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Frederick Damon


Phone: 434-924-6826
Personal Website

PO Box 400120
Brooks Hall, 206
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4120

Research Interests

My initial research in the Kula Ring of Papua New Guinea attempted to use exchange theory drawn from structuralism to describe an unexamined corner of the Kula regional system. Indigenous understandings, however, led me to consider production, not exchange, as the organizing value among the people with whom I lived. Tensions between exchange and production views of society remain the central focus of my teaching and research, along with the problem of how to understand and describe the complex regional settings in which all social life is embedded. As intended, returns to Papua New Guinea in 1991, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2002, and new teaching interests, have generated shifts in my original topical, areal, and theoretical stances. I now conduct cooperative and interdisciplinary research on ethnobotanical issues to explore how anthropogenic environments relate to better-known social structural and cosmological transformations throughout the Kula Ring. My most recent publications reflect the initial stages of this work. The outline for a new book came together during my summer 2002-research period-MUYUW KAYNEN (The Trees of Muyuw): Reflections on Environmental Research in the Northeast Kula Ring. Work in progress involves dialogues with scholars in other disciplines and sub-disciplines including ecologists, botanists who specialize in the flora of Melanesia and Southeast Asia, and, for writing about the outrigger canoes of the Kula Ring, a host of other specialists. In the meantime, following travel to China in 1991, 1999, 2000 and 2001 I am shifting my areal focus towards East Asia. I anticipate research on the south coast of China in the near future. Specializations: Structuralism, Marxism, regional systems, world system theory; ethnobotony, historical ecology, ethnoastronomy; social structure, kinship, exchange and hierarchy; Melanesia and East and South Asia, the contemporary world system and modern US culture.


  • Bachelor of Arts (BA), Duke University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Princeton University