The essence of Vula'a historical consciousness

Deborah Van Heekeren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores some of the issues evoked in recent attempts by the Vula'a people of south eastern Papua New Guinea to document their history. Drawing on ethnographic research and Heideggerian philosophy it investigates the complex of myth, history and Christianity manifest in their representations of the past. The Vula'a lifeworld accommodates what might commonly be perceived as contradictions - multiple versions of significant local stories, and an acceptance of Christianity without the forfeiture of pre-Christian cosmology. I suggest that if we are to understand this lifeworld we must move beyond simple distinctions between history and myth, truth and falsity. Western ideas about truth and rationality are thus questioned in light of Vula'a experience. I propose we see myth as a mode of being and, consequently, as a form of truth. This is not, though, the truth of Western science, of proof and explanation. In Heidegger's terms it is "essential" and therefore beyond the realm of provability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-426
Number of pages22
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

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