Our commitment to
research impact that has
photo: U of R Photography
In the remote islands of the Massim region of Papua New Guinea the survival of the ancient practice of kula
trading – the reciprocal exchange of valuable shells – is in
jeopardy. The youth of the region are more interested in the
global cash economy than in gift exchange, but University of
Regina anthropologist, Dr. Susanne Kuehling, who studies the
way humans construct, negotiate and create value, is working
with island elders to reinvigorate kula and reinforce the area's
traditions, history and communities.
Kuehling says kula exchange is key to the islander's economic
independence; the shells are traded for resources, such as food, to solve
family problems and to provide an exciting way to travel and network
across the many islands that dot the region.
Working with a team from the islands, Kuehling is cataloguing photos of more
than 1600 surviving artifacts. She is also creating a curriculum and designing an
app to help teach youth about the worth of each kula shell and the rules of trading.
Kuehling says kula is the social pulse of the region and hopes the work being done
will help the kula exchange survive.
Kuehling's work is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.