Dancing through Time: A Sepik Cosmology

Dancing through Time: A Sepik Cosmology

Dancing through Time: A Sepik Cosmology

Dancing through Time: A Sepik Cosmology


Dancing through Time presents a rich and incisive analysis of person, time, and identity among the Karawari speakers of Ambonwari village in the East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, through the examination of everyday practices, language, social institutions, kinship, myths, spirit-things, rituals, and dances. In addition to its descriptive value, the book offers a fresh theoretical approach to the study of Melanesian cultures.


When I was a boy in primary school a friend gave me a book for my birthday. the dedication was from Richard Bach Jonathan Livingston Seagull:

If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. and in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice? (1970:63)

Much as I liked this saying I was somewhat puzzled by it. Over the years, as I travelled through Europe, North and Central America, South-East Asia, and Australasia, I began to grasp those Heres and Nows, but I still wondered about that 'middle of Here and Now'.

Shortly after starting high school, I was lucky to befriend a bohemian film director with whom I used to exchange thoughts about the works of fin-de-siècle novelists which were a 'must' for that 'Here' and 'Now' of intellectuals. Influenced by him I 'departed on a long journey' through the many volumes of Proust Remembrance of Things Past, which had been sensitively translated into the Slovene language. Among other things, Proust's description of the Narrator's great-aunt's room and his blaming human habit for his inability to familiarize himself with new surroundings made me wonder for a long time to come. Not that I had any such problems myself, nor was I particularly interested in 'regaining lost time', but I did begin to value my memories and my past despite my future-oriented daydreaming. I even understood why Proust thought of entitling his first volume The Age of Names.

While still studying pharmacy I journeyed for several months around south Mexico and Guatemala, and this experience was crucial for my future life. I spent time with Slovene ethnologists, whose lifestyle I admired compared to that of pharmacists. the two 'fields', in Bourdieu's sense, were far apart. Slovene ethnology was oriented towards folklore and national heritage and it was hard to find anyone who had conducted serious ethnographic fieldwork outside Europe. Since it was Latin America that fascinated several ethnologists of my acquaintance (among them my brother) I decided to take a different path -- towards the East.

In 1985 I left Yugoslavia on a journey which still continues. I spent more than three years in Papua New Guinea, almost five in Australia, one in England, and the rest either travelling or in Slovenia. I conducted my first research in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea as a qualified pharmacist interested in ethnomedicine, and that is when I became truly fascinated by New Guinea's cultures. This led me to pursue the study of anthropology. I com-

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