Paternalism on patrol: An officer’s report on health promotion in colonial Papua

As part of my research on cultural changes in Auhelawa, a society on the south coast of Normanby Island, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), I’ve read through many of the reports written by the young Australian men who worked as officers of the colonial government. You can tell as you read them how […]

“Tapwaroro is true”: Indigenous voice and the heteroglossia of Methodist missionary translation in British New Guinea

In the semiotic ideology of many Christian discursive practices, it is assumed that any language can convey the same message of salvation, and any person is capable of true belief, no matter how it is expressed. Evangelism, especially by Western missions, thus centers on translating Christian texts into vernacular languages. This article considers these understandings […]

Pei bilong sosopen: An article from Lae Garamut, 1948

Another of the postwar education department newsletters in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was Lae Garamut. It published mainly announcements and instructions from local colonial officials in Pidgin, but like Rabaul News and others, aspired to be a newspaper for indigenous people, and invited readers to submit their own articles.  In 1948, the […]

Yumi olsem wantok tasol: An article from Rabaul News, 1948

Rabaul News was a Pidgin-language newsletter published with support from the Department of Education in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea in the late 1940s and 1950s. Like many such papers at the time, it aspired to bring a reliable news source to the indigenous residents of the Territory, encourage adult education, and explain (or justify) […]

Birds Will Cover the Sky: Humiliation and Meaning in Two Historical Narratives from Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea

This article examines how the people of Auhelawa, a society on the south coast of Normanby Island, Papua New Guinea, make use of two historical figures—one a warrior, the other a police officer—to represent the nature of social transformation. In different ways, the stories of these heroes produce a dichotomous temporality of a time of […]

A society divided: Death, personhood, and Christianity in Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea

Christianity invites one to consider it as an antisocial and disembedding force, in particular as hostile to tradition and hostile to collective modes of life. Colonial-era evangelists to Papua New Guinea (PNG) called on people to break traditional rules and, in their words, come out of the darkness. It has thus been productive to examine […]

Haus Man, Haus Krai: The Politics of Cosmology in Papua New Guinea

The campaign against sorcery in PNG continues For now nearly two years, groups in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and abroad have been campaigning to end the killing and torture of women accused of sorcery. Recently, grassroots organizations in provincial centres have taken up the cause in earnest, and brought renewed international attention to the matter. […]

A Grandparent Ghost Story from Lakalai, Papua New Guinea

I am doing research on a story about grandparents and ancestors from Lakalai (West New Britain, PNG). I first read about it in a paper by the anthropologist C. A. Valentine (1965). In Valentine’s telling, there was an elderly Lakalai woman who died. After her death, her spirit continued to watch over her living grandchild. […]

Notes on the Sociology of Wantoks in Papua New Guinea

This paper was selected for the 2015 article prize of the Australian Anthropological Society. It is available as an Open Access article from Anthropological Forum. Abstract: In Melanesian pidgin languages, wantok means someone with a similar origin as oneself, and connotes a familiarity and mutual solidarity. Wantok has also become a watchword of politics and […]

Let’s talk kula

I am interested in finding sources on the phenomenon of “kula talk” (Weiner 1992: 141) or “kula speech” (Munn 1992: 109). Many Kula researchers, including Damon, Weiner and Munn, mention a distinct genre of speech and discourse about the roads of kula valuables. The phenomenon is interesting because, as you all know, Malinowski argued that […]