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Pathways of change

Anton Ploeg


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1This monograph is the major result of my very lengthy study of the ethnography of the highlands of western New Guinea. My introduction to the highlands was in 1960-1962 when I did my Ph.D. research among a group of Lani, in Bokondini. It resulted in the publication of my dissertation in 1969. From the late 1960s I was engaged in development studies and in university teaching and administration. However, I had the opportunity to resume my western New Guinea research from 1991, the year I took early retirement from my job in the social sciences faculty at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Since then, I have published a series of papers on highlands ethnography, many of which are listed in the bibliography. They were steps towards drafting this monograph, although I had not expected that it would take me so long to bring the work to completion. I thank Chris Ballard, Pascale Bonnemère and Pierre Lemonnier who read the draft and commented on it.

2I am grateful to the Australian National University, Canberra, for funding my initial research, the guidance I got in the then Department of Anthropology and Sociology, and its later hospitality in granting me a succession of Visiting Fellowships. I am also grateful to the ASAO, the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania. Its annual conferences offered me a forum to present several papers dealing with the highlands.

3George Appell showed me that it was possible to be productive without the stimulus provided by membership in a university department or research institute. His appreciation of my work was a source of support that has lasted for decades. On both counts I am greatly indebted to him. René van der Haar, Centre for Pacific and Asian Studies, Radboud University, Nijmegen, readily and repeatedly gave me most valuable advice. I thank Siegfried Zöllner and Volker Heeschen for commenting on the draft chapters in which I discussed the Yali and the Eipo peoples.

4The translations from Dutch, French and German quotations, and of the single Indonesian one, are my own. I thank Nora C. Scott who corrected my English with great care. De Getemde Muis, Zutphen, skilfully transformed three maps for use in this book.

5I have written this book in my study in Harfsen, the Netherlands, using my own library and sources borrowed from the libraries of the KITLV, the Royal Institute of Anthropology and Linguistics, and of Leiden University. Consequently, it presents an outside view of New Guinean ways of life. I very much hope that it will be complemented, in the near future, by accounts by insiders.

6Pierre and Anne-Marie Pétrequin let me use two pictures taken during their fieldwork in Papua. Likewise Marion Melk-Koch gave me permission to use two pictures taken by Gerd Koch during his fieldwork among the Eipo, in 1974, and Susanne Reuter allowed me to use again two pictures taken among the Yali in the 1970s by her father Klaus Reuter. Finally, I am fortunate using two pictures that Jos Donkers took while visiting Sibbele Hylkema in Apmisibil in the 1960s. I greatly appreciate their support.

7Finally, I am grateful to my wife, Magda Bolt, who never appeared to doubt that I would indeed get the book completed.

8Anton Ploeg

9Harfsen, July 2019

© pacific-credo Publications, 2020

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