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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Inna Yaneva-Toraman

Inna Yaneva-Toraman
Inna Yaneva-Toraman
Social Anthropology School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
5.16 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
Research Interests
Anthropology of the body, personhood, death, Melanesia, Material Culture, Masks, Religion And Ritual, Christianity, Economic anthropology, land ownership, indigenous rights, Conservation and development

PhD Title

Personhood within a Mask: An ethnography of in/visibility among the Baining of New Britain (PNG)


Baining Fire Dance

The gigantic barkcloth masks of the Baining people are among the most fascinating art forms in the Pacific and for many years they have attracted countless missionaries, ethnographers, explorers, and tourists. Despite the intense interest in these artefacts, very little has been known about them and their role in Baining social life. My research started from the position that these masks and the dances they are made for can tell us a lot about Melanesian personhood and sociality; and the significance of material culture in (re)presentations and identity-making in Papua New Guinea. Drawing on notions of concealment and revelation, invisibility and visibility, and becoming, the project explores the ways in which masking reconfigures and questions the boundaries between life and death, nature and culture, inside and outside, and processes of (re)producing social relationships through conferring different degrees of in/visibility.

Throughout my fieldwork I became interested in the effects of the recently introduced oil palm business within the region. In 2011 a massive portion of the Baining customary land was transformed into a series of oil palm plantations, which have significantly transformed the area both ecologically and socially. I am thus interested in questions about the continuity and change of traditional notions of power, local and global economy encounters, kinship, and kastom after the introduction of oil palm. I explore these through the lens of 'masking', and a discussion on hiding, shame, invisibility and visibility.  

In this way, the research offers significant insight not only to the anthropology of masks, material culture, and Melanesia, but also to more general environmental and economic studies both within and beyond the Pacific region. 

Oil Palm Nursery


Dr Alice Street

Dr Casey High 

Dr Dimitri Tsintjilonis

Academic Qualifications

2011 - 2012  MSc Social Anthropology, The University of Edinburgh
2006 - 2011  BSc Sociology, Middle East Technical University

Awards and Grants

2017     FfWG Foundation Main Grant (BFWG Charitable foundation)

2017    The Edinburgh Award in Professionalism in Community Engagement

2015    Tweedie Exploration Fellowship for Students

2014    ESRC (+2) Open Competition Award

2013    SSPS Social Anthropology Special Award, The University of Edinburgh

Teaching Experience

Social Anthropology 1A: The Life Course (SCAN08013) - ( 1st year Undergraduate)

Sustainable Development 1A: Introducing Sustainable Development (SCIL08008) - (1st year Undergraduate)

Ritual and Religion (SCAN10023) - (3rd year Undergraduate/Honours)

Consumption, Exchange, Technology (SCAN10031) - (3rd year Undergraduate/Honours)

Social and Cultural Geography (GEGR08004) - (2nd year Undergraduate)

Geography Fieldwork: Foundations (Human Geography - Athens Field Trip) (GEGR09017) - (3rd year Undergraduate/Honours)

Conference and Seminar Papers

(Jul. 2017) ‘Masks, Money, and the Power of Being Seen among the Baining of Papua New Guinea’, paper presented at ESfO 2017, Munich, Germany

(Mar. 2017) ‘Growing families: Household, Gardening, Production and the Family among the Kairak Baining of Papua New Guinea’, paper presented to SIEF 2017, Göttingen, Germany

(Jul. 2016) ‘From cocoa to oil palm: visibility strategy and development among the Baining’, paper presented to EASA 2016, Milan, Italy

(Jun. 2016) ‘Baining Masks and Kastom’, paper presented at the National Museum and Gallery of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

(Aug. 2015) ‘Personhood within a Mask’, paper presented at Australian National University, Canberra, Australia  

Other work

(2017 - present) Lead Committee Member - School of Social and Political Science Postgraduate Mentoring Scheme (SSPS PGT Mentoring)

(2017 - present) Copy-editor - Anthropology Matters

(2014 - present) Executive editor - The Unfamiliar Journal

(2014) Volunteer assist. -  ‘Pacific Collections in Scottish Museums Review Project’, National Museum of Scotland (blog)

(2011) Interpreter - UNHCR, Ankara, Turkey

Baining mask at the Pacific Games baton tour

PNG Museum Baining mask