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Pasts in the Making

An International Workshop on Historical Awareness and Agency

Dates: 10-11 November 2022

A group of leading international and Danish scholars will explore the ways people use the past as opening a privileged perspective on who we are and our social action. This exploration will advance our understanding of how different views of the pasts emerge, how this affects agency, and how this mutual determination of action and historical perception might be influenced by furthering scientific knowledge.

The participants, mainly anthropologists and historians, will bring their ethnographic and historical research data from Melanesia, a culturally diverse area in the Pacific. We focus on Melanesia because the distinctly different ways people in Melanesia experience time will challenge our European assumptions and habitual attitudes. Challenging what we take for granted will greatly stimulate critical reflections on theories of time and history that mostly originate in European and will enable us to gain much needed distance to make substantive theoretical advances.

During the two days there will 14 short talks followed by discussion. There will be no separate panels as we are keen to detect syntheses between concepts and approaches.



Thursday, 10 November

09:00-09:45  Opening by Jaap Timmer and Ton Otto: Historicity, regimes, and Melanesia

09:45-10:30  Jan Ifversen: History has a new story

10:30-11:30  Tea/Coffee break

11:00-11:45  Eric Hirsch: Synchronisation and power: Perspectives on Melanesian historicities           

11:45-12:30  Michael W. Scott: The Were-Sharks of Owa Rafa: Thoughts on totemic historicities from the Southeast Solomon Islands                 

12:30-13:30  Lunch break

13:30-14:15  Christiane Falck: Diverging and merging regimes of historicity at the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea

14:15-15:00  Anna-Karina Hermkens: When Mary breaks into time: Temporal regimes and experiences in conflict and post-conflict Bougainville

15:00-15:30  Tea/Coffee break

15:30-16:15 Borut Telban: Kunaypa historicity: conceptual specificity of temporal reciprocity in the Sepik, Papua New Guinea

 Reception and dinner

Friday, 11 November

09:00-09:45  Chris Ballard – (via Zoom): Hesiod amongst the Huli of Papua New Guinea: Moral decline and epochal transformation

09:45-10:30  Nayahamui Rooney – (via Zoom): Why was she buried there? Snippets into buried women’s histories

10:30-11:00  Tea/Coffee break

11:00-11:45  Ton Otto: Kastam versus Kalsa: The historicity of two contrasting notions and practices of heritage in Manus, Papua New Guinea                    

11:45-12:30  Jaap Timmer: Histories lost and found: Kastom and state in the historicity for Malaita’s theocracy, Solomon Islands

12:30-13:30  Lunch break

13:30-14:15  Fanny Wonu Veys: The display of ancestral remains and the historicity of indigenous sensibilities                 

14:15-15:00  Melissa Demian – (via Zoom): Seismic historicity in Lae, Papua New Guinea

15:00-15.30  Tea/Coffee break

15:30–16:00  Christina Toren: Reflections and conclusions

16:00–16:30  General discussion

Reception and dinner


The workshop is open to all, researchers, students and industry and others interested in the topic. The workshop is free for all participants, but registration is mandatory. 

Registration deadline: 8 November 2022.


The workshop has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (through AIAS), The Institute of Culture and Society (Aarhus University), and the Carlsberg Foundation