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Kago, Kastom and Kalja: The Study of Indigenous Movements in Melanesia Today

Marcellin Abong
Marc Tabani

Epilogue. Agreeing to Disagree about Kago

Margaret Jolly

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1This volume emerges from a scintillating panel held as part of the meetings of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania in Santa Cruz and Alexandria. There was an extraordinary polyphony of voices in the papers presented at Santa Cruz in February 2009 and that polyphony, not without harmony, has been sustained in this volume. I was intrigued and impressed that the co-organizers and now co-editors, Marcellin Abong and Marc Tabani, agreed to disagree about the central concept: ‘cargo cults’.

2This reflects the extensive epistemological and ethical debate about the validity and value of the moniker ‘cargo cults’ in the vast literature to date. I am more of a critic than a celebrant, concurring with much in the successive critiques of Roger Keesing, Martha Kaplan and Nancy McDowell articulated for the Solomons, Fiji and Papua New Guinea (Keesing 1978, Kaplan 1995, McDowell 2000). There is much definitional, typological, political and ethical debate in the pages of this volume. Readers will doubtless judge for themselves whether Tabani’s preference for ‘retaining the concept at the same time as we are beginning to relinquish it’ and ‘using it even though it is “under erasure”’ (Chs 1 and 6) is justified. I rather focus on three dimensions of the chapters assembled here. First, I consider the way in which the relation between the material and the spiritual is perceived in analyses of these movements and the effects of a tendency to split and dichotomize ‘ Melanesian’versus ‘ western’ontologies. Second, I ponder how the dialogical relation between insiders and outsiders, indigenes and whites, proximate participants and distant observers is constructed. Third, I highlight a rather neglected feature of such movements, their gendered character, and the significance of radical reconfigurations of gender relations in several movements.

The Dialectics of Matter and Spirit, Nature and Culture

3In her superb chapter on mata kamo of the New Guinea Highlands, Aletta Biersack suggests that this cult was ultimately not so much about the acquisition of new wealth or ‘cargo’, but a ritual reorientation from earth to sky and a ‘concerted, often exuberant, effort to escape the human condition’ (Ch. 4), a life of work, suffering and eventual death, by instantiating a millennium. ‘To interpret mata kamo in cargoistic terms, as evidence of indigenous materialism, is to miss the point of mata kamo, which was to transcend the material conditions of terrestrial life by celestializing human life’ (Ch. 4). Through a searching and rigorous review of the ethnographic materials across several regions, amongst Ipili peoples of the Paiela and Porgera valleys as well as among Enga, Somaip and Huli, Biersack consummately argues that despite visions of new wealth – variously pearlshells imported by Europeans from the coast, steel axes, metal houses, cars, planes and new foods such as cows (perceived as huge pigs) – millennial abundance would especially be manifest in pigs raining down from the sky and the immortality of people as they ascended on pythons or ‘sky bridges’ to dwell on high with the eternal sun (and his ‘wife’, the moon).

4The millennium was to be secured through novel ritual devotion to the sun rather than terrestrial ancestors, staring at the sun along the shaft of a spear, sacrificing pigs (and eating their kidneys), scraping sweet potatoes with pearlshells, purification through bathing and new dietary and sexual regimes (variously abstinence and promiscuity). She perceives a gradient from an emphasis on wealth acquisition for Ipili speakers at Tipini in the far east to its absence as a goal for Paiela in the west and connects this to their differential exposure to the material culture of whites. But she concludes that since cargo was not a focus in all variants, mata kamo was fundamentally ‘not a craving for riches but the desire to enter the sky’ (Ch. 4), a realm of ‘workless bliss, free of horticulture and reproduction, fertility and regeneration, and thus death’ (Ch. 4). Now, it may be that whites were first seen by many in this region as ‘ sky travellers’(Gammage 1998) but this does not diminish the force of Biersack’s core argument. And, in my view, an undue focus on the material and on the novel wealth of Europeans in some manifestations of mata kamo rips apart the way in which indigenous cosmologies inexorably connected matter and spirit, seeing material abundance and immortality as a result of spiritual devotion, sacrificial exchange and ritual efficacy (see Tabani on Tannese conceptions of wealth, nauta, as not just material objects but the product of supernatural powers, and the slow process whereby novel goods were perceived as ‘modern’ or ‘western’) (Ch. 1).

  • 1 Scott’s paper (2010) presented at the ASAO panels in 2009 and 2010 is unfortunately not included i (...)
  • 2 I have problems with the regional name given the long European genealogy whereby, since Dumont d’U (...)

5This of course is not a peculiarly Melanesian conception. The prospect of an ascent to a divine heaven, of immortality after death for the faithful is a key promise of all denominations of Christianity while in some Protestant and Pentecostal variants proclaiming a ‘prosperity gospel’, an immortal afterlife is prefigured by wealth and health in this life on earth. Indigenous Ipili and Paiela constructions of the axis of earth and sky are different from the Christianity they would ultimately embrace. But, Biersack heard many compare the ritual bathing of these cults to Christian baptism and their skyworld to heaven while several people suggested that peace, development and especially the promise of ‘windfall wealth’ from gold mining is evidence that mata kamo’s millennium has been realized, at least in part. Like Biersack, I think we need to acknowledge the similarities and continuities between some Melanesian and some Western knowledge systems to get beyond the us/them dichotomy, the ‘nativization’ inherent in much cargo cult discourse and to break out of the ‘savage slot’ or ‘metonymic prison’ (Appadurai 1988: 37) to which Michael W. Scott (2010)1 suggests ‘Melanesia’ has been confined (cited in Ch. 1)2.

  • 3 But to name the phenomena ‘social movements’ does not perforce equate them with western movements (...)
  • 4 He speculatively traces Rawa arboreal concepts of ‘roots’ as the ‘inside hidden, mystical forces’ (...)

6Doug Dalton persuasively argues that there is a need to move beyond reductive explanations of cargo cults which deploy a functionalist sociology of ‘social movements’3or posit a teleology of proto-nationalisms moving inexorably towards secular western forms. He insists that the ontology of cargo cults is but one manifestation of the religious ontology of Inner Oceania, which makes no separation of nature and culture and which underlies less ‘millennial’, more quotidian religious beliefs and practices (Ch. 2). Taking his Rawa interlocutors as exemplary, he suggests that the ‘“outside” appearance of things in nature possess an unseen interior living subjectivity which is continuous with human intelligence’(Ch. 2). This he claims is radically different from the European view of a ‘disenchanted’ world whereby humans are knowing subjects of an impersonal, unaware and objectified nature which they aspire to control. He characterizes the encounter between ‘Western civilization and cultures of inner Oceania’ as a ‘meeting between “materialist” and “religious” views of reality’(Ch. 2)4. These ‘contrasting world views’ he suggests configure ‘neural patterns, somatic experiences and ways of sensing, knowing and interacting with the world’ in divergent ways (Ch. 2).

  • 5 See Keane (2004: 7, 23-4) for some excellent reflections on Latour in the context of his study of (...)

7The hegemonic view of science now dominant in the West may be materialist and objectivist, policing the separation of nature and culture, subjects and objects, human agents and non-human entities, but as Bruno Latour persuasively argues (1993 [1991]), such modernist rituals of ‘purification’ are rarely successful and hybrids are proliferating in the ‘natural’ sciences (psychotropic drugs, hybrid crops, frozen human embryos)5. Just as Dalton allows for diverse views rather than a homogenous ‘shared’ Rawa culture so we must allow for them elsewhere. It seems odd to perpetuate a clichéd view of a thoroughly secular West, especially from a country like the contemporary United States where Christianity is so pervasive and millennial and Pentecostal forms are resurgent. It may be that many Christians have assimilated ideas about humans as semi-divine beings ‘above’ nature and above irrational ‘natives’, ‘cargo cultists’ whom they must guide. But their world is hardly ‘disenchanted’ since Christians often subscribe to ontologies which fail to separate material from spiritual efficacy and which see the nature of the world not as an evolutionary outcome but as a divine creation, animated by God. In the recent BBC television series, The History of the Bible, novelist Howard Jakobsen interviewed a Cambridge don who was both a practising scientist and a Christian and who strenuously resisted charges of a contradiction between his conjoint beliefs as he espoused the creation story (or rather stories) in Genesis.

8It may be as Viveiros de Castro (2004) has argued for AmerIndian peoples that, in an animist cosmology, ‘an object’ is an incompletely interpreted subject. It may also be that Rawan people first saw white men as uncertain, dangerous and immortal subjects. It may also be that ultimately ‘cargo cultists’ were not so much seeking material goods as opposing materialism, ‘the cataclysmic and emotionally devastating impact of living in a religiously alive universe that is overwhelmed by a dead materialist one’ (Ch. 2). It may also be, as Webb Keane (2004) has argued, that certain Protestant, Calvinist forms of Christianity encouraged a strong distinction between subjects and objects, nature and culture in the process of conversions to modernity. But Catholicism and other forms of Christianity were not so zealous about purging the idolatry of animated objects, of objects which were personified like subjects, like the sacra of saints and icons of the Virgin Mary (see Anna-Karina Hermkens 2012). And many Christians in the Pacific still sustain views of an animated and enchanted world rather than of an inert ‘nature’. So there are surely some continuities between the ontologies of Christianity as practised by many in the West, past and present, and the ancestral and contemporary religious ontologies of inner Oceania.

9This then brings us to the related question of how we construct the relation between the ‘West’ and inner Oceania, between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Dalton riles against the double bind created by the simultaneous critiques of ‘ethnocentrism’ and ‘othering’ in anthropology, suggesting these are logical opposites. I prefer those other Greek ancestors, the proximate twin dangers of Scylla and Charybdis as a depiction of the anthropological predicament. To dwell between these poles does not negate anthropology nor render it impossible since the best ethnographic accounts are in my view those which are not trapped by the either/or logic of sameness or difference, which allows the possibility of continuity as well as rupture in our translations of the lives of other peoples. This is what I discern in persuasive ethnographic accounts such as Biersack’s (Ch. 4) which is attentive to the compelling particularities of the Highlands of PNG and the universality of human quests for immortality, the continuities between indigenous constructs of the skyworld and the historical irruptions of the ‘skytravellers’ and the eternal Christian God in His Heaven.

The Dialogics of Insiders and Outsiders: Mimetic Resistance

10This leads me to the second dimension of these chapters which I highlight here. How do we construct the relation between insiders and outsiders in looking anew at these Melanesian movements which have been called ‘cargo cults’? There is a powerful paradox, long appreciated, namely that many of these movements although strongly ‘anti-colonial’ and ‘nativistic’ seek and emulate the power and knowledge which waetman are seen to possess unjustly or to have stolen or secreted. Similar paradoxes have been explored elsewhere in studies of India and Africa, whereby resistance to colonizers is effected through a process of mimesis: ‘almost white but not quite’ (see for example Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000) and Homi Bhabha (1994) on India and Fanon (1967) and Jean and John Comaroff (1991, 1997 and 2001 on Africa). I dub these paradoxical practices not derivative discourses but mimetic resistances.

  • 6 The recent conferring of a belated military award on an elderly African-American veteran who survi (...)

11The John Frum movement on Tanna, the subject of many fine analyses, including by Lamont Lindstrom (1990) and Marc Tabani (2008a) offers a powerful demonstration of this paradox. Early manifestations of John Frum from c. 1937 were intent on removing the tyranny of Tanna Law imposed by theocratically inclined Presbyterians and the Condominium authorities of Britain and France and sought the eventual eradication of the whites. But early and later manifestations also sought western commodities and powers and through emulating some of the practices of the strangers (and especially Americans encountered during World War Two) – drilling like soldiers, communicating through liana field telephones, and building air strips – sought to acquire goods, power and knowledge. Now, it may be true, as Keesing (1978) argued long ago in his analysis of Maasina Rule on Malaita in the Solomon Islands, that there has been a tendency to parody this as a naïve imitation of American soldiers, as ‘Marching Rule’ and to fail to recognize the profound anti-colonial resistance of such movements, distilled in the indigenous concept of Maasina or brotherhood. It may also be that colonial hegemony of certain kinds of waetman (British, French, Germans, Australians) was contrasted with the novel waetman, the Americans, seen as far more wealthy and powerful in the context of military campaigns in the Pacific during World War Two. White American soldiers were often, and perhaps unduly, seen as intimate compatriots of African-Americans6. The latter were frequently seen as relatives of long dead, departed ancestors.

12Tabani (Ch. 1) depicts the powerful recent re-emergence of John Frum on Tanna, in the movement of the prophet Fred who, in the millennial year 2000, predicted the end of the world, enjoined the creation of a new village at Yenkahi and the rebuilding of Noah’s Ark. His faithful followers were promised eternal life, by changing their old skins for new, like crabs. His visions, creolizing Christian and ancestral meanings, attracted thousands of followers who abandoned their gardens and sacrificed hundreds of pigs in expectation of billions of dollars and the resurrection of the dead. Like its colonial precursors Fred’s movement was opposed with armed force by the independent Vanuatu government.

  • 7 Although during the conference in Santa Cruz in 2009 James Clifford noted that the panel members’ (...)

13Tabani (Ch. 1) offers a useful articulation of the concept of kago with that of both kastom and kalja. Clearly in the Vanuatu context the latter two concepts avow the values of indigenous ways of the place as against introduced ways, in contemporary discourses and practices of kastom ekonomi for instance. Kastom as many have argued is a labile and dynamic term of legitimation (and, more rarely, denigration by evangelical Christians), as much an ideology directed towards the future as the past (see Jolly 1992, Jolly 2012, Curtis 2002, Rousseau 2004). It arguably condenses ideas of place and race, if in complex and diverse ways. Kastom signifies representations of self, of indigeneity; kago rather signals otherness, whites, even if in intimate complex relations with the indigenous self. And whereas kastom celebrates more of a quotidian continuity and creativity in indigenous culture, kago projects a radical upheaval or reversal of values (Ch. 1). Kago projects often manifest a revolutionary, even modernist developmentalist ethos, even though there may be powerful persistences, for example in the conjunction of the material and spiritual in pursuit of a future destiny (see Macintyre Ch. 5 on Lihir). For Tanna, Tabani notes how missionaries and colonial officials vilified both kastom and John Frum as alike incompatible with Christianity and the Condominium’s colonial order (Ch. 1). ‘ Cargo cult’is, as Tabani suggests, similarly semantically vague7, admitting both celebratory and denigratory uses and being used not just to critique some indigenous movements but the totality of western capitalism as materialistic, as kago kalja.

  • 8 Jimmy’s surname is variously spelt, Stephens, Stevens and Steven. Mary Patterson (2011) prefers th (...)

14This is certainly the sense in which Tabani’s co-editor Marcellin Abong uses the concept of kago. In his consummate and original analysis of the Nagriamel movement, Abong (Ch. 3) eschews the moniker of ‘cargo cult’, applied to it by both foreign and indigenous opponents. His aim is to retrieve the history of the movement and in particular its charismatic leaders, Chief Paul Tari Buluk of Santo and Jimmy Stevens8, as an integral part of Vanuatu’s movement towards independence:

This paper seeks to rehabilitate Nagriamel, a political movement of which our elders should no longer feel ashamed and from which our youngsters should draw inspiration […]. Let us remember, with great respect, our ancestors’ travels along the sad path of humiliation […]. Their mistake was being Melanesian, being black – and claiming their rights (Ch. 3).

15Abong remembers the blows, the kicks, the whips of a repressive colonial order as part of a struggle for rights and freedom for this and future generations. And yet in recuperating the history of Nagriamel (see also Abong 2008) he also reveals the paradoxical and even contradictory relation to ol waetman that was inherent in it. He demonstrates that Nagriamel was, from its inception in 1965, a movement aimed at the restoration of Indigenous land rights in the context of renewed incursions by foreign companies into the undeveloped dak bus. It also encouraged a return to kastom, distilled in its creolized name derived from two indigenous words for croton and cycas, potent symbols in rituals of alliance and peace. More than John Frum it rejected Christianity at first, which in Abong’s view ‘force[d] us to hide our nudity by means of rags’ (Ch. 3). Abong alludes to powerful precursors of Nagriamel in prophetic, anti-colonial movements on Santo, Malakula and Ambae in the early twentieth century. Its early credentials as an independence movement were as great as those of the Vanuaku Pati which eventually brought the country to independence. It attracted a huge number of followers, estimated at 15,000 from many northern islands of the archipelago, and especially from Ambae. Many came to live at Vanafo and participated there in the economic modernization of agriculture and infrastructure and the development of a complex political federation.

16Yet as Abong makes clear the ‘foreign relations’ of the movement and its racial cosmography were complex and fluid. He stresses how seeing many African-American soldiers amongst the US troops ‘offered proof that potential equality between Whites and Blacks was possible; that we were not eternally condemned to being the simple boys of the masta’ (Ch. 3). He sees the war as precipitating a movement for racial liberation and notes how on Ambae, as on many islands of Vanuatu, African-Americans were linked to departed ancestors. Moltare, the guardian of wisdom and knowledge on Ambae, was said to have been kidnapped by the Americans and his powerful knowledge stolen. Jimmy Stevens sought such power. But, according to Abong, for Jimmy

America was not a mythical country where cargo comes from, but rather represented the awakening of a political conscience spurred by the presence of the US military in the New Hebrides during World War II. America had become the imagined source of equality and fraternity (Ch. 3).

  • 9 Michael Allen recalls Ambae elders complaining that he ‘threw his sex in their faces’ (personal co (...)
  • 10 Note this was the name with which he was baptized on converting to the Church of Christ.
  • 11 Patterson suggests that in the New Hebrides of the 1960s there was ‘an extraordinary crossing of p (...)

17Jimmy Stevens’ own ancestry was mixed: his grandfather was an English naval officer, his grandmother came from the Tongan royal family and his mother from the Banks Islands. His conversion to the Church of Christ in 1967, along with that of Chief Paul Tari Buluk and many local Santo people likely catalyzed a major migration from the Indigenous Church of Christ stronghold Nduindui in West Ambae. But, as Abong notes, Jimmy’s ardent pursuit of polygamy (at one point he had 25 wives) was problematic for many Ambae elders, who were affronted by this local manifestation of ‘big love’9, his many progeny and the way he combined kastom and Christianity. Despite his detractors Jimmy’s messianic status as ‘Moses’10grew. And increasingly his power was amplified by alliances with a series of whites, some American, some French, either ‘foreign speculators and land sharks’ (Ch. 3): Eugene Peacock, Jean-Jacques Henin, Leconte and especially the millennial neoliberalism of Michael Oliver of the Phoenix Foundation (see Patterson 2011)11. But the Nagriamel logo of ‘a black hand shaking a white hand’ belied the reality that each of these deals between Stevens and foreign investors further compromised the ideals of indigenous land rights in the interests of cash and constructing the modern infrastructure of capitalism: concrete buildings, roads, water, electricity.

18Although Stevens disparaged the idea that Nagriamel was a political party and, especially after December 1975, pursued independence through secessionism rather than nationalism, in its committee structure, passion for written documents, declarations and constitutions and the icons of the state (coins, flags and passports), the movement clearly emulated the structures and processes of an emergent state. As Abong wryly avers (Ch. 2), the Vemarana government structure proposed was hardly a neoliberal’s minimalist state since it combined a Prime Minister, a Cabinet, a Supreme Court, and an Assembly based on a ‘popular vote in accordance with custom’ with the avowedly masculinist customs of the nakamal and customary chiefs assembled as a High Court. Jimmy as Chief President Moses and later in his hopes to create a royal dynasty had ‘growing delusions of grandeur’ (Ch. 3), as much fuelled by local adulation as foreign chicanery. The movement was ultimately quashed in the context of the attainment of national independence in 1980: a failed blockade, the massing of British Marines and French police and finally the armed intervention by Papua New Guinea’s Kumul force supported by the Vanuatu Mobile Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. Stevens’ son was killed, several others were brutalized and an estimated 2774 rebels were violently arrested. Stevens was sentenced to fourteen and a half years in prison but was released after eleven years. He was at this point generous about the achievements of his enemies, the victors of the Vanuaku Pati in the decade since independence and still hopeful of an act of reconciliation from the President of the Republic when he died in 1994. But, as Abong suggests, after his death (and his immolation in a mausoleum at Vanafo), Nagriamel continued to have political aspirations, if now as a party in the politik of the independent state of Vanuatu.

19The example of Nagriamel shows the complexity of the race politics of many such movements, combining powerful anti-colonial resistance with alliances with whites and the emulation of western models. It also graphically shows how the spectre of ‘cargo cult’, despite its racist colonial origins can be used by indigenous people against others. The Vanuaku Pati was able to discredit its rivals Nagriamel and John Frum because, despite the Christian commitments of its many Anglophone followers, it presented itself in more modernist guise as a secular political party committed to nationalist ends, led by educated men, and without unfortunate associations with the ‘irrationality’ of cargo cults and the dak bus. In Abong’s view the portrayal of Stevens as a borderline schizophrenic by foreign researchers (Kolig 1981, 1987, see also Hours 1974, 1976 and Patterson’s 2011 critique) only reinforces such denigration. Of Stevens he adjudges: ‘He deserves more respect even if he did make mistakes’ (Ch. 3). He recuperates Nagriamel as a movement asserting island rights and the legitimacy of kastom, values which he sees as newly urgent in Vanuatu given the contemporary alienation of land by expatriate speculators ‘who come to plant dollars instead of coconut trees, with the approval of state authorities’ (Ch. 3).

20Martha Macintyre’s excellent chapter (Ch. 5) similarly situates contemporary ‘cultic social movements’ on Lihir, New Ireland in the history of earlier movements described as ‘cargo cults’, such as the ‘Johnson Cult’ of New Hanover which in the 1970s asked President Johnson to take over their government. The indelible racial imprint of World War Two was evident here too: the wealth and power of America was opposed to the aporia of Australian colonial rule while some believed Americans were their departed ancestors. Macintyre observes how this early cult was, at the instigation of a Catholic priest, converted into a cooperative copra project, ‘Stand Together and Plant’, the precursor of the TKA on Lihir. The local TKA was led by Theodore Arau who was credited with talking with the ancestors, travelling in a submarine and communing with whites. He reiterated the common view that whites withheld the true secrets of their knowledge which gave them wealth and power. While it imitated the ‘work’ of white men in schools for reading and writing it foresaw a time when hard work would be eclipsed by heavenly bliss (Ch. 5). But contra Dorothy Billings (2002), Macintyre argues the Lihirian mimesis of white practices was never a self-conscious parody but a deadly serious hope that by both Catholic devotion and the work of making copra and cocoa that vast wealth would be theirs (Ch. 5).

21Macintyre shows how through successive manifestations and movements with diverse names – TKA, Nimamar, Society Reform and most recently from 2004 the Lihir Pawa Mekim Kanap Asosiesen (the Lihir Development Association) – there has been a perduring tendency to conflate notions of money and modern commodities with ‘earlier ideas that stress the ritualistic and esoteric management of wealth generation’ (Ch. 5). Notions of bisnis and winmani (windfalls, like lottery prizes) are she suggests ‘hybrid ideologies’ in which cultic ideas of the creation and control of wealth persist. The Personal Viability movement, a motivational course run by a franchise company headed by a Chinese businessman from Rabaul grounds the latest local vision: the ‘Lihir Destiny’ (see Bainton 2011). As Macintyre shows, this has had a tremendous success nationally with government, corporations and NGOs in PNG but in Lihir its particular stress on material success through self-motivation articulates with a historical sense of relative deprivation, of being marginal, neglected and thus consistently ‘anti-colonial, anti-State and exclusive’ (Ch. 5). She suggests that the notorious unanimous vote for Jesus Christ in a local election in the 1970s was not the act of naïve cultic Christians but an angry and deliberate protest against the State’s neglect of their economic and social welfare and a righteous expression of contempt (Ch. 5).

22In her chapter Macintyre consummately demonstrates the local currency of the concept of ‘cargo cult’ and indeed the diversity of opinions as to whether the former or the latest manifestations of such movements are cargo cults or not. Apropos Nimamar, many interlocutors in the 1980s and the 1990s were adamant in denying the chiliastic elements: e.g. ‘It was not a cargo cult. It was simply a business development association’ (Ch. 5). The President of Nimamar in 1989 denied it was a ‘dream’ but still openly acknowledged its religious, Christian vision and welcomed not just the abolition of the State but the economic transformation of Lihir into a city, a conjoint miracle to be effected both by the arisen Dead and the work of the association. Later when Nimamar morphed into Society Reform some of its highly educated leaders tried to distance themselves from their predecessors proclaiming that there was no secret knowledge entailed in their combination of kastom and Christianity in development. Yet this more avowedly secular political movement failed to ignite support among most Lihirians, partly because it espoused sharing with other Papua New Guineans rather than advancing the particular, exclusivist visions of Lihirians (Ch. 5).

23But what of the winmani occasioned by the gold mine on Lihir? In the construction phase of the mine, during the 1990s, the compensation monies were seen as being like a lottery prize, coming to those landowners, who received money without work. Even working for the mine and buying food from the store was seen as a luxury compared to real ‘work’, the arduous labour of gardening. Yet, as the mine developed, the sense of relative deprivation intensified. Macintyre sees the latest manifestation of the movement as fuelled by ideas that the dreamed ‘development’ from the gold mine has not materialized, but has benefitted some rather than others. The old colonial hierarchy is perpetuated in the extreme differences between white expatriate managers in senior positions and the black Lihirians who are unskilled workers or unemployed (Ch. 5). But such grievances are now also directed at non-Lihirian workers as well as whites. Opposition to the PNG State is thus a claim for Lihirian separatism.

24This is clear in contemporary blueprints for Lihir’s destiny, developed by educated leaders, which assert sovereignty over the island’s mineral resources. The contemporary discourse is in Macintyre’s words more ‘mimetically modernist rather than mystical’ (Ch. 5). The Lihir Development Association’s documents are saturated with the new language of managerialism – flow charts, budget projections and legalistic vocabulary – in ways akin to reports of corporations, governments and NGOs. Its leaders understand the structure of global capital and the fact that their equity in Lihir Gold (at present 5.2%) will always be small compared to foreign investors. Yet, they still envisage greater benefits as the inevitable outcome of the movement for Personal Viability, a mélange of self-help, spirituality and corporate managerialism. The evangelical fervour of these contemporary movements for individualist self-reliance and collective entrepreneurial visions has a very mixed genealogy as Macintyre attests (Ch. 5). But she highlights important continuities with TKA, Nimamar and Society Reform. The seeming secularization of successive movements is for her an illusion. Mark Sopiang, the local leader of Personal Viability has moved from a self-presentation as a ‘ hard-headed modernist’ to a leader inspired by divine purpose communicated in a vision from God (Ch. 5).

25Just as mimetic appropriation of colonial disciplinary regimes was a way in which ‘cargo cultists’ simultaneously resisted and appropriated foreign powers, so contemporary movements imitate and appropriate foreign knowledge and power through visions of grassroots universities, a literacy which is inherently Lihirian and engaging capitalism in a way which is consonant with codified kastom. The present discourse advocates dispensing with dependency, empowerment through self-reliance and the development of people as assets not liabilities. But the local use of the ‘shared jargon of the global business community’ (Ch. 5) is, Macintyre asserts, a mystifying mimemis akin to past cargo cults. And in seeming to embrace global development, contemporary movements also occlude their separatist morality. As in the past, contemporary movements are ‘clearly secessionist’ (Ch. 5). The gavman may no longer be white but it is still equally foreign for Lihirians. Macintyre observes that ordinary villagers resent their continued marginality but advance realistic visions. Educated, middleclass Lihirians in contrast rather entertain fantastic aspirations of equality with the status and wealth of expatriate managers and rich foreign shareholders. In her view it is the educated elite who are now the cultists while grassroots Lihirians are more likely ‘pragmatists, waverers and sceptics’ (Ch. 5).

26Macintyre’s compelling ethnography of Lihir raises the question of what is seen as ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ to such movements. The colonial antinomies of white and black are perpetuated in the context of mining development, but complicated by class and ethnic differences and inequalities between blacks, between elites and grassroots, between Lihirians and other Papua New Guineans. This exploration of the significance of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is further explored in the final chapters by Elfriede Hermann and Lamont Lindstrom.

27Continuing her forensic deconstruction of the portrait of Yali’s movement in Madang as a ‘cargo cult’, Hermann envisions the interaction between indigenous and exogenous discourses as dialogical, as modes of speaking and action between cultures which are oriented towards each other (Ch. 6). She shows how denigratory colonial discourses of ‘cargo cults’ fashioned by missionaries, administrators and settlers and even anthropologists in Papua New Guinea are challenged by local counter discourses, originating in Yali’s home village of Yasaburing, which refuse the label and its negative connotations of backwardness, naïveté, confusion or irrationality. Like Lindstrom, Hermann locates the birth of the concept in an article by the white expatriate planter N.M. Bird published in the Pacific Island Monthly (PIM) in 1945, in which the concatenation of madness and disorder in the native mind is yoked to the fear that ‘the sense of injustice’ will erupt in a military threat from primitive, instinctual savages (Ch. 6). Significantly, although Bird implicated Christian missions by blaming ‘the religious teaching of equality’, Catholic and Lutheran missionaries soon joined the dialogue, but preferred to blame the materialism of white settlers for the pervasive hope for cargo and resurgent heathenism for the certain trust in an ancestral source of wealth and knowledge. Many administrative reports on cargo cults from 1946 are clearly persuaded of the facts of cargo cults, and the necessity of quashing them, with force if necessary.

28The combined if somewhat discordant voices of settlers, missionaries and administrators created the extraordinary vilification of Yali’s movement. As scholars from Peter Lawrence (1964) to Hermann have clearly demonstrated, Yali’s initial ‘work’, stemming from his experiences serving in the Australian forces during World War Two and his first hand experience of the wealth and power of Australia, was a modernist, development project, encouraging literacy and schooling, the cultivation of cash crops and ultimately forms of self-reliance leading to political independence. Early support for Yali by the administration transmuted into denigration and violent repression as the Lutheran mission sustained its attacks and intensified them when he called for the reanimation of indigenous religion. Yali was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on charges of kidnapping and rape. In local perceptions his time in prison left him a ‘broken man’ on his return in 1955 (Ch. 6).

29Hermann persuasively argues that many earlier anthropological representations perpetuated this belief in the facticity of cargo cults and their vilification. She is right that the prevailing structural functionalist vision of anthropology from the 1940s to the 1960s likely promoted a view of such movements as disruptive ‘social change’. But equally important, as she acknowledges, is how many anthropologists writing about ‘cargo cults’ in this period were in the direct employ of the Australian administration or working as advisors to it (e.g. Lucy Mair, Ian Hogbin and Peter Lawrence). Despite the alternative views of Marxist scholars like Peter Worsley who stressed the anti-colonial elements, (he was denied research access to PNG by the Australian administration), the perception of the irrationality and backwardness of ‘cargo cults’ was shared by anthropologists of most theoretical persuasions. Peter Lawrence’s study of Yali’s movement (1964) was historical and empathetic but yielded to the view that cargo ideologies should be eradicated in the interests of true development.

  • 12 According to Jean Zorn writing in our ANU-EPress volume (2012), James Yali was, like his father, a (...)

30Indigenous interrogation and challenge of the ‘cargo cult’ discourse perhaps preceded its anthropological deconstruction. Many of Hermann’s interlocutors from Yasaburing, including Yali’s widow Bikmeri, defy the harm done to them by the label, insisting that it has brought them shame, hurt and anger (Ch. 6). Unlike the situation Macintyre depicts for Lihir, it seems no one here accepts the moniker of ‘kago kalt’ either for Yali’s movement (describing Yali’s teachings as skul and his practice as ‘good work’) or its successor, the Dabsau Association led by his son, James Yali, a member of Parliament and for a period Governor of Madang Province12.

31They resist allegations of backwardness, confusion and heathenism, and especially the idea that kago will come from nothing. They celebrate their hard work in subsistence, cash cropping and bisnis, their faithful Catholicism and their perpetuating of ancestor worship as kastom as keys to their future development.

32But the label of cargo cult is deployed by some to distinguish the authentic insiders of Yali’s movement and those followers who came from outside and some say distorted his movement towards more cargoistic ends after his return from prison in 1955 (Ch. 6). And, in the political terrain of provincial and national politics in the 1980s and 1990s, some rivals and opponents (including ministers from the provincial government in Madang) critiqued the Dabsau Association and its leader James Yali of reviving kago hopes. He and his followers strenuously resisted such allegations and tried to distance themselves from the vilifications of the past. But such processes show how ‘cargo cult’ has become an othering discourse within PNG, applied to those seen as outsiders, and to critique other Papua New Guineans.

33It would be interesting to chart the later dialogical relations between these indigenous challenges, including those by scholars like John Waiko (1973) and reinscriptions of the cargo cult discourse and the anthropological genealogy witnessed in successive critiques by Epeli Hau’ofa (1975, 2008), Keesing (1978), Peter Hempenstall and Noel Rutherford (1984), McDowell (1988, 2000), Kaplan (1995) and of course Lindstrom (1993) and Hermann herself (1992, 1997, 2004). Hermann consummately charts this genealogy and thereby shows how, regardless of whether we accept or reject the label ‘cargo cults’, whether we use inverted commas or simultaneously inscribe and erase cargo cults, anthropologists are hardly objective impartial scientific observers, but instead create their objects of study dialogically with their interlocutors.

34In the culminating chapter of this book Lindstrom moves his previous critique of cargo cult discourse into the blogosphere. His earlier work (1993) persuasively argued that cargo cult discourse was fundamentally a displaced projection of the materialist fantasies of the West, the untrammeled desire for commodities onto others, and in particular Melanesia. ‘[C]argo cult does not exist per se; rather it appears in the dirty mirror of the European self – a cultic other as a reflection of the imperial self’ (1993: 7). As he demonstrated the concept broke free of its earlier uses to describe ‘ the actualities and concerns of active social movements within Melanesia’ (Ch. 7) within the scholarly discourses of anthropology and Pacific Studies, being transplanted to other regions of the world and sprouting up in popular media, literature, art and music. He suggested that the very promiscuous ‘celebrity’ of the cargo cult concept derives from its being both model and metaphor for western desire itself, ‘ unrequited, unquenchable and never-ending’ (Ch. 7). The end of desire spells death.

35In this chapter, with pungent humour, he extends that analysis on the semantic ground of the clouds, the Internet. The sequence of extraordinary examples he offers here are testament to the dominant twin themes of cargo cults as obloquy and cargo cults as noble resistance: ‘Cargo cultists are misguided, even stupid nitwits who are deluded by irrational thinking and overblown desire; or cargo cultists are gallant rebels, cultural critics even, who scorn and reveal the dull, soul-numbing lesions of our consumerist modernity’ (Ch. 7). These twin tropes are at play in a series of comic cartoons, some of which are loosely based on stories about John Frum and other movements. Some universalize and empathize with consumer desire, blurring the boundaries of Tannese and American dreams (Ch. 1). Others portray bad cultists: misguided politicians, financiers and CEOs, computer wizards etc., all of whom promise impossible, useless, dreams (e.g. Frum McCain, Prophet Obama, Ch. 7). Some of the most interesting examples are those who deploy the label, not as an othering discourse but as self-branding, in the naming of products and performances by musicians, poets, artists, sculptors and dramatists (Ch. 7), promoted as cool prophets of post-modernity. This is nicely captured in the proclamation: ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for’ (Ch. 7).

36Lindstrom wonders about the dialogical effects of this globalizing consumer culture on the Internet. How might all this (as with earlier dialogical encounters in the colonial era) be occasioning self-reflections and changes in the very places where ‘cargo cults’ allegedly originated. Indeed, how far can we clearly distinguish in this contemporary epoch (if we ever could) between the ‘real thing’ in its ‘ethnographic accuracy’ and ‘the stories which we tell about them’ (Ch. 1)? Outsiders’ stories have surely constituted that reality not just in colonial and ethnographic representations but in the changing self-conscious reflections and practices of Oceanic peoples. As a discerning and faithful long-term ethnographer of the John Frum movement on Tanna, Lindstrom is rightly concerned that Tanna is becoming a cargo cult Mecca ‘gummed up with tourists’ (Ch 7). Tannese people are already framing certain local events as cargo cult practices and negotiating the presence of diverse tourists, some seeing ‘an amusing spectacle’, others ‘a noble resistance to the evils of modernity’ and yet other others ‘a poorly understood oddity’ (Ch. 7). As Lindstrom strongly concludes ‘John Frum as cargo cult is bought and sold on Tanna just as it is in American theaters or on the Internet’ and ‘Cargo cults now gone wild on the Internet will continue to erupt everywhere’(Ch. 7).

Engendering Modernity, Masculinity and the Millenium

37Finally, I want to highlight a dimension of these movements which is not focal in this volume nor indeed in much of the literature to date, that is the gendered character of the experience of modernity and the gendered character of these movements which we might depict as ‘millennial’ to different degrees and in different ways.

38I am struck not just by the fact that most of the charismatic leaders of these movements are male but often men who have had distinctive experiences of outsiders and indeed of the concatenation of diverse processes which we designate as ‘modernity’. This is not to deny the fact that some precursor movements, as Peter Worsley (1957) and others acknowledged long ago, emerged in regions which were remote from centers of white power and colonial development. Moreover, the social change envisaged by such movements is as much an internal revolution as it is an engagement with powerful outsiders. So, in Biersack’s example from Highlands PNG, mata kamo spreads in different forms across a wide terrain in places which are unevenly engaged with colonial influences. The constant stress on an Indigenous ritual revolution to achieve immortality through an ascent to the skyworld is complemented by a stress on acquiring novel wealth and power in those regions rendered less ‘remote’ by European contact.

39Yet throughout all the places discussed in this volume – in Highlands PNG, in the Madang region of Yali’s movement, Lihir, island home of TKA and its successors, and Vanuatu’s islands of Tanna and Santo, the sites of John Frum and Nagriamel respectively – there was a constant in that it was men rather than women who were at the forefront of engagement with outsiders, colonial influences and modernity. This has variously been interpreted as the result of male dominant structures in most ‘Melanesian’ societies (e.g. apropos the divergent experiences of European explorers in ‘Polynesia’ and ‘Melanesia’ see Jolly 2012b) or as the result of the patriarchal patterns of European colonizers, traders and settlers, administrative officials and perhaps slightly less, Christian missionaries. In my view both indigenous and exogenous forces were at work in configuring supremely masculinist dialogical encounters.

40In the domain of the colonial state it was men rather than women who were designated as assistants to white kiaps, as ‘native police’, assessors or chiefs. In the sphere of Christian missions it was mainly men who attended mission schools to train as catechists, preachers, pastors and priests (even if women were crucial in early conversions, accompanied missionary husbands and were enthusiastic recruits to women’s groups). In the different aspects of commodity economy and especially in the earliest phases of indentured and wage labour and local bisnis, men were patently dominant. Indeed, successive administrations in both PNG and Vanuatu (as elsewhere in the Pacific), tried to sequester women from the undue influences and effects of ‘contact’ with the economic dimensions of modernity.

  • 13 There was a tiny minority of women who evaded these structures, e.g. about 5-7% of those recruited (...)

41This is nowhere clearer than in widespread policies excluding or restricting women’s employment as indentured or wage labourers in plantations, ports or mines. In Papua and New Guinea (but not the New Hebrides) this extended to restrictions on domestic service: prescribing hausbois rather than haosgels. Such regulations were legitimated by recourse to arguments about the specter of depopulation if women engaged in such work, about the inherent promiscuity of mobile, migrant women (see Jolly 1987) and about the way in which migrant labour undermined the ‘civilizing’ message of Christian missions to refocus women away from hard work in gardens and plantations to their domestic lives as wives and mothers13. By women continuing to ensure the reproduction of the labour force back in home villages and by not having to provide accommodation beyond barracks for single male workers, Europeans employed such workers at very cheap costs. Although there was doubtless kidnapping and forcible persuasion in the period of the indentured labour trade, labelled ‘blackbirding’, Clive Moore (1985) and other historians insist on the fact that the majority of men who engaged in such labour did so voluntarily, although these were hardly acts of unfettered ‘free will’, given the pressures of colonial policies (such as taxes) and of older men who enjoined younger men to recruit. The younger men who formed the majority of early recruits to plantations of cotton, sugar and coconuts both internally and externally in Queensland, Fiji and New Caledonia, were likely enticed by the prospect of travel, the cash, novel commodities like steel axes and guns and access to foreign knowledge and power, including Christianity. Many recruits to Queensland and Fiji brought back the word of God before foreign missionaries succeeded in converting people in their home villages.

42Keesing (1986) has stressed the centrality of this migrant labour experience in the emergence of the early forms of Pidgin and in the forming of a pan-Melanesian plantation culture. There were conflicts between men of different islands and regions (e.g. between man Tanna, man Ambrym, man Malaita, man Guadalcanal, often fuelled by white mastas) but there was also a development of a shared plantation culture of predominantly young unmarried men, paralleling in intriguing ways the congregations of boys and young men in indigenous ‘male cults’ and initiation ceremonies. These young men unlike young women in their home villages were exposed to the cash, the commodities and the knowledge and power of whites. Signing on for such labour also brought ill-health and death, oppression and humiliation as whites ‘mastas’ treated ‘bois’ to humiliating insults, cruel kicks and stinging whips as Marcellin Abong reminds us (Ch. 3). So perhaps it is unsurprising that the paradoxical ideas and practices of mimetic resistance might be born in such contexts. The history unfolded differently in different regions: migrant male labour culture developed in the coastal and insular parts of PNG, Solomons and Vanuatu far earlier than in the Highlands of PNG, from the mid-nineteenth century rather than the mid-twentieth century. Such divergent historical experiences of generations of Melanesian men might be worth exploring in future research.

43Moreover, in those regions which were dramatically and often tragically drawn into World War Two, such as the islands of Vanuatu where 200,000 Americans were located at a forward base in the vicinity of Luganville town and numerous parts of PNG and the Solomons where brutal battles were fought (Kokoda, Milne Bay, Malaita, etc.), the relation between white men and indigenous men was radically reconfigured. Lamont Lindstrom, Geoffrey White, James Gwero and Hank Nelson have all written eloquently about the significance of World War Two in the histories of Vanuatu, the Solomons and PNG (White and Lindstrom 1989, Lindstrom 1989, Lindstrom and White 1990, Lindstrom and Gwero 1998, Nelson 2006). The sheer power and wealth of Americans was quickly contrasted with that of previous white men: British, Germans, French, Australians. Moreover, as is clear in Abong’s chapter on Nagriamel, America became a place associated not just with kago, but with the prospect of racial liberty and fraternity. Lindstrom (1989: 412-3) is doubtless correct that the intimacy and equality which ni-Vanuatu discerned amongst the American troops was belied by the racism and the spatial segregation which suffused the military in that period. But he is also right to stress how differently ni-Vanuatu were treated by Americans: most oral histories of the war stress the generosity, the familiarity and even the respect they received from American forces. These were a different kind of waetman and indeed some of them were black!

44It is in this context that we might better understand the crossings between the stories of the origins of death and long-departed ancestors and the fantastic histories of World War Two. The historical events at Million Dollar Point in Santo were telling: at the end of the war, when Americans dumped much of the mobile infrastructure into the sea (MacClancy 1980: 110) some was recovered by local divers, long before dive tourists descended! The events of ‘ history’ often seem dangerously proximate to the ‘myths’ of cargo cultists. In many locales in different local languages, stories were told of how black Americans were descendants of their own departed ancestors. Others told of how local men had been taken by plane or submarine to America, as volunteers or, like Moltare of Ambae, as kidnapped conscripts. America became associated in the minds of many ni-Vanuatu besides Jimmy Stevens not just with wealth and power but as Abong insists with ‘liberty and fraternity’ (my emphasis and compare Keesing (1978) on ‘brotherhood’ in Maasina rule in the Solomons).

45So I suggest that we might approach the history of these movements also in the light of historically changing and relational masculinities (see Jolly 2008 for an articulation of such an approach). The life history of Yali is symptomatic: a man who had close experience of Australian troops while serving in World War Two and whose first-hand experience of Australia ignited his ideas about development in Madang Province just as much as it fuelled his visions of the future independence of PNG. The various manifestations of John Frum, both before and after World War Two show the salience of relations not just with strangers but a particularly uneasy masculine form of mimetic resistance, both in emulating the knowledge and powers of white men but also in trying to rid the island of those white men who had cruelly and unjustly usurped the powers of indigenous men in kastom.

46In stressing the dominance of male leaders and prophets and this masculine inter-cultural dialogue I am not wanting to disavow the strong engagement of women in such movements, and the fact that on occasion some women, often wives, sisters or mothers of male prophets rose to the status of charismatic leaders or prophets, like Yali’s widow, aptly called Bikmeri. This is also clear in several variants of mata kamo described by Biersack. In the Paiela valley men such as Kau were the dominant cult leaders but a sister of one of them, Lauwe, appears focal in the account of one male participant. She is said to have straddled and defiled a stream in defiance of ideas of female pollution. In Kau’s own account of the movement he led, his mother’s participation is also stressed. The Engan male prophet and resistance fighter Kaiyamba described himself as the ‘son of the sun’ (Ch. 4), but in this case, there seems to have been no comparable ‘daughter of the moon’. Amongst the Ipili by Phillip Gibbs’s account, after an early phase dominated by Engan male cult leaders, a young single woman called Ipiyama emerged as a prophet promising white manufactured goods which would appear at the bottom of a pool on Mount Tongapipi (Ch. 4). Some followers were so ardent in their faith in her message that they entered the water and were drowned.

47In several striking examples in the literature as well as female prophets or leaders there were attempts to subvert and eclipse the prevailing sexual and reproductive relations between men and women in the context of the cult. Apropos the Hahalis Welfare Society of Buka, the relaxation of sexual taboos, and the cultivation of ‘baby gardens’, described at several points in the ethnography of Max and Eleanor Rimoldi (1992) was important in campaigns against it by both missions and colonial administration. In the context of Nagriamel in Vanuatu radical sexual and reproductive experimentation was more confined to charismatic leaders like Jimmy Stevens (Ch. 3). But, as noted above, his ardent polygyny, embracing over twenty-five wives, was deemed by most, except his most faithful followers, to be excessive, even for a man who followed both Mormonism and kastom.

48Biersack’s chapter (Ch. 4) reveals even more extraordinary and thorough-going attempts to revolutionize relations between men and women in the context of mata kamo. In several variants of the cult, women and men were enjoined to bathe together in local streams, thereby violating the strict sexual segregation and taboos on pollution which characterized the region. In the Porgera valley there are reports of the wives of cult leaders using a stone to scrape pearlshells and ‘the dust thus generated falling into the water and entering the vaginas of the bathing women so that they could not contaminate their husbands during intercourse. For greater purity copulation was suspended for a month’ (Ch. 4). At Asiaputenga, Paiela cultists dislodged their aprons and grass skirts, exposing their genitals, and bathed together. Women who were menstruating or who had just given birth bathed with men and thus dispersed the dangerous pollution. In Ipiyama’s variant of the cult, en route to Mount Tongapipi it was said that everyone had indiscriminate sex and even that siblings had intercourse, violating the foundational incest taboo, as if no penalties would be incurred in the future for such intimacies. (As we saw, several drowned when they entered that mountain pool, but it is unclear how this was locally interpreted). Biersack’s commentary on this erotic abandon, especially among the Ipili is worth quoting:

While considerations of space prevent me from developing this point at length suffice it to say that the organization of social networks through marriage […] and sexual reproduction, all of which depended on the incest taboo, was the most important and pervasive category of ‘work’ that Ipili speakers undertook […]. To overthrow the incest taboo was to relinquish the most important tool Ipili speakers wielded, effectively voiding a vast domain of effort, from precontact rituals to prepare male youth for marriage, to fattening, assembling and distributing bridewealth, to maintaining and repairing networks through future exchange, to bearing and rearing children.

49In future scholarship perhaps the origins and consequences of such internal indigenous ‘sexual revolutions’ as a way of envisaging and instigating the millennium might deserve some more analytic treatment alongside the externally directed ‘racial liberation’ that many such movements doubtless aspired to deliver.



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1 Scott’s paper (2010) presented at the ASAO panels in 2009 and 2010 is unfortunately not included in this volume.

2 I have problems with the regional name given the long European genealogy whereby, since Dumont d’Urville’s formulation, ‘Melanesia’ has condensed region and race in negative ways. Despite its persistence in contemporary scholarship in naming a culture area and its reclamation by Pacific peoples, including (for example in the writings of Bernard Narokobi) I prefer to use the more expansive concept of Oceania, as articulated by Epeli Hau’ofa in a number of visionary essays (Jolly 2007, Hau’ofa 2008).

3 But to name the phenomena ‘social movements’ does not perforce equate them with western movements nor dictate an approach emanating from a functionalist sociology. See Hermann’s use of the term to denote both products and producers of social change and her espousal of a dialogical approach (Ch. 6).

4 He speculatively traces Rawa arboreal concepts of ‘roots’ as the ‘inside hidden, mystical forces’ and ‘fruit’ as the visible manifestations as akin to that of their Polynesian seafaring ancestors’concept of mana, as the ‘transcendental signifier’. There are doubtless ancient Austronesian linkages but this speculation is not referenced to the extensive prehistorical or linguistic research on such questions (e.g. Spriggs 1997, Keesing 1984 citing the linguistic research of Pawley).

5 See Keane (2004: 7, 23-4) for some excellent reflections on Latour in the context of his study of ‘Christian moderns’ in Sumba Indonesia.

6 The recent conferring of a belated military award on an elderly African-American veteran who survived a naval battle in World War Two near Okinawa, reveals the reality. African Americans in the US Navy could only be employed as stewards although in the heat of battle, they fought alongside whites. While heroic white soldiers were decorated during or soon after the war, it took more than six decades to confer similar decorations on African-Americans.

7 Although during the conference in Santa Cruz in 2009 James Clifford noted that the panel members’ conversation was predicated on some shared understandings and Macintyre offered some defining characteristics (see Ch. 1).

8 Jimmy’s surname is variously spelt, Stephens, Stevens and Steven. Mary Patterson (2011) prefers the latter which, according to his eldest son Franky, was Jimmy’s preference. I rather follow that adopted by Marcellin Abong which is the far more common one in written material both in English and Bislama.

9 Michael Allen recalls Ambae elders complaining that he ‘threw his sex in their faces’ (personal communication, 2012).

10 Note this was the name with which he was baptized on converting to the Church of Christ.

11 Patterson suggests that in the New Hebrides of the 1960s there was ‘an extraordinary crossing of paths… Between two apparently divergent utopian visions, one indigenous, the other an exogenous precursor to world economic orthodoxy’ (2011:62). She discerns affinities as well as complicities between Nagriamel and these several zealous foreign libertarian capitalists, but cogently observes that the myth-dreams of the latter, although satirized were not characterized as ‘cargo cults’. She argues that their anti-socialist libertarianism was a precursor to the neoliberalism of Thatcher and Reagan which ultimately became hegemonic in the West and powerfully pervaded aid and development policies in the Pacific, including Vanuatu. She sees the present spread of expatriate land speculation on Efate and the continuing engagement between Franky Stevens (Jimmy’s eldest son) and Michael Oliver, in the context of plans to establish a free-trade zone in Big Bay in the north of Santo and the leasing of parcels of 80,000 hectares of proximate land to Israelis, as the re-emergence of a desirous ‘phoenix’ in the ‘post-colony’ (2011: 74-78).

12 According to Jean Zorn writing in our ANU-EPress volume (2012), James Yali was, like his father, also tried for rape, of the sister of the woman he then lived with, in a much debated case in 2006. There was discussion as to whether this was an ‘aggravated’ rape due to the position of trust and responsibility he held as either a de-facto affine or a powerful politician.

13 There was a tiny minority of women who evaded these structures, e.g. about 5-7% of those recruited as indentured labourers to Queensland were women (Jolly 1987).


Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor in Gender and Cultural Studies and Pacific Studies in the School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. She is an historical anthropologist who has written extensively on gender in the Pacific, on exploratory voyages and travel writing, missions and contemporary Christianity, maternity and sexuality, cinema and art. Her most recent book, co-edited with Serge Tcherkézoff and Darrell Tryon is Oceanic Encounters: Exchange, Desire, Violence with ANU E-Press.

© pacific-credo Publications, 2013

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