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Friday, July 8, 2011

A World Among Worlds - Papua New Guinea

To see ourselves as others see us can be eye-opening. To see others as sharing a nature with ourselves is the merest decency. But it is from the far more difficult achievement of seeing ourselves amongst others, as a local example of the forms human life as locally taken, a case among cases, a world among worlds, that the largeness of mind, without which objectivity is self-congratulation and tolerance a sham, comes.
Clifford Geertz, Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthopology (1983)
 I had a hit today from a blog that I did not recognize and I decided to go have look since it sounded interesting.  The site is called tubuans & dukduks and it is authored by a young person from Papua New Guinea.

This is a really good, well-written, informative blog.  To have the chance to discover something something entirely new (I knew nothing about PNG) and have a really good time in the process, well, that just made my day.  There are two posts so far that I especially like and might be of interest to you:

The first is called PNG Independence 1975 - Were We Ready?  that captures the ambivalence that people in a newly independent country can feel years after they achieve autonomy.  Are things better or worse as a result?  Was this a good idea?  Would things have been different if it had been delayed?  I'm astounded that they can talk about this openly.  This is not true everywhere.

The second is called French Firm Poaches and Patents PNG's "Bilum".  I read it twice since the story has all the elements of a first-rate culture clash between two  geographically distant peoples who know very little about each other and may, in fact, be oblivious to their shared values.  The way I read the story there are no clear angels and devils.  The French non-profit that patented the name and the product did not seem to have understood that they were dealing with a "poached national cultural-identity unique to Papua New Guinea" and seem a bit startled that the PNG people would take exception to their actions.   I think a close analogy would be the way French people sometimes react angrily to California vineyards calling their product "Champagne."  The French are very protective of their cultural heritage and do, in principle, respect the right of others to protect theirs against commercialization.  However, like all principles, this one is not always observed by everyone all the time.  Read the post with an open mind and be aware there are some fairly inflammatory anti-French sentiments expressed in the comments section.

I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I do.  Bon weekend!

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