Oceania, Vol. 89, Issue 3 (2019): 284-300
“From Contentious to Contended: An 'Event'-ful Account of Karavaran History,” by Frederick Errington, Trinity College and Deborah Gewertz, Amherst College
In 2019, we returned to Karavar, one of Papua New Guinea’s Duke of York Islands. Since our last visit 28 years earlier, many with whom we worked had died. However, their children knew about us and were eager for our recollections about the lives and times of their parents. We, in turn, wished to learn about current lives and times. Our conversations, thus, often focused on multi-generational changes. Significantly, most Karavarans thought that these changes had been for the better. Indeed, they seemed relatively satisfied with their present circumstances. In contrast, the Karavarans we had earlier known were frequently fired up with grievance, disappointment, possibility, and occasional exultation. Here we consider how contentiousness turned into contentment; how, what Karavarans had been approached what they wanted to be. In understanding this historical process, we consider several ramifying ‘events’: happenings that Karavarans recognized, whether immediately or in retrospect, as interrupting business as usual and, ultimately, as challenging assumptions about the workings of their world.