is planning to attend the opening because of our captivation with Euforia, which we highly recommend to those people interested in a primer before they view the exhibit. If you are not able to make it to In The Footsteps of Crocodile Man (March 1, 2016 January 31, 2017) at the MOA in Vancouver, do check out the museum's web portal.

Read the review of Euphoria at Salon.com and view the author's book trailer below:

article:

February 27, 2016
— What I enjoyed about Euphoria are the insights into the different personalities, field of interests, and styles of approach between anthropologists when studying their subjects. What do we learn from the study of so called primitive peoples, and how can we compare them to our own cultural norms today? How do anthropologists account for personal bias or potential variations in interpretation? Is it valid to interfere in the cultures of these people, even if we only profess to observe them?

Margaret Mead was a skilled and organized researcher who kept copious notebooks on the language, daily routines, rituals, sexual behaviour, use of psychotropics and warrior tendencies of the tribes she embedded into. As an outsider, she strived for acceptance in the community and formed strong attachments which shaped her views of contemporary society and resulted in obvious changes to her own personal behavior. We see the need to remain vigilant for signs of danger presented by people with known histories of violent and murderous behaviour. As an armchair observer, it is easy to gloss over the hardship of conditions in the jungle. Crocodiles, snakes, insects and disease. Mead concluded they were balanced on the edge of madness for the majority of their time because of the effects of malaria, the complexities of a developing love triangle and inevitable professional competitiveness.

Further Reading

  • Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation: This is the book Margaret Mead published about her work studying the sexual habits of Samoan youth which became a bestseller that shocked contemporary values.
  • Margaret Mead: A Life: the biography by Jane Howard.
  • Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power
  • : If you are looking to understand the modern day impact of global corporate exploitation on the region, this is the book.
    Eben Kirksey first went to West Papua, the Indonesian-controlled half of New Guinea, as an exchange student in 1998. His later study of West Papua's resistance to the Indonesian occupiers and the forces of globalization morphed as he discovered that collaboration, rather than resistance, was the primary strategy of this dynamic social movement... Blending ethnographic research with indigenous parables, historical accounts, and narratives of his own experiences, he argues that seeking freedom in entangled worlds requires negotiating complex interdependencies.

     

     

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