Yali's Question is the story of a remarkable physical and social creation—Ramu Sugar Limited (RSL), a sugar plantation created in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. As an embodiment of imported industrial production, RSL's smoke-belching, steam-shrieking factory and vast fields of carefully tended sugar cane contrast sharply with the surrounding grassland. RSL not only dominates the landscape, but also shapes those culturally diverse thousands who left their homes to work there.
To understand the creation of such a startling place, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz explore the perspectives of the diverse participants that had a hand in its creation. In examining these views, they also consider those of Yali, a local Papua New Guinean political leader. Significantly, Yali features not only in the story of RSL, but also in Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning world history Guns, Germs, and Steel—a history probed through its contrast with RSL's. The authors' disagreement with Diamond stems, not from the generality of his focus and the specificity of theirs, but from a difference in view about how history is made—and from an insistence that those with power be held accountable for affecting history.