The Institute for Intercultural Studies

FIELDWORK CONTINUES IN MANUS, PNG











PART 2:
IN THE FIELD: Fieldwork Continues in Manus, Papua, New Guinea
Ellen and Peter Demarath

Some houses in Pere village are of traditional thatch construction (top) while a growing number are now built in the Western style (bottom). Both are raised above the ground, however—a vestige of when houses were built over the water in the lagoon.


Other anthropologists are building on Margaret Mead’s work, continuing to describe the process of social change. This is most conspicuous in Manus, Papua New Guinea, where nearly a dozen anthropologists have now worked, starting with Mead and Reo Fortune in 1929, Mead and Theodore Schwartz in 1953, Barbara Heath Roll and others, some returning again and again. Since 1982 several students from the University of Pennsylvania have conducted fieldwork in Pere. Most recently, Ellen and Peter Demerath have brought complementary skills to anthropological research there. Ellen, a physical anthropologist at Wright State University, is currently studying the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease in Manus. Her research focuses on understanding how rapid modernization, including changes in diet and physical activity, have put more Manus people at risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Peter, an educational anthropologist at Ohio State University, studies education and student culture. He is currently conducting research on
Left: Parents enroll the new class of Pere community school students (Jan ’95). Right: On special occasions food is still cooked the traditional way by wrapping bundles of taro and sweet potatoes in banana leaves and baking them in a hot stone oven (Sept ’95).
 
local perceptions of formal education, including changing relationships between student identity and academic achievement.

Karol Matawai, who was just a toddler when Mead first conducted fieldwork in the village, "inherited" the role of research assistant and adoptive father to subsequent generations of visiting anthropologists from his step-brother John Kilepak, one of Mead’s original "houseboys" in 1929. To show their gratitude for a lifetime of devoted assistance, Karol’s friends sponsored a trip to the United States in August 1998. Karol served as the village representative to the memorial service for anthropologist Barbara Heath Roll, and was hosted by Fred Roll in Carmel, California, Theodore Schwartz in San Diego, California, and the Demeraths in Dayton, Ohio.

Women cooperate to haul firewood from the forest to the seaside village of Pere (June ’95).

The Demerath’s most recent trip to Manus was in 1995. They are planning to return in 2000 to document how this historically egalitarian group is striving to improve the health and well-being of its members in the midst of poor economic growth, increasing social stratification, and ecological degradation affecting their marine and timber resources. The Demeraths also plan to provide video footage of village life and activities to be integrated with the Mead2001 celebration.

- Mary Catherine Bateson



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