Naming, mnemonics, and the poetics of knowing in Vula'a oral traditions

Deborah Van Heekeren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


For the Vula'a people of south-eastern Papua New Guinea names are a way of knowing that is intimately linked to a particular mode of being. The ethnography of Vula'a naming practices presented here, and an analysis of their stories - traditionally known as rikwana - suggests that names are essential in the Heideggerian sense that they bring the past, present, and future into proximity and thus may be understood as a form of historicity. In certain contexts names are also powerful because they are implicated in the kinds of transformations commonly described by anthropologists as magical. Magical names link knowing and speaking with a vital aspect of Vula'a cosmo-ontology known as iavu (heat).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


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