Conceiving Cultures

Reproducing People and Places on Nuakata, Papua New Guinea
Shelley Mallett
Makes explicit anthropology's implicit project to understand the self by way of the other


Conceiving Cultures critically reflects on the ways anthropologists come to understand and represent the people and cultures that they study. These ideas are developed through an ethnographic study that explores notions of the gendered person through knowledge and practices relating to reproductive health on the Massim island of Nuakata in Papua New Guinea. Conceiving Cultures makes explicit anthropology's implicit project to understand the self by way of the other.

Shelley Mallett is Research Fellow at the Key Centre for Women's Health in Society at Melbourne University.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is a superb interpretive ethnography that provides a brilliant critical re-evaluation of the nature of ethnographic understanding itself. Her arguments are subtle, her prose eloquent. It is a major contribution to the illustrious tradition of anthropological writing on the Massim region."
    --Martha Macintyre, The University of Melbourne
  • "This innovative and absorbing experiential account resoundingly reaffirms the indispensability of ethnographic field research, not only to the theorisation of the gendered person and Melanesian sociality, but to anthropology itself."
    --Michael W. Scott, London School of Economics & Political Science
  • "Mallett is an acutely perceptive miniaturist. Her intimate portrait of Nuakata, a microcosm of the matrilineal Massim, captures its people's life-world with luminous fidelity. The story of her fieldwork--its dilemmas, disappointments and discoveries--provides a poignant narrative thread. This is feminist ethnography at its best--imaginatively conceived, ethically vigilant, and beautifully crafted."
    --Michael Young, The Australian National University

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Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 352pp.
  • 14 photographs, 1 map.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06828-9

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  • $34.95 U.S.