Papuan Borderlands

Huli, Duna, and Ipili Perspectives on the Papua New Guinea Highlands
Aletta Biersack, Editor
Explores cultural contacts along a border zone in a region of increasing international importance


When Papua New Guinea achieved independence in 1975, the area of the western Highlands was considered a remote hinterland of the new nation-state. Today its mineral wealth- including the sensational Porgera vein of gold- has made it important to national and international economies. Most of the major scholars who have conducted research in the area here explore this critical interstitial zone, focusing on the history and culture of the Huli, Duna, and Ipili peoples. The volume provides a timely response to the keen interest in this remote, rural, and still largely traditional area.

Papuan Borderlands also makes crucial theoretical contributions to the study of anthropology and history. Noting how the various valleys and ethnic groups studied were linked through marriage, ritual, travel, and trade long before "first contact," the contributors show that the anthropology of this area must be pursued as a history of contact. Such a history centers on intercultural processes unfolding in borderlands, and it challenges any presumption that local entities are "encapsulated" within national or global entities.

Papuan Borderlands will be essential to those interested in Melanesian history and ethnography.

Aletta Biersack is Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . engages key issues of history and contemporary socioeconomic development at the same time that it puts a new and important regional piece in the ethnographic map of New Guinea. . . . a laudable example of how theoretical issues in cultural anthropology can be illuminated through individual case studies."
    --Bruce M. Knauft, Emory University
  • ". . . presents sophisticated ethnography on the peoples of Southern Highlands and Enga provinces, Papua New Guinea."
  • ". . . Papuan Borderlands is an important change off direction in Highlands Papua New Guinea anthropology. For much of its time the West Central Highlands have dominated anthropology's imagery of mainland Papua New Guinea. . . . [Biersack] calls for the northwest Southern Highlands of Duna and Huli--accompanied by the Ipili and Waka Enga to their north and easy--to be treated on their own terms. . . . She also forcefully argues for the need to consider both (post-)colonial and pre-colonial histories. . . . Papuan Borderlands heralds great promise of things to come--the plethora of new issues generated by the ethnographic particularities of the children of Hela and their historical realities."
    --Michael Nihill, Canberra Anthropology
  • "With its extroverted editorial voice and supporting ethnography, the volume as a whole provocatively relocates contemporary thinking about transcultural identities and spaces. Well worth reading, it is a fitting memorial for [Jeffrey] Clark and [Robert] Glasse (to whom it is dedicated)."
    --Rena Lederman, Princeton University, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, March 2000
  • "As a whole, the book gives renewed vitality to ethnographic studies by focusing on matters that have only recently entered mainstream Melanesianist discussions. In this sense, it explores not only the borders between cultures, but between an established "classical" Melanesian anthropology and vigorous new styles of work addressing contemporary issues of Melanesian life."
    --Dan Jorgensen, Pacific Affairs

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 456pp.
  • tables, maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1996
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10601-1

Add to Cart
  • $99.95 U.S.