Malinowski's Legacy: One Hundred Years of Anthropology in the Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea

International Conference organized by Dr. Sergio Jarillo de la Torre
August 11-14, 2015 - Alotau, Milne Bay Province, PNG
For any queries please contact: [email protected]

Open blue ocean PNG
Photo taken by Sergio Jarillo de la Torre

June 2015 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Bronislaw Malinowski’s first arrival in the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. Ever since then, his seminal work has put the Massim region on the anthropological map, making it one of the most assiduously studied places of the social sciences universe. Malinowski has led the way for countless other researchers to the islands and mainland regions of the Milne Bay Province in the last 100 years. His influence and that of the Massim on anthropological practice and theory remains a long lasting and ongoing one.

In August 2015 (11-14th) we wish to commemorate this important centennial and the role of the Massim region as a 'sacred place' in anthropology by hosting a 4-day international conference in Alotau, the capital of the Milne Bay Province. The conference will bring together a number of researchers who have carried out ethnographic fieldwork in the area, and/or have used Massim materials to make significant contributions to anthropological theory and practice. Malinowski’s Legacy will be the first conference of its kind to take place in Alotau, acknowledging the necessity to bring scholarship closer to its fields and the peoples from which anthropological knowledge is derived. The conference proposes to be a conversation between anthropologists and the inhabitants of the Milne Bay, who also recognize the anthropological import of their home place, and often express the wish to engage with the products that ‘their’ anthropologists create once fieldwork has come to an end. Specifically, we wish to focus our attentions in this symposium on themes that reflect the deep history of the ethnographic endeavor, in conversation with the current realities of social change in the Massim region and alternative readings on established Massim literature.While written and debated by ethnographers primarily from outside the region, the creation and circulation of a Massim-based ethnographic knowledge might best be seen as a communal assemblage of perspectives and projections; we do not create anthropological knowledge without the cooperation and assistance of our interlocutors, and the process of creating anthropological knowledge is a dialogical one. An overarching theme for the symposium aims at exemplifying the extent to which Malinowski and anthropology ‘created’ the Massim as much as the Massim created anthropology and Malinowski. As a reflection on the historical depth and topical breadth of anthropological scholarship in the region, we take Malinowski as our hinge, so to speak, and encourage each participant to identify a passage or statement from one of his works around which to anchor his or her contribution.

Please check back in the coming weeks for updates and information about the conference program and venue.