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After the Cult: Perceptions of Other and Self in West New Britain (Papua New Guinea)

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After the Cult

Perceptions of Other and Self in West New Britain (Papua New Guinea)

Holger Jebens

250 pages, 2 maps, 20 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-674-0 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (April 2010)

ISBN  978-0-85745-798-1 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (December 2012)

eISBN 978-1-84545-822-5 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $34.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


What emerges [from this study]  is a many-layered reflection on the history of the Kivung that weaves together rich reflexive ethnography, oral history, and the history of anthropology. Among the book’s virtues is Jebens’ careful attention to the individuality of informants and the contexts in which they spoke.”  ·  Anthropos

“…an intriguing intervention in anthropology’s long-running engagement with the idea of the cargo cult in the South Pacific…Jebens has showcased a highly sophisticated approach to some complex material. After the Cultmust take an important place in contemporary debates around cargo cult.  ·  JRAI

This detailed book uses ethnographic and archival work to create an ethnography that synthesizes… research on topics such as cargo cults, reflexivity in fieldwork, cultural objectification and colonialism. This makes After the Cult of interest not only to Melanesianists but also to a much broader anthropological audience…After the Cult deserves to be widely read and cited…Jebens’s intelligent theoretical contribution and superb ethnography deserves a wide audience.”  ·  American Anthropologist

While After the cult will be of interest to Melanesianists in particular, Jebens’s interesting conclusions regarding memory and recollection, the mutual influence of the anthropologist and the people who are studied, as well as the production of anthropological knowledge in general, merit a much wider readership.  ·  Anthropological Forum

"Here, finally, is a book that realizes on a grand scale the long-held promise that the study of cargo cults can teach us as much about anthropology as about the Melanesians who participate in them… this is the book to bring the study of cargo cults into the twentieth-first century. It should join those classics in being widely read and broadly influential."  ·  Joel Robbins, University of California, San Diego


In many parts of the world the “white man” is perceived to be an instigator of globalization and an embodiment of modernity. However, so far anthropologists have paid little attention to the actual heterogeneity and complexity of “whiteness” in specific ethnographic contexts. This study examines cultural perceptions of other and self as expressed in cargo cults and masked dances in Papua New Guinea. Indigenous terms, images, and concepts are being contrasted with their western counterparts, the latter partly deriving from the publications and field notes of Charles Valentine. After having done his first fieldwork more than fifty years ago, this “anthropological ancestor” has now become part of the local tradition and has thus turned into a kind of mythical figure. Based on anthropological fieldwork as well as on archival studies, this book addresses the relation between western and indigenous perceptions of self and other, between “tradition” and “modernity,” and between anthropological “ancestors” and “descendants.” In this way the work contributes to the study of “whiteness,” “cargo cults” and masked dances in Papua New Guinea.

Holger Jebens is Adjunct Professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of Goethe University, Senior Research Fellow at the Frobenius Institute and Managing Editor of Paideuma. He spent many years doing fieldwork in highland and seaboard Papua New Guinea. His publications include Cargo, Cult, and Culture Critique (Hawai’i University Press, 2004), Pathways to Heaven (Berghahn Books, 2005), and The end of Anthropology (co-ed., Sean Kingston Publishing, 2011).

Subject: Anthropology of ReligionAnthropology (General)
Area: Asia-Pacific


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