It is always diffi cult as an anthropologist to write critically about persons
and practices in the places where we work. Navigating this politics of repre-
sen ta tion is particularly tricky in Papua New Guinea where, as this book
describes, people are rightfully sensitive to their portrayal in international
academic and media circuits. In 2006, while I was writing the doctoral thesis
that provided one starting point for this book, I voiced some of these con-
cerns about repre sen ta tion and audience at Cambridge’s PhD writing- up
seminar. With little hesitation the seminar convenor, Marilyn Strathern,
stated that it was up to me to create my own readership. Th is book owes
much to that advice, which has assisted me over the years in navigating the
politics of research in Papua New Guinea’s health sector and the politics
of repre sen ta tion in the anthropology of Papua New Guinea. It is from a
sense of obligation to the many doctors, nurses, and patients that I met
who struggle to sustain life and lives under diffi cult conditions that I have
sought to heed this advice and maintain a critical edge. Nonetheless I accept
that there are many people who will not like what I have written.
First and foremost, I am grateful to the doctors, nurses, managers,
administrative staff , and patients at Madang General Hospital who have
accommodated me over the years with extraordinary patience, who have
tolerated my many questions and taught me everything I know about bio-
medicine and hospitals in Papua New Guinea. I hope that those who read
it fi nd that the stories this book tells do justice to the hopes, frustrations,
and experimentations that they conveyed to me as being at the heart of
hospital life.
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