By Stephen Frankel, Gilbert Lewis
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Without entering into the "structuration" debate I intend to use the approach and to argue from it that present practices in relation to illness and misfortune in Papua New Guinea are the outcome of the day-to-day experiences of preceding generations of villagers. To use such an approach avoids some of the worst features of the ahistorical ethnographic present, functionalism and historical materialism (Thrift 1983). My main task is therefore to attempt to establish a sequence of events experienced by people in a defined area and then within the same temporal and spatial frame, describe how practices relating to illness and misfortune changed.
An inhospitable coast and a rugged mountain range caused the colonial tide to wash around the Torricelli foothills. Permanent German settlement at Aitape began in 1896 but as late as 1910 many foothills villagers and the foreigners on the coast were ignorant of each others' existence. Yet infection and death came sweeping through Urat villages as though on the wings of a bird. This man was angry over the death of his child [by sorcery]. His name was Bwasale. The name of his son was Morosopun. He was a fine child.
The adults took perhaps a week. The small children, the ones whose hands you hold and walk around; one- INFECTION, INNOVATION AND RESIDENCE 43 two, and they went. Not everyone died at once. At first a few. They wrapped them in black-palm sheaths and took them to the streams. Some they put in the trees. This kept on, and on. It couldn't stop of its own accord. It kept going. Everyone ran away from the village. Into the small places. Into the bush. Then he felt sorry. Bwasale, himself, went to Nipkimbihi.
A Continuing Trial of Treatment: Medical Pluralism in Papua New Guinea by Stephen Frankel, Gilbert Lewis