A Witch’s Hand: Curing, Killing, Kinship, and Colonialism among the Lujere of New Guinea’s Upper Sepik River Basin

By William E. Mitchell

From 1971 to 1972, William E. Mitchell undertook fieldwork on suffering and healing among the Lujere of Papua New Guinea’s Upper Sepik River Basin. At a time when it was not yet common to make colonial agencies a subject of anthropological study, Mitchell very carefully located his research on Lujere practices in the framework of a history of colonization that surrounded the Lujere with a shifting array of Western institutions, dramatically changing their society forever. This work has been well known among anthropologists of Oceania ever since, but the bulk of it has till now remained unpublished. In this major new work, Mitchell revisits his earlier research with a three-part study on: the history of colonial rule in the region; the social organization of Lujere life at the time; and the particular forms of affliction, witchcraft and curing that preoccupied some of the people among whom he lived. This is a magisterial contribution to the ethnography of Papua New Guinea, and it is sure to be an invaluable source for scholars of Oceania, of medical anthropology, and of the anthropology of kinship, myth, and ritual.

William E. Mitchell is professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Vermont, and the author of many studies based on fieldwork conducted both in Papua New Guinea and in the United States.

Publication December 2020
500 pages
ISBN: 978-1-912808-45-8
Price: $40