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The Gift of Shame

The Invention of Postcolonial Society

Karen Sykes

Twenty-five years ago, Roy Wagner in his book, The Invention of Culture asked his reader to comprehend the invention of society as an ongoing effort, especially an effort made by members aware of the changes that can be wrought by their actions. In doing so, he posed the problem of what kind of society people thought they were making, contrasting the social contract of the Euro-American political thought with the processual sociality imagined by Melanesians (1975, 1974). The theoretical insights of Wagner can be brought to bear on the period of independence in Papua New Guinea when Melanesians were making a new sociality. I will discuss the dialectics of Wagner’s approach, as they are played out at the time of the publication of his book; that is, in the early years of the creation of the new nation of Papua New Guinea.

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Karen M. Sykes and Felix Stein

Edward F. Fischer, The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity and the Anthropology of Well Being. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp. 263, 2015.

Stephen Gudeman, Anthropology and Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 233, 2016.

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Ibrahim G. Aoude, Sandra Bamford, Mark T. Berger, Doug Dalton, Allen Feldman, Jonathan Friedman, John Gledhill, Richard Handler, Keith Hart, Michael Humphrey, Dan Jorgensen, Bruce Kapferer, Clive Kessler, Leif Manger, David A. B. Murray, Joel Robbins, Michael Rowlands, Marshall Sahlins, Elizabeth Stassinos, Marilyn Strathern, Karen Sykes and Souchou Yao

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