How people talk, think, and write about the nature of citizenship in Papua New Guinea and other postcolonial societies has been on my mind lately during the school summer break this year. I am looking forward to the chance to discuss this topic when I present new research on rural journalism in PNG at The State and the Dynamics of Enslavement, a workshop being held at Deakin University from February 13 to 15, 2019.

Highlands mountains shrouded in mist in Simbu Province, PNG
A Simbu mountain landscape. Source: Paga Hill Media. 2016. “Simbu Province: A Trekker’s Paradise.” Paga Hill Estate (blog). May 6, 2016. http://www.pagahillestate.com/simbu-province/.

My paper is entitled “The payback beat: Ethnographic citizenship and the public kinship of indigenous subjects in postcolonial Papua New Guinea.” You can see my slides and read a rough draft of the paper I’m working on at http://anthro.rschram.org/talks/payback. I am scheduled to present on February 14 in the morning session from 9 to 11 a.m. Here is the abstract of my paper:

Unlike many postcolonial nations, Papua New Guinea defines itself through ethnographic citizenship in which members of its population are united in the empirical fact that they have an origin in some kind of indigenous society, rather than a common cultural tradition. In order to have standing in the PNG public sphere, people are required to produce knowledge of themselves as subjects of a integrated, functional social order. This poses an acute dilemma: one’s inalienable belonging and enduring obligations to fellow members of a rural community—typically grounded in forms of kinship—are matters of public discourse, yet the preeminent value of relationships underlying these modes of sociality are potentially disqualifying stigmata in a liberal order. In this paper, I examine journalism for rural audiences in PNG as a site where alternative public discourses of collective life emerge. In Simbu Nius, a provincial news magazine, rural clans figure prominently as agents in local news events, yet the recognition of their reciprocal interrelationships is always haunted by the stereotype of tribal retaliation and so they remain precariously situated on the edge of the liberal public sphere.

The State workshop is being convened by Bruce Kapferer, Rohan Bastin, Marina Gold, and Julia Sauma as part of their European Research Council project on egalitarianism. Here is the program of presentations, courtesy of workshop organizer Marina Gold.

Anyone interested in sitting in and hearing the presentations is welcome to attend. The meeting venue is at Deakin’s downtown campus at

Deakin Downtown
Level 12, Tower 2
727 Collins Street
Melbourne Victoria 3008
http://www.deakin.edu.au/locations/deakin-corporate-centres/deakin-downtown

The organizers have asked me to mention that catering during the coffee breaks is only provided for the workshop participants (but if you come hear my presentation, I will happily buy you a coffee). I think it would be nice if anyone who wants to attend got in touch with the workshop organizers beforehand to let them know.