Jane Fajans is a professor of Anthropology at Cornell
University. She is blogging on location from the island of Papua New
Guinea, near the Mariana Trench in the South Pacific, where she is
conducting fieldwork with the Baining people. Her from-the-field updates
will be key insights into this culture. Jane was
invited to join the James Cameron expedition during their time in Papua New Guinea.
The Baining People of Papua New Guinea
I’m heading to Papua New Guinea. I will be travelling to Rabaul East New Britain to visit the Baining who live in the Northwest part of the Gazelle Pennisula of East New Britain.
I last lived and worked among the Baining twenty years ago in 1991, but my main research with them was even longer ago, in 1976-78, when I spent two-and-a-half years studying and living in the communities of Lan and Yalom (see map two, below).
Lan is a series of hamlets located about 1500 feet up the side of the Baining Mountain range. Each hamlet has 3-6 houses in it and is separated by secondary growth forest from the other hamlets. Many families have groves of coconuts and cacao trees in the forest around their hamlets. Some also have small gardens in this adjacent area. Most gardens are carved from the deeper forest through chopping down trees and burning the vegetation. This type of agriculture is called swidden farming. Families and friends often cooperate in clearing a garden, and divide up the clearing into family plots. People plant taro, pitpit (a vegetable distantly related to sugar cane), several kinds of greens, and bananas.