Reflecting on loss in Papua New Guinea

Melissa Demian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article takes up the conundrum of conducting anthropological fieldwork with people who claim that they have 'lost their culture,' as is the case with Suau people in the Massim region of Papua New Guinea. But rather than claiming culture loss as a process of dispossession, Suau claim it as a consequence of their own attempts to engage with colonial interests. Suau appear to have responded to missionization and their close proximity to the colonial-era capital by jettisoning many of the practices characteristic of Massim societies, now identified as 'kastom.' The rejection of kastom in order to facilitate their relations with Europeans during colonialism, followed by the mourning for kastom after independence, both invite consideration of a kind of reflexivity that requires action based on the presumed perspective of another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-532
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • Culture loss
  • Custom
  • Death
  • Forgetting
  • Massim


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