Dr Rupert Stasch, Sidney Fellow and Associate Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology, is carrying out important anthropological research on the Korowai people of Indonesian Papua, with a focus on how they regularly ‘perform’ in line with filmmakers’ required stereotypes to earn money.

Stasch has immersed himself in Korowai culture since 1995 and has published a book and some 30 articles about Korowai social life, their patterns of speech and their meetings with tourists.

The University recently posted the feature, Korowai on TV: the naked truth, to highlight the importance of Stasch’s work in helping to shift a false media narrative transfixed on depicting the Korowai people as living unclothed in super-high treehouses far away from any signs of modern civilisation.

Filmmakers seemed reluctant to stray from this romanticised ideal of indigenous people living a truly sheltered existence among only each other and nature, until the makers of the BBC’s three-episode documentary, My Year with the Tribe took a different approach, drawing on Stasch’s research and expertise in their filming and editing work. This award-winning documentary series provides an insight into what life is really like for the Korowai people, and why they have been portrayed in such a cartoonish manner in television shows for so long.

Uncover the truth about the ‘Treehouse People’ and television in the University of Cambridge feature,Korowai on TV: the naked truth.

Super-high Korowai treehouse. Credit: AndamanSE, iStock

Super-high Korowai treehouse. Credit: AndamanSE, iStock

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