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Keywords:

  • Myth and history;
  • comparison;
  • regional analysis;
  • missionaries;
  • Papua New Guinea

Stories of wandering heroes who gave people their physical form and many of their cultural practices have been widely reported by anthropologists working in the southern lowlands of New Guinea. In this article, I argue for an approach to anthropological comparison that takes into account people's understandings of cultural similarities and differences as expressed through these stories and that also takes seriously their historical explanations for them. In so doing, I extend critiques concerning the anthropological production of knowledge to the practice of anthropological comparison by questioning hegemonic ideas of history that inevitably underlie anthropological formulations of culture areas.