The compensation page News narratives of public kinship in Papua New Guinea print journalism
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), news media frequently report on events in which groups exchange gifts as compensation for alleged harms. In news narratives of this type, compensation is a metaphor for the contact between liberal and relational social orders. In this way, news media in PNG produces knowledge of what it means to be a citizen in a society defined by vast and profound diversity. Different versions of the basic formula for a compensation story each offer different models for how liberal and relational orders should interact, one stressing the logic of reciprocal debt and interdependence, and the other emphasizing the gift as a dematerialized symbol of commitment to civil order. Yet each variant implicates the other, and hence the status of the indigenous subject as a citizen of a postcolonial nation remains fundamentally ambiguous. Stories of a new type of compensation in national newspapers reveal that PNG and society and its media continue to work through the dilemmas of ethnographic citizenship in ever newer ways.
(This paper was accepted for publication in The Contemporary Pacific in September 2020, and will appear in print in early 2022.)