In this book the late Jeffrey Clark subjects the history of colonialism among the Wiru of Papua New Guinea to a fresh and subtle examination. He reflects upon his own fieldwork as an anthropologist as he scrutinizes the cultural construction of encounters and exchanges between New Guineans and Australians from the 1930s on. Colonized and colonizers alike are the focus of an analysis that draws upon theories of culture, temporality, discursive representation, and anthropology in the postcolonial era. Steel to Stone offers an original critique of several different theories and perspectives and, in its ensemble of frameworks, constitutes a highly innovative contribution to anthropological thinking about history and culture. Of especial interest is Clark's application, in a New Guinean context, of Foucault's analysis of 'the way in which new regimes of power and knowledge are inscribed on the body'. The Wiru, faced with the impact of a colonizing culture, are shown to inscribe their own history on the body, and to read in it their understanding of particular events.
Overall, Clark provides a compelling picture of a contemporary Melanesian culture, at the critical point at which the Wiru people are interpreting, invoking, and reinventing their history in the context of a developing nation state.