A New Guinea Woman in Two Worlds
Virginia Drew Watson
- $30.00s paperback (9780295976044) Add to Cart
- hardcover not available
- Published: 1997
- Subject Listing: Anthropology
- Bibliographic information: 192 pp., 19 photos, map, notes, glossary, bibliog., index
- Territorial rights: world
- Series: A McLellan Book
Anyan was born in the mid-1920s into the pre-metal culture of the Tairora of what is now called Papua New Guinea. Her early life was rooted in the traditions of her remote village, where she worked the land and took part in the rituals connected with raising food, but she lived at the time of first contact between her people and those from “outside” and she saw the traditional ways begin to change. At her marriage she moved to the government station at Kainantu, where she was exposed to more Western influences, even as she tried to hold on to her past and her ties to her village. Before she died in the mid-1970s, this woman of indomitable spirit rode in an airplane and voted in a Western-style election.
When Virginia Watson began her anthropological fieldwork in the eastern highlands of New Guinea in 1954, she needed an interpreter for the unwritten language of the Tairora. Fortune sent her Anyan. In their work together as Watson researched the role of Tairora women, Anyan gradually painted a picture of her society using events from her own life. Over many years of collaboration and deepening friendship a remarkable life history was told, one that bridged the periods before and after contact with Western culture. When Watson suggested the book to Anyan, “she was elated. She was anxious that everyone know about Tairora. Her pride in her upbringing, in her culture, in her beautiful corner of the world, was apparent.”
Individuals experience the shock of cultural transplantation in many ways. As Watson writes, “some of those forced to make the move from one culture to another were consumed by it, and some were consigned to straddling the dark void that the cultural disparities created. Others, like Anyan, were able to maintain equilibrium in both cultures.”
Anyan’s Story will be of interest to anthropologists and other social scientists. It is a valuable study of gender roles, women’s experience in cross-cultural societies, and culture shock.
Virginia Drew Watson is coauthor of Prehistory of the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea, volume 3 in the University of Washington Press series Anthropological Studies in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea. She is curatorial affiliate at the Burke Museum, University of Washington.