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The Gebusi: Lives Transformed in a Rainforest World [Paperback]

Bruce Knauft
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 15 2004 0072972637 978-0072972634 1
What is it like for a native people of the rainforest to confront features of a modern world? In 1980-82, the Gebusi of Papua New Guinea held elaborate ritual dances and spirit seances, practiced alternative sexual customs, and endured a very high rate of violence. By 1998, however, most Gebusi had been willingly transformed by Christian conversion, schooling, market activity, disco music, sports leagues, and local government. This book vividly portrays both the traditions and the dramatic changes of Gebusi society and culture. Written especially for students, the account uses personal stories and ethnographic examples to connect developments among Gebusi to topics that are widely considered in anthropology courses, including comparative features of subsistence, kinship, economics, politics, religion, gender, ethnicity, and nationalism.

The author lived among the Gebusi for several years, on two occasions. His account of his experience with these fascinating people aims to illustrate issues and topics prominent in undergraduate anthropology courses; provide a dramatic, personal, and well-written story of cultural transformation; and unfold the relation between so-called traditional customs and so-called modern ones. His goal in publishing the ethnography is "to let the Gebusi come alive to readers, to portray their past and their present, and to connect their dramatic changes with those in my own life and those in contemporary anthropology."

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About the Author

Bruce Knauft is Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and Executive Director of the Institute of Critical International Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. He has taught a broad range of students, including many who have gone on to conduct anthropological fieldwork in diverse world areas. Author of seven books and numerous journal articles and chapters, Professor Knauft has written extensively on topics and issues in cultural anthropology. He has been interested in the Gebusi people of Papua New Guinea since his first fieldwork among them in 1980–82.

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4.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Ethnography April 7 2005
By A Customer
Knauft's the Gebusi is a perfect read not only for the undergraduate anthropology student but also for the average reader interested in culture and travel.
Knauft has a well written book that is easy to read, as well as enjoyable. This book is not a "stuffy academic tome" but an informative and helpful book.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Gebusi April 30 2010
By Patricia Gumbs - Published on Amazon.com
"Anthropology is little if not the discovery of the human unexpected" (4). The Gebusi: Lives Transformed in a Rainforest World, is a very interesting ethnography which depicts this very statement. It vividly captures the story of Bruce Knauft, a young anthropologist who set out to the island of Papua New Guinea to observe the lives of the Gebusi. When he first arrived, this native group was known primarily for its sexual freedom, "traditional" religious practices, and violent nature. Throughout his time spent in this village, however, Knauft made several startling conclusions about the Gebusi that only partially supported these conceptions.
Knauft's experience living with the Gebusi is broken down into three major time periods. The first time period examines the lives of the Gebusi between the years 1980 and 1982. From 1980 to 1982, the Gebusi culture was best described with the word "kogwayay." To put it simply, "Kogwayay refers to the customs that make the Gebusi different from others" (17). According to Knauft, "it refers especially to their distinctive traditions of singing, dancing, and bodily decoration" (17). The Gebusi culture was so unique that many found it difficult to even describe in words.
The second stage that Knauft discusses is the life of the Gebusi during the year of 1998. By this time, much of the population has converted to Christianity. In addition, external forces such as steel tools and colonial pacification "were not just present, but increasingly central" (94). By 1998, the age of mortality has risen dramatically. In addition, the Gebusi were much more involved in organizations and activities, which ultimately led to their being "more punctual and disciplined than previously" (98).
The third and final category that Knauft discusses takes place during the year 2008. By this time, the lives of the Gebusi had transformed even more dramatically. Knauft noticed that the inhabitants "possessions were indeed fewer, their clothes more torn, their ports more battered, and their knives and axes more worn than they had been before" (164). In addition, the Gebusi were not growing as much food as in previous years, and that traditional initiation customs had been "resuscitated and maintained" (167).
Overall, I enjoyed this ethnography, although not nearly as much as the others. I thought that the fact that there is so little social theory in this book made it difficult to come up with any direction to write this paper. I enjoyed reading about the lives or the Gebusi because they seem like an entertaining, unique group, but out of all of the ethnoraphies we had to read for this class, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance was by far my favorite.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and insightfull. May 9 2011
By J. Silvia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is very well written and while short in length this book is long on interesting Anthropological content. I picked this up for an Anthropology class and I enjoyed the book so much that I've recommended it to friends.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! Feb. 4 2011
By ascarta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for a class and I was shocked at how well i enjoyed it. The author makes studding a (in my view) boring topic into an interesting one.

even if your not looking to use this book for a class its a great read with caricature that really come alive. I felt for every one of them and feel i connect with them.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it for class, captivated by the culture. Oct. 2 2010
By Jesse L. Reid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Of the three books assigned for my anthropology course, The Gebusi was the only one that actually spoke to me. Knauft's writing style is exceptionally captivating as he tells the life story of such a wonderful culture. Knauft's descriptive writing allows an exceptional view of their daily lives, it almost seems as the reader grows to know the Gebusi themselves. I highly recommend The Gebusi for anyone studying anthropology, or anyone who loves reading about other culture's changes over time.
1.0 out of 5 stars DO NOT ORDER FROM TEXTBOOKSPRO!!!! Jan. 18 2014
By Alex Hafkey - Published on Amazon.com
Charged my card when I ordered the book. Then they sent me 3 emails saying there was a problem with the payment. I checked my bank account and the order went through the day I ordered it. I finally got it figured out and then 3 days later they sent me an email saying "They have received duplicate orders and no longer have the book available". This was after they chargedmy card and a week later!!! DO NOT ORDER FROM textbookspro. Money has still not been refunded.
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