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Book Launch: Ross Bowden – ‘The Yalaku: History and Warfare in the Middle Sepik’

March 25 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Monday 25 March 2024,  1.00 – 3.00pm GMT

To join us on Zoom, register here:

The Yalaku: History and Warfare in the Middle Sepik

Dr Ross Bowden

with Dr Robert Welsch as discussant

This ground-breaking and beautifully illustrated ethnography of the Kaunga-speaking Yalaku provides the first detailed history of any of the 200 language groups in the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. The story of this society, recorded by Ross Bowden at their request, is told by the people themselves, and contains by far the most complete account of traditional warfare in this region.

The history begins around 1800, the limit of Yalaku cultural memory. It describes the flashpoints that ignited tribal fighting (from the theft of a hunting dog to accusations of sorcery), the strategic thinking of warriors, the use of alliances, the building of structural defences, and even the actual blows of notable battles. It includes songs recounting the reversals of fortunes a warrior can experience and the laments of women over their loved ones, relaying the perspectives of both war-parties and attacked communities. This gripping narrative, performed in a men’s house with both men and women present, is both a feat of memory and a communal endeavour.

Bowden’s deft ethnographic analyses of the social structure and myths of the Yalaku provide the essential context to understand this society once locked into warfare with their neighbours, adversaries who knew each other’s names, spoke each other’s languages, intermarried, and during peacetime took part together in rituals at which their shared history was sung.



Ross Bowden is an Australian cultural anthropologist and the author of four books on the Kwoma. He taught anthropology for many years at La Trobe University in Melbourne (Australia) but is now an independent scholar.

The book is published by Sean Kingston Publishing.
More info here: https://www.seankingston.co.uk/publishing.html



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March 25
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category: