While conventional understandings of creativity tend to follow the logic of possessive individualism, in many contemporary instances creativity can be considered not as an outcome of individual 'genius' but an emergent (and even necessary) aspect of social relations. To appreciate this I suggest we might formulate conceptual approaches that take us outside recurrent divisions between persons and objects, individuals and society, creative genius and slavish replicators. Towards this, I look to ethnographic material from the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea to demonstrate how emergent relations between people and land form the basis for kinship, artistry, innovation, production and identity. This allows a fresh look at things closer to home.
James Leach is Professor of anthropology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He has undertaken field research in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea and published books and articles on the land-person-creativity relation there (Creative Land 2003), the ownership of land and knowledge (Rationales of Ownership 2004, edited with Lawrence Kalinoe), and Madang people’s use of plants (Reite Plants 2010, with Porer Nombo). He has also undertaken field research in the United Kingdom and Europe with Free Software communities and with several artists and arts organizations as they collaborate with scientists, resulting in articles on creativity, technology, collaboration, and knowledge exchange. www.jamesleach.net