Social Complexity in the Making is a highly accessible ethnography which explains the history and evolution of Ilahita, an Arapesh-speaking village in the interior Sepik region of northeastern New Guinea. This village, unlike others in the region, expanded at an uncharacteristically fast rate more than a century ago and has maintained its large size (more than 1500) and importance until the present day. The fascinating story of how Ilahita became this size and how organizational innovations evolved there to absorb internal pressures for disintegration, bears on a question debated ever since Plato raised it: what does it take for people to live together in harmony?
Anthropologist David Tuzin, drawing on more than two years fieldwork in the village, studies the reasons behind this unusual population growth. He discovers the behaviour and policies of the Tambaran, the all-male society which was the back bone of Ilahitan society, and examines the effect of the outside influences such as World War II on the village.
This work is a unique example of an anthropological case study which will be widely used amongst undergraduates and academics. It provides an excellent insight into techniques of ethnography and contributes to a deeper understanding of what makes a society evolve (and/or collapse).
Since 1973 Donald Tuzin has taught at the University of California, San Diego, where he is Professor of Anthropology and curator of anthropological archives.