Witches’ Wealth: Witchcraft, 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 is changing. Auhelawa believe that Western society and its wealth and technology were created by the renunciation of witchcraft. Conversely they believe that their own relative material poverty is sustained by the recalcitrance of witches who are holding back their invisible wealth. I argue that witchcraft imagery takes this form because Christianity has reshaped the cultural conception of personhood, space, and time, detaching witchcraft from the ethos of kinship. In this context, Western wealth symbolizes witchcraft as a moral failing.