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Subject: Physical Attacks in Hagen are of PNG
From: Pamela J Stewart <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Pamela J Stewart <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 28 Sep 1999 12:00:54 -0400

TEXT/PLAIN (60 lines)

Physical Attacks in Hagen area of PNG

        We report here attacks on research workers from Australia,
America, and Papua New Guinea that took place in the Hagen area of the
Western Highlands Province of PNG during the summer of 1999.
         We recently informed Bruce Knauft and a few other colleagues of a
particularly disturbing physical attack on us by a drunken young man with
a bush knife while we were working in the Hagen area.  Bruce asked us to
perhaps let others know what had happened as an advisory (not a deterrent)
to students and
researchers working in the area.  We know that different areas of Papua
New Guinea differ in terms of violence and that each area has its own
history and particular set of unique conditions. Bruce Knauft pointed out
that for his own area (among the Gebusi of Western Province) he has had no
difficulties of the sort that we report here.   Other researchers have
told us about violent physical attacks that they have sustained while
working in various parts of PNG (both urban and rural areas).
      As most of you will know from newspaper reports, journal articles,
and personal experience the problems associated with violence in parts of
Papua New Guinea, especially in coastal cities and generally in the
Highlands,  have reached a level that is generating concern on the
part of government ministers as well as our Papua New Guinean friends and
collaborators, and the populace at large.   We recently received a letter
from a long-time collaborator, living in the Hagen area,  who has told us
that subsequent to our
departure from the field area there was a round of attacks on a team of
research workers long acquainted with the area in Hagen, involving the
same kind of assailants who attacked us.  In one of the incidents a senior
Hagen man was beaten after refusing to hand over wage money that was
destined to pay workers on the research project.  In the second case a
research vehicle was stolen
and the research workers, one from Australia and the other a national,
were kidnapped and then released to seek commercial transport back to
their lodgings.  This was an ordeal for those involved.  Local leaders
intervened to get back the stolen car in
addition to a stolen camera.  We asked the attacked parties if they
thought we should post this note as advice to our colleagues and the
senior researcher said that it was helpful to do this.
        These matters are clearly serious.  They involve the Papua New
with whom we work as well as ourselves.  In the case of the attack upon
us, we were with a long-term collaborator.  He bravely spoke up to the
drunken young man (who was from within his own community) in an attempt to
shame him, but the attacker was too
drunk to listen.  Hagen leaders say that younger men who have become gang
members will not listen to them, they fear for their own safety and are
sorry that "raskols" are producing shame for their individual groups.
In Anthropology and Humanism [24(10), 1999, pp. 20-31] we discuss an
attack that occurred on us in 1997 on the Highlands Highway and the
narratives of dangers that our Papua  New Guinean traveling companions on
that journey had previously experienced -- one of them had been kidnapped
        These issues are difficult and taxing for Papua New Guineans and
They are important, but dangerous, to study.  As we are sure most of you
know, it is best to learn not to
be lulled into a sense of safety or think that one is exempt from the
possibility of violence.  Even while we are surrounded by our friends and
collaborators with whom we work there are violent contingents of youth in
the communities who threaten us and our Papua New Guinean friends.

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