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Department of Social Anthropology



My research deals with the mediation of social relations and the spatial and temporal organisation of co-presence in ‘small scale societies’. Since 2013 I have conducted fieldwork in Papua with the Asmat people, a group who live at the periphery of the Indonesian nation state and are renowned in art and museum worlds for their wood carving traditions and flamboyant ritual life. My work investigates the ancestral ritual cycles that are key to Asmat collective life. Specifically, I analyse how their spatio-temporal dimensions are being reshaped in the present as Asmat people extend feast-making practices and organisational strategies to encompass and manage competing modes of social formation arising from Asmat's incorporation within broader structural orders.

This PhD research extends previous masters level ethnographic study undertaken at the University of Cambridge (MRes) on indigenous museums and how, in the Asmat area, wood carving is used to mediate social relationships in a complex inter-ethnic field. Prior to this, I completed a Bachelor of Arts (Advanced, Honours) at the University of Sydney, with a focus on Anthropology and Film Theory. I have an ongoing role as an advisor at the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress, a museum located in the Asmat area.


social relations; space and time; ritual; feasting; cosmology; semiotic mediation; wood carving; anthropology of art; demand sharing; settler colonialism; village formation; museums; indigenous museums; state formation at the periphery; Papua, Indonesia, and Melanesia

Research Title: Ritual Feasting and the Re/organisation of the Space and Time of Social Life in Asmat, Indonesian Papua
Supervisor: Dr Rupert Stasch
 Tom  Powell Davies (2015)

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