1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Frederick H. Damon


Ph.D. Princeton University 1978

Brooks Hall, 206


Muyuw, 1996 - with Amoen, "Sipum,"
hunter, woodsman and guide, deceased 2009.
Please see the beginning of my book:
Trees, Knots and Outriggers (Kaynen Muyuw):
Environmental Research in the Northeast Kula Ring

Entering the fall of my years—I started at UVa during the 1976-77 academic year—I have thoroughly enjoyed my teaching and research and value both for personal and professional reasons. Sprinkled among my primary teaching and research obligations I have participated in or organized a series of conferences, the two Kula Conferences (1978 at Cambridge University, 1982 at UVa) and most recently, with Carlos Mondragón from El Colegio de México and Wang Mingming from Beijing University, two workshops called ‘Ecology and Time Systems in Australasia and the Americas: New approaches to value systems and calendrical transformations across the Pacific Rim.’ These were held at UVa (2009) and Beijing University (2011) (See here for Programs).

My initial research in the Kula Ring of Papua New Guinea intended to use a structuralist version of exchange theory to describe Muyuw-Woodlark Island-as it existed in its regional setting. Indigenous understandings forced 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 a focus of my work. With those I maintain an interest in the problem of how to understand and describe the regional systems in which all social life is embedded. For the remainder of my professional life I expect to consider these issues in light of recent concerns with chaos theory. I thus hope to be engaged in dialogues with fractal mathematics and perhaps knot theory.

As intended, nine returns to PNG between 1991 and 2009 along with new teaching interests have generated shifts in my original topical, theoretical and areal stances. Added to the exchange/production orientation are interdisciplinary research and teaching to explore how anthropogenic environments relate to better-known social structural and cosmological transformations in and beyond the Kula Ring. And I now view that area against the backdrop of the whole Indo-Pacific and its natural and human history going back at least to the mid-Holocene. Recent publications reflect the initial stages of this work and should climax soon in a book entitled TREES, KNOTS AND OUTRIGGERS: Reflections on Environmental Research in the Northeast Kula Ring. I was in China during the summer of 2008 to initiate language learning and to explore new research locales proximate to the point of separation between what became East Asia on the one hand and the Austronesian world on the other. I anticipate spending the first half of 2013 in and around Quanzhou in Fujian Province further developing these interests.  Questions about both social organization, including in this socio-ecological contexts, and collective forms of thinking will animate this research. The future will be a pleasure with new friends and new ideas to explore.


OLDER CONTINUING COURSES: Transforming Everyday Life in America; Ecology & Society; Economic Anthropology. These three courses have been gems for me and for a good number of students. I look forward to teaching them and greeting a new bunch of students each time I start them over.

NEW COURSES IN DEVELOPMENT; Technology, Culture And Time (in which I consider recent work focusing on ‘materiality’ and the analysis of variation across different cultural regimes); and The Uses Of Contemporary Anthropology, (a course spawned by recent disastrous US foreign interventions and the financial crisis—‘What role might anthropological knowledge and methods play in the mitigation of these pressing problems?’ is the question I hope to address with advanced students from across the disciplines).


Structuralism, Marxism, world system theory, chaos theory; ethnobotony, historical ecology, ethnoastronomy; social structure, kinship, exchange and hierarchy; Melanesia, East and South Asia, US culture in the contemporary world system.

Department Faculty

Allison Alexy
Assistant Professor
Ira Bashkow
Associate Professor
Frederick H. Damon
Eve Danziger
Professor; Affiliated Faculty: Linguistics Program; Cognitive Science Program
Lise Dobrin
Associate Professor & Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Linguistics
Carrie Douglass
Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
Gertrude Fraser
Associate Professor
Richard Handler
Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program
Jeffrey L. Hantman
Associate Professor
James Igoe
Associate Professor
Ravindra Khare
Professor & Director of the Center on Critical Human Survival Issues
Adria LaViolette
Associate Professor
Daniel Lefkowitz
Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies
Susan McKinnon
Professor & Chair
George Mentore
Associate Professor
Rachel Most
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs & Professor
Fraser D. Neiman
Stephen Plog
David A. Harrison Professor of Archaeology
China Scherz
Assistant Professor
John Shepherd
Associate Professor
Margaret Smith
Director & Curator, The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
Edith Turner
Roy Wagner
Patricia Wattenmaker
Associate Professor
Kath Weston