Family man: the Papua New Guinean children of D. Carleton Gajdusek

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Spark, Ceridwen (2007) Family man: the Papua New Guinean children of D. Carleton Gajdusek. Oceania, 77 (3). pp. 355-369. ISSN 0029-8077


The name Carleton Gajdusek is familiar to many scholars and those otherwise interested in Pacific anthropology and history. Yet while much has been written about Gajdusek's work on kuru and his achievements in science, little is known about his unusual family life. Addressing this gap, this article examines Gajdusek's adoption of sixteen Papua New Guinean children from among the Fore and Anga peoples. These children form part of Gajdusek's large family adopted from the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Micronesia. Drawing on Gajdusek's extensive personal journals and interviews with his friends, colleagues and children, the paper refutes arguments which explain the adoptions through reference to Gajdusek's sexuality or humanitarianism, demonstrating rather that Gajdusek adopted the PNG children primarily because he wanted to create a family. Highlighting some of the ways in which Melanesian models of kinship suited Gajdusek's preference for an extended family, the article addresses an under-researched aspect of the life of this important twentieth century figure.

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Online ISSN: 1834-4461

Item type Article
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1601 Anthropology
Historical > FOR Classification > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords ResPubID22063. Carleton Gajdusek, Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinean, adoption, adoptive, adoptees, family, cross-cultural interaction, humanism
Citations in Scopus 2 - View on Scopus
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