Peacemaking and the Imagination: Papua New Guinea Perspectives

Issue Date: 
February 6, 2012

There are two opposing views of violence in human affairs. One contends that violence is an ingrained propensity and, therefore, there are inherent problems in peacemaking. The other contends that people are inclined toward cooperative and peaceful behavior and violence represents an abnormal breakdown of this state of relationships. In Peacemaking and the Imagination: Papua New Guinea Perspect ives (University of Queensland Press, Penguin Australia, 2011), Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewar t f rom the Department of Anthropology in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences argue that in communities where violence must be paid for through compensation, violent conflict can be contained.

With a primary reference to the Highlands of Papua New Guinea and by drawing comparisons to cases from Africa, Pakistan, and other arenas of tribal social formations, the authors explore how rituals such as wealth disbursement, oath taking, sacrifice, and formal apologies are often used as a means of averting or transcending acts of revenge after violence. Strathern is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Anthropology and Stewart a senior research associate at Pitt.

“More than 40 years of field research and writing have gone into the making of this book,” the authors said. “Writing Peacemaking and the Imagination was the occasion for us to revisit and rework many themes from our earlier work on violence, but this time with the focus on peace, not war.”

The book is the third title in the University of Queensland Press’ New Approaches to Peace and Conflict series, which publishes new theory, research, and strategies for effective peace building and the transformation of violent conflict.

Strathern and Stewart are a husband- and-wife research team with a long history of joint publication and research. They are frequently invited as international lecturers and have carried out long-term fieldwork in the Pacific, Asia, and Europe in a wide range of subjects, including conflict and violence.