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The Possession of Kuru: Medical Science and Biocolonial Exchange

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 December 2000

Warwick Anderson*
Centre for the Study of Health and Society, University of Melbourne
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“Naturally, everyone would like to get their hands on kuru brains,” wrote D. Carleton Gajdusek in 1957. A young medical scientist, Gajdusek was writing from his bush laboratory in the eastern highlands of New Guinea, and he had in mind the competition among pathologists in Melbourne, Australia, and Bethesda, Maryland, for the valuable specimens. But he may also have considered his own recent transactions with the Fore people, afflicted with what he thought was the disease of kuru, and on whose hospitality he was then relying. Blood and brains, the germinal objects of his field research, were richly entangled in local community relations and global scientific networks; they could convey one meaning to the Fore, another to Gajdusek, and yet another to laboratory workers in Australia and the United States. These objects could be exchanged as gifts or commodities in different circumstances, or on the same occasion the different parties might confuse gift exchange with commodity transaction. At times, the scientist would try to obtain goods through barter, or even to appropriate them; and, then again, he might find that what he wanted was out of circulation altogether. In the field, Gajdusek had become enmeshed in a complex and fragile web of relationships with the Fore in order to acquire specimens that, through further exchanges with senior colleagues, might yet make his scientific reputation.

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1. D. Carleton Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 25 August 1957, in Judith Farquhar and D. C. Gajdusek, eds., Kuru: Early Letters and Fieldnotes from the Collection of D. Carleton Gajdusek (New York: Raven Press, 1981), 121.

2. For recent accounts of the investigations of kuru, see Hank Nelson, “Kuru: The Pursuit of the Prize and the Cure,” Journal of Pacific History 31 (1996): 178–201, and Richard Rhodes, Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague (New York: Simon and Schuster 1997).

3. This work is thus part of a more general effort to make connections between anthropology and science studies. Previously, this effort has been manifest in the introduction of ethnographic methods, as in the pioneering work by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986[1979]); or it has found expression in the increasing use of cultural analysis and a focus on identity formation. For recent surveys, see David J. Hess and Linda L. Layne, eds., The Anthropology of Science and Technology. Knowledge and Society, vol. 9 (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1992); David J. Hess, Science and Technology in a Multicultural World: The Cultural Politics of Facts and Artifacts (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); Sarah Franklin, “Science as Culture, Cultures of Science,” Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995): 163–84; and Linda L. Layne, “Introduction,” Science, Technology and Human Values 23 (1998): 4–23.

4. See Margaret Jane Radin, Contested Commodities: The Trouble with Trade in Sex, Children, Body Parts, and Other Things (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996). For disputed and resisted commodification of body parts and fluids, see Richard Titmuss, The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1970), and Janet Golden, “From Commodity to Gift: Gender, Class and the Meaning of Breast Milk in the Twentieth Century,” Historian 59 (1996): 75–87.

5. I outline the more recent trend to commodify science in the conclusion. See Dorothy Nelkin, Science as Intellectual Property (New York: Macmillan, 1984); E. Richard Gold, Property Rights and the Ownership of Human Biological Materials (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1996); and the symposium on “Legal Disputes over Body Tissue,” edited by Dorothy Nelkin and Lori B. Andrews in Chicago- Kent Law Review 75 (1999): 3–133.

6. The distinction is made most clearly in C. A. Gregory, Gifts and Commodities (London: Academic Press, 1982), and James G. Carrier, Gifts and Commodities: Exchange and Western Capitalism since 1700 (London and New York: Routledge, 1995). I agree with Nicholas Thomas that the analytic distinction of gift and commodity is worth preserving, so long as this does not simply collapse into a distinction between indigenous and Western societies, and does not obscure “the uneven entanglement of local and global power relations on colonial peripheries, particularly as these have been manifested as capacities to define and appropriate the meanings of material things.” See Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture and Colonization in the Pacific (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), xi. On the cultural constitution of objects in general, see Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), and Jonathan Parry and Maurice Bloch, eds., Money and the Morality of Exchange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

7. On gift exchange, see Marcel Mauss, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, trans. Ian Cunnison (London: Cohen and West, 1970[1925]); Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific (London: Routledge, 1922); Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics (London: Routledge, 1978); Marilyn Strathern, The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Annette Weiner, “Inalienable Wealth,” American Ethnologist 12 (1985): 210–27 and Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping While Giving (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); David Cheal, The Gift Economy (London: Routledge, 1988); and Maurice Godelier, The Enigma of the Gift, trans. Nora Scott (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999). Of course much of this work derives from studies of New Guinea societies, so it seems especially appropriate that it is reapplied to study scientific exchanges in New Guinea.

8. See David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth Century India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993), and Gyan Prakash, Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

9. Warren O. Hagstrom, “Gift Giving as an Organizing Principle in Science,” [1965] in Science in Context: Readings in the Sociology of Science, ed. Barry Barnes and David Edge (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1982), 21–34, 28.

10. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life, 203, 204.

11. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977[1972]).

12. Robert E. Kohler, Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). His use of the term “moral economy” derives from E. P. Thompson, “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 50 (1971): 76–136.

13. Mario Biagioli, Galileo Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 36, 48. See also Paula Findlen, “The Economy of Scientific Exchange in Early Modern Italy,” in Patronage and Institutions, ed. Bruce Moran (Rochester, NY: Boydell, 1991), 5–24.

14. See also the important work of Nelly Oudshoorn, “On the Making of Sex Hormones: Research Materials and the Production of Knowledge,” Social Studies of Science 20 (1990): 5–33; Adele E. Clarke, “Research Materials and Reproductive Science in the United States, 1910–1940,” in Ecologies of Knowledge: Work and Politics in Science and Technology, ed. Susan Leigh Star (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995), 183–225; and M. Susan Lindee, “The Repatriation of Atomic Bomb Victim Body Parts to Japan: Natural Objects and Diplomacy,” Osiris 13 (1998): 376–409.

15. Peter Galison, Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 51, 52, 835.

16. Nelson, “Kuru”; John D. Mathews, Kuru: A Puzzle in Cultural and Environmental Medicine, MD thesis, University of Melbourne, 1971; and Donald Denoon, Public Health in Papua New Guinea: Medical Possibility and Social Constraint, 1884–1984 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). More generally, see Readings in New Guinea History, ed. B. Jinks, P. Bishop, H. Nelson (Sydney: Angus and Roberston, 1973), and Hank Nelson, Taim Biling Masta: The Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea (Sydney, 1982). On the Fore, see Ronald M. Berndt, Excess and Restraint: Social Control Among a New Guinea Mountain People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), and Robert Glasse and Shirley Lindenbaum, “South Fore Politics,” in Politics in New Guinea, Traditional and in the Context of Change: Some Anthropological Perspectives, ed. Ronald M. Berndt and Peter Lawrence (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1971), 362–80.

17. Nelson, “Kuru.” In the early 1960s the Australian colonial authorities began actively to convert the local exchange regime to a cash economy.

18. Cited in Nelson, “Kuru,” 188.

19. J. McArthur, Okapa patrol report, quoted in Shirley Lindenbaum, Kuru Sorcery: Disease and Danger in the New Guinea Highlands (Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1979), 9.

20. Nelson, “Kuru,” 189.

21. Interview with Catherine Berndt, August 1992; Catherine Berndt, “Journey along Mythic Paths,” in Ethnographic Presents: Pioneering Anthropologists in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, ed. Terence E. Hays (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 98–136; and Ronald M. Berndt, “Into the Unknown!” in Ethnographic Presents, 68–97. Although the Berndts had been studying Aboriginal groups since the 1940s, they intended to use the New Guinea material for their Ph.D. dissertations, supervised by Raymond Firth at the London School of Economics. But the Berndts were never fully satisfied with their fieldwork in New Guinea and later worked only in Australia.

22. M. Leahy and M. Crain, The Land that Time Forgot: Adventures and Discoveries in New Guinea (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1937); J. G. Hides, Through Wildest Papua (London: Blackie, 1935).

23. Ronald Berndt, Excess and Restraint, viii.

24. Ronald Berndt, “Into the Unknown!” 72.

25. Ronald Berndt, Excess and Restraint, viii, ix.

26. Ronald Berndt, Excess and Restraint, vii, ix, xiii, ix.

27. Their first field site was in Usurufa territory, but in their earlier publications the Berndts tended to generalize their findings to cover adjacent language groups, such as the Fore. (Although four language groups were defined, they expressed a “common culture with local variations,” R. Berndt, Excess and Restraint, 8.) Their later fieldwork was conducted among the Fore and it seemed to confirm their earlier generalizations from the Usurufa observations. The language groups do, however, become more clearly differentiated in later publications.

28. Ronald M. Berndt, “A Cargo Movement in the Eastern Central Highlands of New Guinea,” Oceania 23 (1952): 42–65, 137–58, 202–34. For a later treatment of the same topic, see Ronald M. Berndt, An Adjustment Movement in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory of Australia (Paris: Mouton, 1962).

29. Berndt, “Cargo Movement,” 57. On guria as, more generally, “a culturally-determined expression of a variety of excitatory themes including physical illness and interpersonal and ecological tensions,” see J. O. Hoskin, L. G. Kiloh, J. E. Cawte, “Epilepsy and Guria: the Shaking Syndromes of New Guinea,” Social Science and Medicine 3 (1969): 39–48.

30. Berndt, “Cargo Movement,” 65.

31. Ronald M. Berndt, “Reaction to Contact in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea,” Oceania 24 (1953): 190–228, 206. For another account of the reaction to contact, see Catherine Berndt, “Socio-cultural Change in the Eastern Highlands of New Guinea,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 9 (1953): 112–38.

32. Ronald Berndt, Excess and Restraint, 218–9. Berndt noted that “the attacks are described as becoming more frequent and more intense, with death as an inevitable climax,” 218.

33. Interview with Catherine Berndt, August 1992.

34. Ronald M. Berndt, “A ‘Devastating Disease Syndrome’: Kuru Sorcery in the Eastern Central Highlands of New Guinea,” Sociologus 8 (1959): 4–28, 25.

35. Ronald Berndt, “Cargo Movement,” 44. Catherine Berndt later claimed that Ronald had been offered some partly cooked flesh from a kuru victim, but was too squeamish to eat it.

36. Ronald Berndt, Excess and Restraint, 271.

37. Walter Arens, The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthrophagy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 99. Arens points out, rather sardonically, that “the list of New Guinea cannibals and the recorders of their unseen deed is almost endless,” 98. To be fair to Ronald Berndt, his account of cannibalism takes up no more than twenty-one out of more than 420 pages of text. The Berndts went on to long and distinguished careers as anthropologists of Aboriginal Australia, based at the University of Western Australia.

38. Nelson, “Kuru,” 189. See also, Vincent Zigas, Laughing Death: The Untold Story of Kuru (Clifton, NJ: Humana Press, 1990). Zigas had a reputation as a showman and someone likely to embroider a story. See D. Carleton Gajdusek, “Preface,” in Zigas, Laughing Death, and Shirley Lindenbaum, “Science, Sorcery and the Tropics,” New York Times Book Review ( July 1, 1990).

39. F. Macfarlane Burnet papers, University of Melbourne Archives, file 10.

40. F. Macfarlane Burnet to J. Gunther, April 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 41. Burnet resented Gajdusek's intrusion into a territory he had reserved for Australian scientists. Burnet received a Nobel Prize for his work in immunology in 1960.

41. Smadel, quoted in Rhodes, Deadly Feasts, 55. Joseph E. Smadel was associate director of the National Institutes of Health and Gajdusek's leading supporter. He later found Gajdusek a position at the NIH. (Gajdusek was thirty-four years old when he arrived in the Fore region.)

42. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 15 March 1957, in Correspondence on the Discovery and Original Investigations of Kuru: Smadel-Gajdusek Correspondence, 1955–58, ed. D. Carleton Gajdusek (Bethesda: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 1976), 50. Gajdusek later refers again to “a remarkable tremor that appears more hysterical than organic,” in Gajdusek to Smadel, 3 April 1957, ibid., 65.

43. Gajdusek to Smadel, 28 May 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 91.

44. D. Carleton Gajdusek, “Introduction,” in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, xxiii.

45. Gajdusek to Smadel, 6 August 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 172.

46. Gajdusek to R. F. R. Scragg, director of public health, PNG, 20 March 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 22. Here Gajdusek's attitude toward fieldwork clearly contrasts with that of the Berndts.

47. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 3 April 1957, in ibid., 29.

48. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 8 July 1957, in ibid., 87.

49. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 10 July 1957, in ibid., 91.

50. Carl G. Baker to Gajdusek, 26 July 1957 in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 164. The discovery of the new disease was announced in Gajdusek and V. Zigas, “Degenerative Disease of the Central Nervous System in New Guinea. The Endemic Occurrence of ‘Kuru’ in the Native Population,” New England Journal of Medicine 257 (1957): 974–8.

51. Ronald Berndt maintained that the presence of neuropathology did not rule out a psychosomatic cause, but this argument carried little weight with the medical investigators.

52. For many years Gajdusek believed that the most likely explanation was that the Fore were genetically predisposed to react to a peculiar toxin.

53. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 25 August 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 121.

54. Shirley Lindenbaum, “Science, Sorcery and the Tropics.”

55. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 15 March 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 50, 51. Smadel was concerned that Gajdusek might get eaten: “What will happen to the records, the material, and the information that you carry in your head if the plane comes down in the jungle or if one of the indigenes decides to revert to cannibalism?” In Smadel to Gajdusek, 16 August 1957, in idem, 177. On the continuing appeal of the cannibal metaphor in medicine and science, see William Arens, “Rethinking Anthropophagy,” in Cannibalism and the Colonial World, ed. Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, Margaret Iverson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 39–62.

56. Gajdusek to J. E. Smadel, 27 September 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 234. Gajdusek had discounted any connection of cannibalism and kuru as soon as he ruled out any infectious agent.

57. Peter Galison observes that in physics “experimenters like to call their extractive moves ‘cannibalizing’ a device,” in Image and Logic, 54.

58. Gajdusek to Smadel, 3 April 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 67.

59. Gajdusek to Smadel, n.d. (late May 1957?), in ibid., 95. This gives another meaning to Gajdusek's offhand remark that “I hope to begin digesting our data shortly,” in Gajdusek to Roy Simmons, 30 June 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 81.

60. Gajdusek to Smadel, n.d. (May 1957?), in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 88.

61. Gajdusek to Smadel, 28 May 1957, in ibid., 90.

62. Gajdusek to Smadel, n.d. (late May 1957?), in ibid., 94. For more on the difficulty of obtaining autopsies, see Gajdusek to Smadel, 29 June 1957, in idem,119. The comment on the distaste for opening the head is strange, given the later claims that kuru was transmitted through the eating of human brains.

63. Peggy Reeves Sanday, Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 7. Marshall Sahlins has speculated on the role of ritual cannibalism in the origin of social order, in “Raw Women, Cooked Men, and Other ‘Great Things’ of the Fiji Islands,” in The Ethnography of Cannibalism, ed. Paula Brown and Donald Tuzin (Washington, DC: Society for Psychological Anthropology, 1983), 72–93.

64. On the problem of social reproduction, see Annette Weiner, “Sexuality among the Anthropologists, Reproduction among the Informants,” Social Analysis 12 (1982): 52–65. On similar means of renewing human energy, see Michelle Z. Rosaldo, “Skulls and Causality,” Man ns 12 (1977): 168–70.

65. Crystal Bartolovich, “Consumerism, or the Cultural logic of Late Cannibalism,” in Barker, ed., Cannibalism and the Colonial World, 204–37, 234.

66. Janet Hoskins, “Introduction: Headhunting as Practice and Trope,” in Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia, ed. Janet Hoskins (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 1–49, 2, 37, 38. On exchange models for understanding the cultural logic of headhunting, see Kenneth M. George, “Headhunting, History and Exchange in Upland Sulawesi,” Journal of Asian Studies 50 (1991): 536–64. For an attempt to use the trope of headhunting to explain the collecting practices of A. R. Wallace and H. O. Forbes, see Sandra Pannell, “Travelling in Other Worlds: Narratives of Headhunting, Appropriation and the Other in the ‘Eastern Archipelago,’” Oceania 62 (1992): 162–78.

67. Gajdusek to Smadel, 24 November 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 309–10. Earlier, Gajdusek had written to Gunther: “We have ticklish problems in trying to avoid any trace of coercion of the natives. We have gained their confidence around Moke.” In Gajdusek to J. Gunther, 3 April 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 28–9.

68. Mauss, The Gift, 31.

69. See list in Gajdusek to Burnet, April 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 72. Gajdusek later complained that “everyone wants shoots and pills and they want these in return for saying they are sik. To get a further history and symptomatology from them is a long and tedious task and to satisfy them they must have as many pills as the next man.” In D. Carleton Gajdusek, Solomon Islands, New Britain and East New Guinea Journal 1960 (Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 1964), 98 [27 March 1960].

70. Gajdusek to Smadel, late May 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 92. On a later field trip, Gajdusek wrote of one of his Fore friends: “I admire him and am deeply grateful that my little attentions to him and his people have resulted in such an unusual show of allegiance and accord. I only hope I can justify it.” In Gajdusek, Solomon Islands, New Britain and East New Guinea Journal 1960, 59 [17 March 1960].

71. Catherine Berndt, “Journey along Mythic Paths.” The Berndts certainly recognized that they were expected to present gifts to the Fore: see Berndt, “Reaction to Contact,” 271–2.

72. Gajdusek to Vin Zigas and Jack Baker, 1 Sept 1957, in Kuru Epidemiological Patrols from the New Guinea Highlands to Papua 1957, ed. D. Carleton Gajdusek (Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 1963),40. Gajdusek often found it difficult to “retain equilibrium in the complex plurality of relationships which I have here in this region.” Gajdusek, Solomon Islands, New Britain and East New Guinea Journal 1960, 137 [16 April 1960].

73. Journal, 5 October 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Kuru Epidemiological Patrols, 76.

74. Gajdusek to Burnet and Anderson, 19 May 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 57.

75. Caroline Humphrey and Stephen Hugh-Jones, “Introduction: Barter, Exchange and Value,” in Barter, Exchange and Value: An Anthropological Approach, ed. Caroline Humphrey and Stephen Hugh-Jones (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1–20,11. See also Gregory, Gifts and Commodities, esp. 42.

76. Nicholas Thomas, “The Cultural Dynamics of Peripheral Exchange,” in Humphrey and Hugh-Jones, Barter, Exchange and Value, 21–41,38. Thomas also makes the point that “barter has always been associated with social margins,” 21.

77. On the notion of “keeping while giving,” see Annette Weiner, “Inalienable Wealth,” American Ethnologist 12 (1985): 210–27. In such cases, “the affective qualities constituting the giver's social and political identity remain embedded in the objects so that when given to others the objects create an emotional lien upon the receivers,” 212.

78. Gajdusek to Smadel, n.d. (late May 1957?), in Gajdusek, ed., Kuru Epidemiological Patrols, 93.

79. Appadurai, ed., Social Life of Things. Thomas also points out that cross-cultural exchange “frequently entails differing assumptions or claims about whether a thing is a commodity or a gift, as well as divergent views of the commodity candidacy of things and the context of exchange itself.” Entangled Objects, 30.

80. Thomas, Entangled Objects, 15.

81. Gajdusek to Vin Zigas and Jack Baker, 8 September 1957, in Gajdusek, ed., Kuru Epidemiological Patrols, 48.

82. Journal, 28 September 1957, in ibid., 57.

83. On these rituals, see Berndt, Excess and Restraint, 94–7, 104; and Shirley Lindenbaum, “AWife is the Hand of Man,” in Man and Woman in the New Guinea Highlands, ed. Paula Brown and Georgeda Buchbinder (Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association, 1976), 54–62, esp. 57.

84. Berndt, “Reaction to Contact,” 226.

85. Marilyn Strathern, “Qualified Value: The Perspective of Gift Exchange,” in Humphrey and Hugh-Jones, Barter, Exchange and Value, 169–91, 177, 178.

86. On boundary construction and maintenance in science, see Thomas I. Gieryn, “Boundary Work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-Science: Strains and Interests in Professional Ideologies of Scientists,” American Sociological Review 48 (1983): 781–96. See also John N. Gray, “Lamb Auctions on the Borders,” Archives Européennes de Sociologie 24 (1984): 54–2.

87. See Weiner, “Inalienable Wealth.”

88. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 217–52.

89. Andrew Strathern, The Rope of Moka: Big-Men and Ceremonial Exchange in Mt Hagen, New Guinea (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 221. See also Marshall Sahlins, “Poor Man, Rich Man, Big Man, Chief,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 5 (1963): 285–303.

90. Gajdusek to Burnet, 13 March 1957, in Farquhar and Gajdusek, Kuru, 6. Ian Wood was the director of the Clinical Research Unit, a division of the Hall Institute.

91. I hope that I will later be able to link this analysis of the exchange regimes of kuru science to issues of trust and civility, as raised by Steven Shapin in A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

92. Gajdusek to Smadel, n.d. (May 1957?), in Gajdusek, ed., Correspondence, 88. He later wrote to Smadel (10 July 1957) that “we have two further brains on our hands already—one for you and one for Melbourne” in idem, 145.

93. Graeme Robertson to J. G. Greenfield, NIH, 31 October 1957, in ibid., 305.

94. Gajdusek to Smadel, 7 December 1957, in ibid., 336.

95. Gajdusek to Smadel, 24 December 1957, in ibid., 342.

96. Gajdusek to Smadel, 6 August 1957, in ibid., 173. Later, on 17 September 1957, Gajdusek wrote to Smadel, “THUS FAR WE CANNOT FIND ASINGLE CLUE,” and “I can find no toehold from which to start infectious disease or toxicological study,” in Burnet papers, file 10/3.

97. W. J. Hadlow, “Scrapie and Kuru,” Lancet ii (1959): 289–90. See also W. J. Hadlow, “The Scrapie-Kuru Connection: Recollections of How it Came About,” in Prion Diseases of Humans and Animals, ed. Stanley Prusiner, John Collinge, John Powell, Brian Anderton (New York: Ellis Horwood, 1992), 40–6.

98. Michael Alpers, “Reflections and Highlights: A Life with Kuru,” in Prusiner et al., eds., Prion Diseases, 66–76.

99. D. C. Gajdusek, C. J. Gibbs, M. Alpers, “Experimental Transmission of a Kurulike Syndrome to Chimpanzees,” Nature 209 (1966): 257–9. See also Rhodes, Deadly Feasts, Nelson, “Kuru.”

100. Lindenbaum, Kuru Sorcery, viii. Glasse was an American who received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the Australian National University; and Lindenbaum had trained in the Sydney anthropology program.

101. Lindenbaum, Kuru Sorcery, 72.

102. Ibid., 111.

103. Ann Fischer and J. L. Fischer, “Aetiology of Kuru,” Lancet i (1960): 1417–8.

104. Robert Glasse, “Cannibalism in the kuru region of New Guinea,” Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences 29 (1967): 748–54. See Robert Glasse and Shirley Lindenbaum, “Fieldwork in the South Fore: The Process of Ethnographic Inquiry,” in Prusiner et al., eds., Prion Diseases, 77–91.

105. Arens, Man-Eating Myth, 109. Arens argues that an epidemiological association of kuru with cannibalism is just “a hypothesis based on circumstantial evidence,” and the disease may also have been associated with European contact or other changes in lifestyle, 112. He quotes Burnet, who in 1971 warned that “it would be unfortunate if too easy acceptance of the cannibalism hypothesis should handicap further inquiry into the pathogenesis of kuru.” See F. Macfarlane Burnet, “Reflections on Kuru,” Human Biology in Oceania 1 (1971): 3–9, 5. Interestingly, Berndt had claimed that “people do not normally eat the victims of dysentery or guzugli sorcery,” in Excess and Restraint, 270. However, Lindenbaum pointed out that the Fore would not eat those with dysentery or leprosy, but kuru victims “were viewed favourably, the layer of fat on those who died rapidly heightening the resemblance of human flesh to pork,” in Kuru Sorcery, 20.

106. M. P. Alpers, “Epidemiological Changes in Kuru, 1957–63” in Slow, Latent and Temperate Virus Infections, ed. D. C. Gajdusek, C. J. Gibbs, M. P. Alpers (Washington, DC: National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, 1965), 65–82; J. D. Mathews, Robert Glasse and Shirley Lindenbaum, “Kuru and Cannibalism,” Lancet ii (1968): 449–52.

107. D. C. Gajdusek, “Unconventional Viruses and the Origin and Disappearance of Kuru,” Science 197 (1977): 943–60. Kuru was not transmitted experimentally through the gastrointestinal tract, so Gajdusek suggested that the route of transmission might be skin contact with the contaminated brain. See D. C. Gajdusek et al., “Precautions in the Medical Care of, and in Handling Materials from, Patients with Transmissible Virus Dementias,” New England Journal of Medicine 297 (1977): 1253.

108. S. B. Prusiner, “Novel Proteinaceous Infectious Particles cause Scrapie,” Science 216 (1982): 136–44.

109. Gajdusek estimated that more than twenty-five hundred Fore had died of kuru between 1957 and 1982, by which time it was rare. For a review, see D. C. Gajdusek, “Subacute Spongiform Encephalopathies: Transmissible Cerebral Amyloidoses caused by Unconventional Viruses,” In Virology, 2nd ed., ed. B. N. Fields et al. (New York: Raven Press, 1990), 2289–324.

110. I hope to address many of these issues in a larger work on kuru exchanges, but some of the limitations of the historical record may mean that many of these questions are never answered satisfactorily.

111. Jonathan Parry, “On the Moral Perils of Exchange,” in Parry and Bloch, eds., Money and the Morality of Exchange, 64–93. Gajdusek regularly brought children back from his research trips and sent them to school in the United States. By the 1990s, more than fifty children had lived in his house. In 1996, Gajdusek was charged with the abuse of one of them, and he pleaded guilty. Although it may be tempting to seek facile analogies between the collection of children and of body parts, it seems that the exchange relations were quite different in character—as was the appreciation of moral peril.

112. Mario Biagioli, “Aporias of Scientific Authorship: Credit and Responsibility in Contemporary Biomedicine,” in The Science Studies Reader, ed. Mario Biagioli (New York: Routledge, 1999), 12–30.

113. On the changing transactional orders of science, see Nelkin, Science as Intellectual Property; Harriet A. Zuckerman, “Introduction: Intellectual Property and Diverse Rights of Ownership in Science,” Science, Technology and Human Values 13 (1988): 7–16; Donna J. Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_ Meets_OncoMouse™. Feminism and Technoscience (New York: Routledge, 1997), 244–53; Sheldon Krimsky, “The Profit of Scientific Discovery and its Normative Implications,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 75 (1999): 15–39; and Margaret Lock, “Genetic Diversity and the Politics of Difference,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 75 (1999): 83–111.

114. Jenkins maintained good relations with the Hagahai, and promised them half the royalties from the patent. Patent No. 5,397,696—for the DNA sequence “PNG human T-lymphotrophic virus (PNG-1)”—was later dropped after protests from the Papua New Guinea government and activists who alleged “biopiracy.” See S. Lehrman, “Anthropologist Cleared in Patent Dispute,” Nature 380 (1996): 374; S. Lehrman, “US Drops Patent Claim to Hagahai Cell Line,” Nature 384 (1996): 500; ip/rafi.html (July 12, 1999); and Lock, “Genetic Diversity.” The controversy is covered in a special issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly 20 (1996). On Carol Jenkins’ research see “Medical Anthropology in the Western Schrader Range, Papua New Guinea,” National Geographic Research 3 (1987): 412–30.

115. See also Roy MacLeod, “On Visiting the ‘Moving Metropolis’: Reflections on the Architecture of Imperial Science,” in Scientific Colonialism: A Cross-Cultural Comparison, ed. Nathan Reingold and Marc Rothenberg (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987), 217–50; and David Wade Chambers, “Period and Process in Colonial and National Science,” in Reingold and Rothenberg, eds., Scientific Colonialism, 297–322.

116. George E. Marcus, “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multisited Ethnography,” Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995): 95–117. Multisited history is not the old comparative history, which tended to produce more systemic (and less interactive) comparisons. I am suggesting a series of microhistories connected by the passage of objects and careers. See Giovanni Levi, “On Microhistory,” in New Perspectives on Historical Writing, ed. P. Burke (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 93–113, 95.

117. See Laura Nader, ed., Naked Science: Anthropological Inquiry into Boundaries, Power and Knowledge (New York and London: Routledge, 1996).

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