Built in Niugini

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Built in Niugini: Constructions in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea by Paul Sillitoe

Vol. 1 of the RAI Book Series.

The sequel to the acclaimed Made in Niugini, which explored in unparalleled depth the material world of the Wola comprising moveable artefacts, Built in Niugini continues Paul Sillitoe’s project in exemplary fashion, documenting the built environment, architecture and construction techniques in a tour de force of ethnography. But this is more than a book about building houses. Sillitoe also shows how material constructions can serve to further our understandings of intellectual constructions. Allowing his ethnography to take the lead, and paying close attention to the role of tacit understandings and know-how in both skilled work and everyday dwelling, his close experiential analyses inform a phenomenologically inflected discussion of profound philosophical questions – such as what can we know of being-in-the-world – from startlingly different cultural directions.

The book also forms part of a long-term project to understand a radically different ‘economy’, which is set in an acephalous order that extends individual freedom and equality in a manner difficult to imagine from the perspective of a nation-state – an intriguing way of being-in-the-world that is entwined with tacit aspects of knowing via personal and emotional experience. This brings us back to the explanatory power of a focus on technology, which Sillitoe argues for in the context of ‘materiality’ approaches that feature prominently in current debates about the sociology of knowledge. Archaeology has long been to the fore in considering technology and buildings, along with vernacular architecture, and Sillitoe contributes to a much needed dialogue between anthropology and these disciplines, assessing the potential and obstacles for a fruitful rapprochement.

Built in Niugini represents the culmination of Sillitoe’s luminous scholarship as an anthropologist who dialogues fluidly with the literature and ideas of numerous disciplines. The arguments throughout engage with key concepts and theories from anthropology, archaeology, architecture, material culture studies, cognitive science, neuroscience and philosophy. The result is a significant work that contributes to not only our regional knowledge of the New Guinea Highlands but also to studies of tacit knowledge and the anthropology of architecture and building practices.
Trevor Marchand, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies

List of figures; List of maps; List of plates; List of tables; Foreword; Preface; Chapter 1 – Whys and wherefores of construction; Chapter 2 – A dwelling perspective; Chapter 3 – Locating the house, locating the social; Chapter 4 – A seminar: what can archaeology and anthropology do together?; Chapter 5 – Seminar postscript: accessing minds, past and present; Chapter 6 – Building materials and materiality; Chapter 7 – House construction: a how-to-do-it account and critique; Chapter 8 – Some other structures: tradition and change; Chapter 9 – Snakes and bridges: social constructivism?; Chapter 10 – Gender structures and divisions; Chapter 11 – Passing on knowing: hands-on participation; Chapter 12 – Knowing the tacit; Chapter 13 – Doing it to know it; Appendix – Glossary of Wola construction terms; References; Index

Paul Sillitoe FBA is Professor of Anthropology at Durham University

Hardback, ISBN 978-1-907774-45-4, £100.00 (GBP), $150.00 (USD)

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