Dr. Gregory Forth

Gregory Forth

Professor

Anthropology
13-26 Tory Bldg
(780) 492-0134
gregory.forth@ualberta.ca


 

Gregory Forth is a Professor of Anthropology who has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia for over thirty years. Dr. Forth's research is mostly concentrated on the islands of Flores and Sumba (where he conducted two years doctoral research in 1975-76), and his 1981 book on the Rindi district of eastern Sumba, a region famous for its decorated textiles and megalithic stoneworks, has been mentioned in popular travel guides and museum catalogues. 

Based on participant observation facilitated by extended periods of residence with local people and conversations conducted in local languages, Professor Forth’s research has mostly comprised original ethnographic studies of local social organization and culture. Particular interests include indigenous religion and ritual. Beginning in 1984, Dr. Forth's investigation of periodic water buffalo sacrificing and traditional funerary ritual among the Nage and Keo people of central Flores, maintained even while the majority of people have converted to Catholicism, has demonstrated the crucial importance of these activities for the articulation and continuity of local social and territorial groupings and social relationships based on kinship and marriage (see Forth, Beneath the volcano, 1998; Dualism and hierarchy, 2001). See Dr. Forth's recent article in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Also focusing on eastern Indonesia, for the past twenty years Professor Forth has developed further research interests in ethnozoology—the investigation of human-animal relations in regard to ethnotaxonomy and classification, economy and ecology, and ritual, myth, and other symbolic forms.

In addition to numerous journal articles, this research has resulted in aGregory Forthmonograph on folk ornithology (Nage birds, 2004) and has contributed substantially to another book entitled Images of the wildman in Southeast Asia (2008). Book reviews including one by Andrew Stathern and Pamela J. Stewart in are available on Amazon.com.   A major focus of the latter work is indigenous representations, found on Flores island and elsewhere, of hominoid creatures bearing a remarkable resemblance to palaeoanthropological reconstructions of pre-sapiens hominins. While conducting fieldwork on Flores in the 1980s, Professor Forth recorded information concerning a putative beings, now reputedly extinct but surviving in historical memory of local people; these have since been hypothetically linked with the fossil hominin, interpreted as a new species, Homo floresiensis, discovered by palaeoanthropologists working in western Flores in 2003.

More recently initiated ethnozoological projects include a study of the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and local knowledge of these animals in parts of Flores where the giant lizards still occur. One aim is to demonstrate how local knowledge of this threatened species can contribute both to zoological investigation and conservation efforts. Professor Forth plans further research on the folk zoology of eastern Indonesian mammals and reptiles. However, he continues his research into other aspects of local society and culture, including clanship, local forms of ‘taboo’ and ‘totemism’, material culture (vernacular architecture and wooden statuary), and relations with outsiders, especially as expressed in several sorts of recurrent rumours. See Dr. Forth's article in Anthropology Today.

Another continuing interest, conducted partly with archival materials, concerns the colonial and proto-history of central Flores (see Guardians of the land in Kelimado 2004).

 In 2009, Professor Forth received the Faculty of Art’s Research Excellence Award and in 2004-05 was the recipient of a McCalla Professorship. Further information on Professor Forth’s research in his Curriculum Vitae.