Don Kulick: "Rape in a Papua New Guinean village: talk, sense and nonsense"

Welcome to a departmental seminar featuring Don Kulick, Professor of Anthropology and Head of the Engaging Vulnerability research program, Uppsala University.

After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.


Papua New Guinea has staggering rates of sexual violence; so much that the aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières has labeled the situation in the country a humanitarian crisis, with epidemic levels of abuse that it says are unique outside of a war-zone or state of civil unrest. I will present material from a small, isolated Sepik village called Gapun where I have been conducting fieldwork for the past thirty years. I will play audio recordings of how women tell each other stories about gang rapes. I will use those stories to discuss local concepts of “rape” and “domestic violence”, and I will contextualize the sexual violence that occurs in the village in relation to child socialization, local understandings of violence and agency, conflict incitement and resolution, and the shifting shape of gender roles. But I will also raise the issue of to what extent the kinds of rape I discuss will ever make sense, and whether we might not be better off thinking of the phenomenon in terms similar to how literary scholars and philosophers discuss nonsense.

Research profile

Don Kulick is Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology at Uppsala University and head of the Engaging Vulnerability research program. Kulick’s interest in vulnerable populations takes his studies beyond humans: he sees animal studies as part of the department’s future (and has published on the topic of “fat pets”). By paying attention to nonhuman animals, says Kulick, researchers can reevaluate questions like “What is a human?” “What does it mean to be human?”

Kulick has conducted extensive anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Scandinavia. His research covers a variety of topics and disciplines, including sociolinguistics, gender and sexuality studies, disability studies and queer theory. He has published books and articles on topics ranging from language death to fat pornography. Selected publications

Published July 16, 2017 4:46 PM - Last modified Aug. 8, 2019 3:45 PM