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Eric Silverman's report from Wewak and Tambunum, 2014

Eric Silverman is an anthropologist who has conducted research in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, over many years. He writes the following on returning from a recent field trip to Wewak, the provincial capital, and Tambunum village:

These are some photographs of trade stores in Tambunum village. There were about five when I was there in 1988-1990. When I went back in 2010, they were all shuttered. When I inquired with people about why they closed, people gave several answers. One was that it is too expensive now to transport goods by PMV (public motor vehichle) from Wewak town to home. People also said that petrol was too expensive, the road to Wewak was bad, and “nobody has any money.” People also said that kin asking to buy stuff on credit was “poison” (lethal sorcery) for a business.

A trade store in Tambunum village, East Sepik Province, PNG, 1988 Goods on sale in a trade store in Tambunum village, East Sepik Province, PNG, 1988

That said, I did see something new this summer, which developed within the past 2 years. A few times a week, there is a 'market' where women sell a small assortment of local and store-bought goods.

Woman selling in an informal market in Wewak, East Sepik Province, PNG, 2014

The profit margin, as you can imagine, is minimal. It probably doesn't even pay for the transportation. It's more of an opportunistic thing, if someone is going to town.

Further reading

Silverman, Eric K. 2012. “From Cannibal Tours to Cargo Cult: On the Aftermath of Tourism in the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea.” Tourist Studies 12 (2): 109–30. doi:10.1177/1468797612454511.

Silverman, Eric K. 2001. Masculinity, Motherhood, and Mockery: Psychoanalyzing Culture and the Iatmul Naven Rite in New Guinea. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press.

report_from_wewak_and_tambunum.txt · Last modified: 2020/01/25 15:28 (external edit)