Talking with the Dead

Ron Adams


In ‘A Poetic for Histories’, Greg Dening tells us that we all make histories endlessly. It is part of the human condition, he tells us, to make histories—to make sense of the present as past as soon as it has gone, to tell stories about it, to interpret it. But histories are not just the content of the story or interpretation of the past. They are also the mode of the story’s expression, the occasion of its telling. One of Greg’s great regrets was that he did not hear the stories of Te Henua (The Land we know as the Marquesas) directly from Enata (the Men of The Land)—that he never came to know the living as he knew the dead. What I found when I went to the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna in 1975 as one of Greg’s PhD students was that talking with the living was one of the ways of coming to know the dead. In the forty years since then, what I have learnt is that talking with the dead is also one of the ways of coming to know the living.

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Copyright (c) 2017 Ron Adams

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