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Adventures in the Stone Age

Adventures in the Stone Age

A New Guinea Diary

Pospíšil, Leopold Jaroslav

subjects: anthropology and ethnography, biographies and memoirs

paperback, 298 pp., 1. edition
published: november 2021
ISBN: 978-80-246-4751-7
recommended price: 550 czk

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summary

When Leopold Pospíšil first arrived in New Guinea in 1954 to investigate the legal systems of the local tribes, he was warned about the Kapauku who reputedly had no laws. Dubious that any society could exist without laws, Pospíšil immediately decided to live among and study the Kapauku.

Learning the language and living as a participant-observer among the Kapauku, Pospíšil discovers that the supposedly primitive society possesses laws, rules, and social structures that are as sophisticated as they are logical. Having survived the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and fled the Communist regime, Pospíšil has little patience for the notion that so-called advanced civilizations are superior to the ‘stone age’ society in which he now lives.

On the basis of his research and experiences among the Kapauku – he would stay with them five times between 1954 and 1979 – Pospíšil pioneered in the field of legal anthropology, holding a professorship at Yale, serving as the anthropology curator of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and publishing three books of scholarship on the Kapauku law. As Jaroslav Jiřík and Martin Soukup write in their afterword, however, “His three previously published works are about the Kapauku; this one is about the anthropologist among the Kapauku.”

The memoir is filled with charming anecdotes and thrilling stories of trials, travels, and war – told with humor and humility—and accompanied by a wealth of the author’s personal photos from the time.