Kiriwina, the largest of the Trobriand Islands in eastern Papua New Guinea, is anthropology's "sacred place." It was here that Bronislaw Malinowski conducted the path-breaking fieldwork that enabled him to revolutionize British social anthropology. And it was here that he developed one of anthropology's most important tools: photography.
Malinowski's Kiriwina presents nearly two hundred of Malinowski's previously unpublished photographs, taken between 1915 and 1918, of the Trobriand Islanders. The images are more than embellishments of his ethnography; they are a recreation in striking detail of a distant world. Michael Young, an anthropologist and Malinowski's authorized biographer, has selected the photographs based on one of Malinowski's unpublished studies of the region, and the plan of that abandoned project has helped structure this book.
Divided into fourteen sections, Malinowski's Kiriwina is a series of linked photo-essays based on Trobriand institutions and cultural themes as described by Malinowski. The introductory essay by Young appraises the founding anthropologist's photographic oeuvre, explains the historical circumstances and technical aspects of the images, and puts them in their colonial context. Young illuminates the photographs with quotations from Malinowski's diaries, letters, and field notes, thereby giving a biographical dimension to the collection. Commentaries on the images by contemporary Trobrianders add a further layer of interpretation. The result is a stunning record not only of a fascinating place, but of the mutual relationship between ethnography and the visual.