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This case study explores culture in the land of the Samo, three hundred and seventy-five square miles of jungle inhabited by seven hundred people in the center of Papua New Guinea. During their stay, the author and his family learned the language and the culture of the Samo in ways ordinarily denied outsiders and rarely experienced by anthropologists. The depth of familiarity with Samo life is what gives this case study its special character. Thirty years of change are compactly but meaningfully described and discussed. The effects of population aggregation, from isolated longhouses to villages, are central to the whole process. The longhouses had for generations of Samo been the center of social and economic life. Yet after 1963, the people abandoned their longhouses and moved into the vicinity and security of the rest houses and police barracks. The processes of change set in motion by this aggregation of population transformed Samo social life. And yet the Samo remain themselves, with distinctive values and cultural identity. Like all other populations isolated from the flow of information and the impact of outsiders, the Samo have been subjected to severe stress as strangers bent on taxing them, educating them, administering them, and converting them have flooded in upon them. The interface between the Samo and these strangers and their strange ways has not been untroubled, but the Samo have exhibited a considerable ability to adapt. This case study tells the story of these contacts and their consequences.
1. Precontact Structure.
2. Postcontact Sedentation.
3. From Longhouse Relationships to Village Interaction: Kinship.
4. From Dispersed Alliances to Corporate Structure: Social Organization.
5. From Microdialects to Language Identity: Linguistic Synthesis.
6. From Forest Gardens to Village Trade Stores: Economic Concerns.
7. From Shaman to Pastor: Religious Activity.
8. From the Forest to the World: Political Systems.
9. The New Order: Adaptation and Survival.