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Call for post conference papers in the jso (jso 146)- The materiality of Sepik societies: New vision, old problems

Philippe Peltier (éd.), Markus Schindlbeck (éd.) et Christian Kaufmann (éd.)

The Sepik River area is as remarkable for the considerable number of local societies it hosts as for their complex structures. The material culture of the region shows a stupendous variety of often surprising forms. Hence this area has functioned as a laboratory for anthropological field research, especially when it came to reflecting on the role of rituals or on the use of objects in their proper context. In this field earlier anthropologists such as - to name but a few - Richard Thurnwald, Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, John Whiting or Alfred Bühler have contributed significantly.

Based on research undertaken over the last decades, the relationship between rituals and materialized expressions of values has been fundamentally reconsidered. These studies have shown that objects and images emerging in rituals help to constitute the personal identity of individuals as much as they are instrumental in establishing the spatial dimension of any local society. Defining the temporal dimension of these societies is also part of the interplay between ritual and objects.

Some of these new approaches have been presented at a conference held in October 2015 at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. The present call for papers aims at completing the project of the conference by assembling further papers relating to the themes discussed in the conference sessions. We invite researchers having worked in the Lower and Middle Sepik areas, or those offering a comparative view including from other parts of the Sepik region, to consider contributing to the planned publication.

From the early days of colonisation up to the most recent trends of globalisation, the tension between continuity and disruption has again and again informed research on modes of change in social and cultural practice. Based on this view three main lines of enquiry may help to structure the papers:

1 The impact of Sepik ethnography on the history of anthropology

Under this heading the role played by fieldwork in the Sepik area in developing the discipline of ethnology (in the English sense of the term, i.e. with a focus on materiality) should be analysed. One could also take into account the more general impact of studies based on fieldwork from the early 1900s to about the 1970’s.

2 Why and how have cultural practices changed or been transformed.

Here the changes affecting ceremonial life, such as the ban on head hunting or the reinterpretation of the ritual chiefs’ roles, may come into focus. This perspective will also encompass further after-effects of people returning to their village after periods of absence or migration. Looking at the specific ways in which local lifestyles respond to the world of Modernity and its images will also help clarify the effects of commercialisation on artistic practices.

3 Rethinking museum practice in the face of contemporary transformations of culture and society

Under this heading both the practice as well as the history of collecting, of conservation or of documenting collections will be discussed, with special attention paid to the relationship between oral traditions and images preserved in museum collections. This approach should also lead to an appraisal of how collections of objects have patterned the general image of the Sepik area.

If you are interested in contributing, please address the editors ( a 500 words abstract, either in English or in French before 15 October 2016.

For the final version of your paper, we refer you to the style sheet of the Journal de la Société des Océanistes, available on the website The paper should not exceed 46’000 signs, spaces included. In addition to the main text, your document will include the footnotes, the bibliography, an abstract, and the captions for two or three illustrations.

We expect finalized papers to arrive by 30 March 2017 at the following address: (cc. to After a first editorial review, all papers received will be handed over to the Editorial Committee of the Société des Océanistes who will be responsible for the process of peer reviewing as well as for contacting the authors.

Publication in the Journal de la Société des Océanistes is expected to take place in 2018.

Should you have any questions, please contact me or Markus Schindlbeck (

Paris, 18 April 2016, Philippe Peltier