“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 […]

Indecorous, Too Hasty, Incorrect: Market and Moral Imagination in Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea

Malinowski quotes a typical Kiriwina man in Argonauts of the Western Pacific: “He conducts his Kula as if it were gimwali” (1932 [1922]:96). This analysis of the difference between ceremonial exchange and barter—not Malinowski’s, but his informant’s—is one reason Trobriand kula practices resonate with so many. In this article, I suggest one consider the informant’s […]

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 […]

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 […]

Only the names have changed: Dialectic and differentiation of the indigenous person in Papua New Guinea

Indigeneity is becoming a more important way for the rural communities of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to represent identity, as it is in many other parts of the world. Anthropologists have largely been critical of the essentialism of indigenous identities, and describe indigeneity as an emerging consciousness of the denial of sovereignty. I argue that […]

One Mind: Enacting the Christian Congregation in Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea

This article examines the relationship between Christian worship and the production of religious identity among Auhelawa speakers of Normanby Island, Papua New Guinea. Auhelawa people live in a society in which a locally developed form of Christianity has emerged from a long engagement with missionaries. In the colonial era, missionaries spoke in terms of light […]

Finding Money: Business and Charity in Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea

There is a growing consensus that money and the market principle have not led to a great transformation into modernity. Rather, market exchange is everywhere socially embedded. But what does this embedding consist of, structural limits, tactics of resistance, or moral boundaries? Auhelawa (Normanby Island, Papua New Guinea) have incorporated money into their local economy […]

Witches’ Wealth: Witchraft, Confession and Christian Personhood in Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea

The argument that contemporary examples of witchcraft belief demonstrate an alternative form of modern subjectivity has been doubted by many anthropologists, who claim that so-called modern witchcraft is often only a reflection of traditional cultural epistemologies. In Auhelawa (Milne Bay province, Papua New Guinea), new beliefs about witchcraft suggest that the epistemic basis for knowledge […]

‘Sit, Cook, Eat, Full Stop:’ Religion and the Rejection of Ritual in Auhelawa (Papua New Guinea)

The Auhelawa people of Normanby Island (Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea) typically observe the death of an individual through a series of feasts in which the lineage of the deceased and its lateral relatives exchange food and perform rituals of mourning. Recently, a number of people have decided to reject all forms of ‘custom’ […]