UWB has started research on modernization in Melanesia

University Science Employees

Sociologists from the University of West Bohemia have started a “multi-site sociology” work project, which also includes field research in Papua New Guinea.

Sociology has traditionally devoted itself to the study of Western modern societies, leaving the study of so-called “traditional cultures” in various parts of the world to cultural anthropology. After anthropologists began studying “domestic” societies more intensively, sociologists often carried out research in exotic countries. Sociologists from the University of West Bohemia have started a “multi-site sociology” work project, which also includes field research in Papua New Guinea.

In February, Professor Dušan Lužný from the Department of Sociology of the Faculty of Arts of UWB returned from a field investigation in the East Sepik province. Regarding his trip, he said: “With colleagues from Charles University and Jan Evangelista Purkyně University, we returned to the Central and Eastern Sepik region after several years, where we continued to study the changes in local traditions that are occurring here under the influence of globalization, and specially Christianization and tourism.”

The research team travelled more than 370 km on the waterway in a wooden canoe, and visited several villages on the Sepik and Keram rivers and the Chambri lakes. The team focused on two interrelated topics. The first was the impact of tourism, but also its collapse as a result of the covid pandemic. “In some settlements, they told us that we were the first to visit them in three years,” comments Lužný. The second was the transformation of the local carving tradition, as the area is known for new products: “Local woodcarvers started making so-called ‘storyboards’ some time ago, which they then sold to tourists. Today, these new products are known worldwide, and are even sold on marketplaces like eBay. At the same time, it is not part of the original tradition. But tourists and shoppers in electronic auctions don’t know that.” According to Lužný, this is a completely unique topic, which no one in the world has yet dealt with professionally.

 This research can help explain the global connections that connect seemingly isolated communities (e.g. in Papua New Guinea) to our world. It can also help to explain and better understand the society in which we live. “In a globalized world, it is not possible to live in the belief that we can examine just one national society, e.g. the Czech one, or one local community, e.g. Pilsen. It is necessary to research a certain topic in different places, which are in different parts of the planet, and to research the given topic comparatively and in a truly global context,” continues Lužný, and concludes: “Sociology must also open up to other disciplines, from anthropology to neuroscience, and it must also open up new research fields. Empirical research in different parts of the planet is also  an essential part of this.”


Faculty of Arts

Veronika Hásová

19. 02. 2023