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Grant number like: FB-50452-04

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Rupert Stasch
Regents of the University of California, San Diego (Portland, OR 97202-8199)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2004 – 8/31/2005

Bonds with Others among Korowai of West Papau, Indonesia

During the fellowship year, I will complete a book manuscript about how Korowai people in West Papua, Indonesia, hold to a distinctive vision of social relations in which people's strangeness to one another is the very focus of their efforts to be connected. Korowai live thinly dispersed across their landscape. They place a premium on egalitarianism, while constantly striving to create social bonds across divides of separation and independence. This book examines the Korowai focus on otherness as it informs their relations in space, their intimate family ties, their experiences of grief and efforts to resolve it, and their practices of large-scale feasting. The study contributes to humanistic understanding of social relations generally, and to interdisciplinary scholarly discourse on otherness, in three ways. First, it offers a positive corrective to use of "other" as an overly-homogenizing category of analysis, by distinguishing qualitatively different kinds of otherness-focused social relations within a single society, and by contrasting overall Korowai paterns of otherness-focused relations with logics of social connection in other societies. Second, the study unprecedentedly documents links between Korowai people's focus on otherness in their social relations on the one hand, and the egalitarian politics of their spatial dispersion and constant travel, on the other hand. Third, this work strengthens scholarly frameworks for interpreting bonds of otherness by adapting techniques of analysis from linguistic anthropology and anthropological studies of representation to the analysis of Korowai social ties. The study's interpretations are based on close reading of the media in which people create their social relations, such as their modes of sensory contact, their ways of referring to each other in speech, and their practices of food-sharing and gift-giving.