Bruce M. Knauft Papers, 1980-1985 (MSS 31)

Restrictions: The Bruce Knauft Papers cannot be used without the permission of Bruce Knauft, Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.

Extent: 0.6 Linear feet (2 archives boxes)

Papers of Bruce M. Knauft, an American anthropologist, consisting largely of carbon copies of anthropological field notes taken by Knauft and his wife Eileen when they lived among the Gebusi people of Papua New Guinea from 1980-1982. The notes include information on social structure, kinship, and culture, with especial emphasis on spiritual activities of the Gebusi, including transcriptions of audio recordings made at séances.

Bruce M. Knauft is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta. Born on January 25, 1954, Knauft graduated Magna Cum Laude in anthropology from Yale University in 1976. He received his M.A. in anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1979, and he earned his PhD. in anthropology from Michigan in 1983.

From 1980 to 1982 Knauft and his wife Eileen lived in remote villages of Papua New Guinea's Western Province among the Gebusi tribe. During this time the Knaufts participated in all activities of tribal life and acquired a working knowledge of the Gebusi language. Much of the material gathered among the Gebusi was used in writing Knauft's dissertation titled Good Company and Anger: The Culture and Sociology of Sorcery Among the Gebusi of the Strickland Plain, Papua New Guinea (1983), and his book Good Company and Violence: Sorcery and Social Action in a Lowland New Guinea Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

The focus of Knauft's research was directed toward the unusually large rate of homicides within the Gebusi tribe. Also of interest to him was tribal genealogy and the kinship relationship between the Gebusi and neighboring tribes. Knauft sought to explain the sharp contrast between the tribe's notions of good fellowship versus their attitudes toward punishment and homicide. He found that beliefs in witchcraft or sorcery represented a bond between members of the tribe, their friends, and within family units. Such beliefs, he found, were as important a bond as other aspects of socialization and fraternization.

Bruce Knauft has received many awards and honors, including the C.S. Ford Cross-Cultural Research Prize in 1976 and a Guggenheim Foundation research grant in 1985. His articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals.

The collection consists largely of carbon copies of anthropological field notes, some in manuscript and some in typescript. The notes were written by Bruce Knauft and his wife Eileen and are based on their experiences among the Gebusi. Although some of the materials are dated as late as 1985, the actual field research took place during the years 1980-1982. Arranged in two series: !) CORRESPONDENCE, and 2) FIELD NOTES.

Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) CORRESPONDENCE: One folder of Knauft's correspondence from 1980 to 1985.

Box 1 Folder 1
1980 - 1985


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) FIELD NOTES: The notes reflect the Knaufts' investigations into concepts of social structure among the Gebusi, including ethos, myths, and beliefs. Also included is information about kinship relationships and interrelationships among several Gebusi villages and outlying bush hamlets, and Eileen Knauft's notes on temperature, rainfall, food availability, and subsistence. Also included is a small folder of correspondence containing letters written by Knauft explaining aspects of his work.

The main thrust of Bruce Knauft's investigation was directed towards the spirit world of the Gebusi. In this regard he made extensive studies of 62 séances, séance songs, rituals, and witchcraft. This interest is reflected in the collection by a group of transcriptions from tape recordings of individual séances.

The materials are arranged in categories as suggested by Knauft himself in a letter to UC San Diego's Barbara Jones. This letter can be found in the CORRESPONDENCE series (Box 1, Folder 1). With the exception of the Field Report and a folder of miscellaneous notes, the materials are arranged alphabetically by category. The folder of miscellaneous notes includes several untitled documents as well as a narrative written in the Gebusi language.

Box 1 Folder 2
Field report
Box 1 Folder 3
Census - Residence
Box 1 Folder 4
Comings and goings
Box 1 Folder 5
Death and illness
Box 1 Folder 6
Box 1 Folder 7
Box 1 Folder 8
Events calendar
Box 1 Folder 9
Food and weather
Box 1 Folder 10
Funeral rituals
Box 1 Folder 11
Gebusi tribal report
Box 1 Folder 12
Box 1 Folder 13
Box 1 Folder 14
Kinship - Charts and tabulation (genealogy)
Box 1 Folder 15
Kinship - History
Box 1 Folder 16
Kinship - Marriage
Box 1 Folder 17
Kinship - Terminology
Box 1 Folder 18
Box 1 Folder 19
Lexical statistics
Box 1 Folder 20
Box 1 Folder 21
Myths and narratives
Box 1 Folder 22
Naming and taboos
Box 1 Folder 23
Population statistics by villages (lineages)
Box 1 Folder 24
Physical disorders
Box 1 Folder 25
Residence - Personal histories
Box 1 Folder 26
Rituals and feasts
Box 2 Folder 1-2
Seances - Texts and master lists
Box 2 Folder 3
Seances - Mediumship
Box 2 Folder 4
Seances - Songs
Box 2 Folder 5
Social structures
Box 2 Folder 6
Sorcery and witchcraft
Box 2 Folder 7
Spirit beliefs
Box 2 Folder 8
Trade goods
Box 2 Folder 9
Traditional times
Box 2 Folder 10
Tribal relations
Box 2 Folder 11
Box 2 Folder 12