Anthropos 106(2), 2011, pp. 171-73
Walker, Anthony R. (ed.): Pika-Pika. The Flashing Firefly. Essays to Honour and Celebrate the Life of Pauline Hetland Walker (1938 – 2005). New Delhi: Hindustan Publishing, 2009. 489 pp. ISBN 81-7075-087-3. Price: $ 36.00
This is a book edited by the husband of the late Pauline Walker, Anthony Walker. He is a well-known anthropologist who has worked extensively both in South India (in the Nilgiri Hills, mainly with the Toda) and in Southeastern Asia and the Pacific. His best-known publications are on the Lahu of Mainland Southeast Asia and on the Toda. In most of his research in the field he was accompanied by his late wife, Pauline Hetland Walker, and from everything in this book it is clear that she was a major contributor to his ethnographic work and to its success. She died in her 67th year in Brunei Darussalam where her husband had been teaching for several years. As he says in the “Introduction,” within a very short time after Pauline’s death, numerous professional scholars from all over the world who had known Pauline in the course of her husband’s long career of teaching and field research, sent messages that were a lot more than mere condolences; they constituted remarks making clear their respect for and admiration of Pauline as, in her own right, a considerable scholar of the peoples and places in Asia where they had worked and lived. This suggested to Anthony that he put together a volume of work in her memory consisting of contributions by many of these friends, and this is the book that has resulted.
I myself only met Pauline briefly, in northern Thailand, when I spent a bit of time with Anthony, whom I had known for a few years already. But I feel I am a proper person to write this review, not alone because of my truly great respect for Anthony’s (and, as the book shows, Pauline’s) work amongst the Lahu, but also because my own history of fieldwork in mainland Southeastern Asia for now 55 years owes so much of any success it has had to the fact that my own wife, Sheila (Mya Thwei), has invariably worked closely with me in the field and in helping me put materials together for writing and other forms of presentation and established for herself a serious reputation as a scholar of the peoples I have worked amongst in Burma, Thailand, northeastern India and southwestern China. I know very well what a valuable thing it is to have a wife who has steeped herself in the cultures of these peoples and places.
It is impressive that Pauline, who was born in the United Sates and educated at university in English literature, went early after her postgraduate work into the Peace Corps in Kenya, where in fact she first became deeply involved in the lives of other peoples, especially in their performance and other arts. And after that there were a few years of journeying-residing and some teaching in various parts of South, Southeastern, and East Asia, where, in Seoul Airport she met Dr. Walker for the first time. Of course a review is no place for any further writing about Pauline, because the book is itself an exposition of her work and life, and in any case, that is all laid out by Anthony in his introduction. So what remains for this reviewer to do is to tell what the book contains and what it says not just about Pauline Walker, but about the way and the extent and depth to which a spouse contributes to the important scholarship of a field anthropologist. What I have in mind here is best said by quoting from chapter 11 (183), where contributor Tarun Chhabra, a scholar of the Toda of South India, says about Pauline, whom he knew through her work on Anthony’s major book on these people: “She was the editor, contributing photographer, guide, and emotional anchor behind that significant work.”
So, let me look at the “Table of Contents” of the book under review. The book is divided into seven parts. In Part One (Joie de Vivre. Of Music, Song, and Dance) there are three chapters, chap. 2 by Bill Egan of Australia is about “The Last of the Modern Jazz Quartet.” Egan knew the Walkers and knew Pauline’s musical background and interests. The chapter, though interesting as part of the history of Jazz in the 1950s has perhaps the least to say about Pauline’s work. Chapter 3, “Sacred Music of the Karen Hills,” is by Elizabeth Hinton, wife of the late Australian anthropologist Peter Hinton; he was a Karen specialist and sometime Director of the Chiangmai’s Tribal Research Center, and she worked with Peter in his Karen field research. She knew Anthony Walker in Thailand and met Pauline, later, in Penang and subsequently in other countries and places, and came to know a lot about. This chapter is the first of several in this book that constitute significant contributions to the ethnography of peoples within Anthony’s and Pauline’s Asian field purview, and is perhaps as much about Karen performance art and about Karen costume and textiles as about just music. As such it speaks to several of Pauline’s lines of interest and research in the arts and lives of these peoples. A proper tribute to Pauline’s genuine scholarship. Chapter 4, “Dance and Trance in Ritual and Performance. Haiti and Beyond,” is by the well-known anthropologist Erika Bourguignon, who knew the Walkers in the years Anthony taught at the Ohio State University in America. The title is self-explanatory and, again, is a contribution to scholarship in its own right. It too speaks to Pauline’s wide-ranging interest in, and work on performance arts. Chapter 5 “A Felicitous Meeting. Pauline Walker and the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society” is basically about Pauline’s journalistic work on this society between 1979 and 1985 and her work on and with the Indian performing arts scene in Singapore. Part Two has three chapters (6 – 8) dealing with her interest in language, literature, and theatre. These are original pieces of scholarship, one on the history of London’s Rose Theatre, the second on the modernisation of Java’s Wayang Kulit puppet theatre, the third by the linguist James Matisoff on Lahu religious poetry’s use of syntactic parallelism. Part Three’s two chapters deal with pottery technology in Melanesia, where Pauline dealt with such crafts at one point in her accompaniment of her husband. Part Four follows on her concern with crafts and craftsmanship: the first, referred to above, by T. Chhabra, on Toda dress and embroidery, the second on traditional crafts in Borneo (East Malaysia) and their future, and is written by a pupil of Anthony’s at the Science University of Malaysia in the 1970s. The author of the third chapter is Shuichi Nagata, Anthony’s senior colleague at the Science University, who writes on Hopi (American Indian) craft commercialization. Part Five has three chapters on women’s issues, an ongoing topic of Pauline’s career: one on body-modification in Africa and America, one on northeast Japan’s Mountain Goddess Fertility Associations, one on Korean sex slaves under Japanese occupation. Then Part Six, two chapters following her interest in healing practices, the first on faith healers, jhankri, in Nepal by Deborah Akers, a pupil of Anthony’s when he taught at Ohio State University, the other on Dusun notions about illness and healing in Brunei Darussalam, where Anthony has most recently been teaching, and where, also, Pauline worked with him. Finally, Part Seven “A Fascination for Religious Diversity, Myth, and Ritual” again follows an enduring interest of Pauline, whose father was once a Lutheran pastor and who had lived much of her life in Asia, as Deborah Akers points out in her chap. 17. Chapter 19 is by the distinguished anthropologist of Thailand, Paul Cohen, and it is on mobility and residence in the Upper Mekong, and its connection with Buddhist ideals of pilgrimage. It also deals with the way pilgrimage and the related mobility create, for the Lue of Lao, wide kinship connections. Chapter 20, by Gregory Forth, is “Transformation and Replacement. A Comparison of Some Indonesian Bird Myths.” This chapter, by another distinguished anthropologist of Indonesia, who stayed briefly with the Walkers in Singapore, connects up with Pauline’s interest in natural history, e.g., her membership in the Brunei Nature Society. The final chapter (21) is by Donald Tayler, sometime a curator of Oxford’s Pitt-Rivers Museum, who was a contemporary of Anthony’s at Oxford. It concerns the Sacred Mountain of the Ika of Colombia. The appendix (421 – 453) is Anthony Walker’s compilation of Pauline’s very considerable writings (1957 – 2005) on most or all the subjects the contributed essays deal with. It is notable that much of her corpus was itself ethnographic, concerning the peoples in India and Southeast Asia that Anthony worked with. This gives one a fair insight into the essentially collaborative work of an interested spouse in serious fieldwork! There follows a very useful index and glossary.
F. K. Lehman