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In traditional costume, a dancer from a remote village performs a curing dance near Gasumi Corners. Amid decline of government presence and infrastructure, Gebusi have rediscovered and reasserted important parts of their traditional culture. The photograph was taken by the author in 2008.
What is it like for a native people of the rainforest to confront the modern world? In the early 1980s, the Gebusi of Papua New Guinea conducted ritual dances and spirit seances, practiced alternative sexual customs, and endured a high rate of violence. By 1998, most Gebusi had converted to Christianity and were actively engaged in market activity, disco music, sports leagues, or school. In 2008, however, the author found that public services and the cash economy had deteriorated, and people relied increasingly on their traditional customs and practices. This book vividly portrays both the traditions and the modern challenges of Gebusi society and culture. Written specifically for students, the account uses personal stories and ethnographic examples to connect developments among the Gebusi to topics that are widely discussed in anthropology courses, including comparative features of subsistence, kinship, politics, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationalism, and modern development. This second edition of The Gebusi has been updated and edited throughout and has a new chapter and surprising new conclusions based on the author's return to the Gebusi in 2008.
List of Map, Figures, and Photographs ix
Introduction: In Search of Surprise 3
Part 1 1980-82 9
Chapter 1 Friends in the Forest 10
Chapter 2 Rhythms of Survival 24
Chapter 3 Lives of Death 38
Chapter 4 Getting Along with Kin and Killers 52
Chapter 5 Spirits, Sex, and Celebration 66
Chapter 6 Ultimate Splendor 78
Part 2 1998 91
Chapter 7 Reentry 92
Chapter 8 Yuway's Sacred Decision 106
Chapter 9 Pennies and Peanuts, Rugby and Radios 118
Chapter 10 Mysterious Romance, Marital Choice 130
Chapter 11 Sayu's Dance and After 144
Part 3 2008 159
Chapter 12 Gebusi 2008 160
Conclusion: Twenty-Eight Years amid Worlds of Change 173
List of Persons 179
Study Questions 183
Posted April 30, 2010
In the ethnography "The Gebusi - Lives Transformed in a Rainforest World," Bruce Knauft takes us to a remote area of the rainforest north of Australia, "in the small nation of Papua New Guinea" (Knauft, 3). Knauft went there to study, through participant observation, the Gebusi-people that, at the time of his first visit, scarcely had had dealings with white people and the government. They more or less lived in the stone-age. Their language and customs were unknown to other anthropologists. Knauft left, together with his wife Eileen, for this fieldwork in 1980, when he was twenty-six years old, and for a second time by himself in 1998, when he was forty-four, and for a third time in 2008. During his first visit Knauft lived in the village of Yibihilu, "the place of the deep waters," a dwelling of the Gebusi in the rainforest, for two years.
In his first encounters with the Gebusi, Knauft describes them as amazing, "at turns regal, funny, infuriating, entrancing, romantic, violent, and immersed in a world of towering trees and foliage, heat and rain, and mosquitoes and illness" (Knauft, 3). Knauft continues by telling that the Gebusi are very different from any other people, however one cannot simply stereotype them as Gebusi. Knauft says, "to lump them together as simply 'Gebusi' is as bland as it would be to describe Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, and Bart Simpson as simply 'American.' The Gebusi were not simply "a society" or "a culture"; they were an incredible mix of unique individuals" (Knauft, 4).
Overall, this ethnography is meant to have the reader learn more about the Gebusi as a people or a tribe with a special focus on the traditional customs and way of life and the developments therein. Knauft is doing this by portraying their past and their present, "and to connect the dramatic changes they have undergone with those in my career and in contemporary anthropology" (Knauft, 7).
Overall, this ethnography was very interesting to read thanks to its detailed descriptions giving a good insight in daily Gebusi life.
Posted April 30, 2010
The Gebusi by Bruce Knauft is a very personal account of the lives of the Gesbusi tribe told through stories and personal accounts by the author. The Gebusi tribe resides in the remote area of Papua New Guinea and they are virtually unknown to the world outside themselves. The author even wrote "there was so much that we didn't know about the Gebusi at first - including their name" (Knauft, 17). Through rituals and way of living, the Gebusi tribe distinguishes themselves from other tribes and through their collective conscious they are unaware of their distinctiveness. Kogwayay is the term referring to this people's culture as it is something completely different; it is "the beliefs, practices, and styles of living that are special and unique to them as a people" (Knauft, 17). This is the exact idea that Durkheim had when he spoke of collective conscience. He said "the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average members of the same society forms a particular system with a life of its one; one might call it the collective or common consciousness" (Durkheim, 39). It is this collective consciousness or kogwayay that allows for this particular group of people to shape their way of living. There are many important aspects to their lives which include religion and state involvement which can be said to influence a great deal the position that the Gebusi tribe holds in their community. The individuality that this tribe possesses is greatly detailed in this ethnography and it really allowed me to feel as if I knew how their lives really worked. I really like the quote by Eric R. Wolf regarding this stating: "The world of humankind manifolds, a totality of interconnectedness processes, and inquiries that disassemble this totality into bits and then fail to reassemble it falsify reality" (Wolf, 3). This means that all of the world is connected; we are connected to the Gebusi tribe although we have different collective consciousness because we are all humans living in the same world. It is amazing to belief that we are all connected to one another no matter the distance between us.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2010
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