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

Marcellin Abong
Marc Tabani


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1 Marcellin Abong is the Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and of the Vanuatu National Cultural Council. He was trained at the University Paris-I-Sorbonne-Panthéon (Master degree in Ethno-Archeology) and at the University Paris-VI-Pierre et Marie-Curie (Fundamental Xylologie). He has published a book, La pirogue du dark bush: apercus critiques sur l’histoire du Nagriamel (Port-Vila, VKS publications); he has also co-edited two other books, Oceanic Ancestors/Ancêtres Océaniens (Paris, Somogy Editions d’Arts) and 101 mots pour comprendre le Vanuatu (Nouméa, editions du GRHOC). In 2008, he received a chiefly title from his community in Lamap (south Malekula), “Gulgul Maingi Taridumlegh Baraghabat”, which refers to the morning star and symbolize hope.

2 Aletta Biersack has conducted research on the Ipili speakers of Enga Province, Papua New Guinea, over several decades. Her publications have concentrated on indigenous ritual, its relation to gender ideologies (her several studies of omatisia, a ritual designed to grow boys in puberty), cosmology (her writings on mata kamo), Christianity (her mata kamo studies again as well as her writings on Paiela Christianity), and gold and its mining; gold mining in its impacts and politics; and gender, marriage, and the organization of reproduction and thus networks through marriage. Her special areas of interest are gender, social organization (but understood entirely through the organizational projects and strategies articulated by Ipili speakers themselves), and theorizing the history of Ipili speakers as involving forces for both the preservation and the alteration of culture in an era of globalization. She is the editor of four anthologies: Clio in Oceania (on historical anthropology), Papuan Borderlands (on Ipili, Huli, and Enga cultures), Ecologies for Tomorrow (on political ecology), and (with James Greenberg) Reimagining Political Ecology.

3 Doug Dalton teaches cultural anthropology at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. His research and scholarship is concerned with indigenous concepts and historical change employing ideas from symbolic anthropology, phenomenology, critical cultural studies, and chaos and complexity theory. Dalton has published several articles which consider the notion from several perspectives and edited one volume of Oceania on the idea of “cargo cult.” He has also published articles on shell valuables and their meanings, money, economic spheres and card games in relation to “cargo cult,” on concepts of self, memory, and “development,” mythology, mortuary rites, and intellectual history in Melanesian anthropology. His teaching focuses on cultural research methods, the history of anthropological theory, religion, language and culture, and ethnographically focused courses in the Pacific region.

4 Elfriede Hermann has conducted long-term research with the Ngaing of Papua New Guinea and the Banabans living on Rabi Island in Fiji, Banaba Island and Tarawa Atoll in Kiribati. Currently she is also engaged in research with various island communities in Kiribati. Her foci have been social movements, emotions, historicity, identifications, gender, migration, ethnicity, cultural transformations and transculturation, and, most recently, local perceptions of climate change. Since earning her PhD from the University of Tübingen in 1995, she has been with the University of Göttingen’s Institute of Cultural and Social Anthropology, where she gained her venia legendi and currently has the responsibilities of a professor. From 2005 to 2011 she has also been a research fellow at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawai`i. Among her publications are Emotionen und Historizität: Der emotionale Diskurs über die Yali-Bewegung in einer Dorfgemeinschaft der Ngaing, Papua New Guinea (the conclusion is in English) (1995); and “Emotions and the Relevance of the Past: Historicity and Ethnicity among the Banabans of Fiji,” History and Anthropology 16 (3) (2005): 275 – 291; she is guest co-editor with Wolfgang Kempf of “Relations in Multicultural Fiji: Transformations, Positionings and Articulations,” a special section in Oceania 75 (4) (2005), and edited Changing Contexts – Shifting Meanings: Transformations of Cultural Traditions in Oceania (2011).

5 Margaret Jolly is an 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.

6 Lamont Lindstrom, Kendall Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa, is the author of Knowledge and Power in a South Pacific Society (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990), Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond (University of Hawaii Press, 1993), and has also published on cultural policy, kava, chiefs and governance, Pacific War ethnohistory, and adventurer-photographers Martin and Osa Johnson, and he has written a dictionary and grammar of the Kwamera language of southeast Tanna, Vanuatu. He is currently following the life stories of Tanna urban migrants who have moved up into the settlements surrounding Port Vila, Vanuatu's capital town, whose lives have spanned the eras of colonialism, national independence, and globalization.

7 Martha Macintyre is currently the editor of The Australian Journal of Anthropology and an honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She gained her PhD from The Australian National University and has held positions at The Australian National University, Monash University, La Trobe University and The University of Melbourne. She has undertaken research in Papua New Guinea since 1979. Her research interests include historical ethnography, economic anthropology, gender, the social impacts of mining, medical anthropology, fisheries in Melanesia, environmental anthropology and human rights. Her publications include Human Rights and Gender Politics: Perspectives on the Asia Pacific Region, co-edited with A. Hildson, V. Mackie, and M. Stivens (2000), and Women Miners in Developing Countries: Pit Women and Others, co-edited with K. Lahiri-Dutt (2006) and Managing Modernity in the Western Pacific (2011), co-edited with Mary Patterson.

8 Marc Tabani is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and affiliated to the Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO) and to the Vanuatu Cultural Centre as Honorary Curator. He has conducted research in many islands of Vanuatu since 20 years. His main topics have been politics of identity and tradition, cultural change, millenarianism. Many of his writings have focused on ni-vanuatu indigenous movements, especially the Nagriamel and the John Frum movements. After being based since over three years in Vanuatu he has extend his researches to such topics like commodification and commercialization of cultures, globalization and national politics, monetarization of domestic modes of production based economies. Among his different achievements in project managements, he became the cofounder with Marcellin Abong and Jacob Kapere of the TAFEA Kaljoral Senta. This branch of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre is located in Tanna and focused its cultural and artistic activities on the societies of the southern province of Vanuatu (islands of Tanna, Aneytium, Futuna, Eromango, Aniwa). Marc Tabani has published several articles in french and English and edited two volumes in French (2002, Les pouvoirs de la coutume à Vanuatu: traditionalisme et édification nationale and 2008, Une pirogue pour le paradis: le culte de John Frum à Tanna). He is also editor and co-author of the french version of Histri blong yumi: an history of Vanuatu in four volumes (2010-1012) and editor of a special issue of the Journal de la Société des Océanistes dedicated to the 30 years of Vanuatu’s independence (2011).

© pacific-credo Publications, 2013

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