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Last edited by perimetercouncil
April 2, 2019 | History

Culture Change and Ex-Change: Syncretism and Anti-Syncretism in Bena, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea 1 edition

Cover of: Culture Change and Ex-Change | Regina Knapp


The arrival of [Tom Cruise and John Travolta] in Napamogona was scheduled for the beginning of April, and the community worked hard throughout March, focusing mainly on the building of the two big schoolhouses near the central place.

During this time, three deaths occurred in Napamogona. Every family had to contribute, join in the mourning, and help to soothe the dead spirits. Not surprisingly, the work on the school stood more or less still for some weeks. Instead of Hollywood superstars, two Papua New Guinean teachers arrived in Napamogona in May and began teaching in the half-finished buildings.

Everyone who wanted to participate in the classes was asked to pay a tuition fee. The fee depended on the number of courses a person wished to attend, ranging from a minimum of fifty kina to several hundred. According to Polako, a great deal of mistrust was justified.

On her first day in school, she was allocated a personal supervisor or trainer, in this case a young man from the coast. He explained to her that she would have to undergo a daily “auditing” procedure before entering the classroom. According to Christine, “auditing” in this context means “telling secrets.” She found his behavior intrusive and totally ignorant of taboos and rules in the conduct of social relationships in Bena. In terms of Bena exchange, the new guests aimed at taking on detached parts of Bena persons—here in the form of their personal secrets—and thus increase their strength and their power over them ... resembled negative forms of Bena exchange and were therefore structurally similar to harmful sorcery and witchcraft.
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I HELP increased the demands. My interlocutors complained to me about the new directive that each person who joined the organization should recruit thirty new students. Together, the community of Napamogona should find three thousand new members to get the school started.

Two I HELP representatives from the coast, a man and a woman ... arrived in a big black Toyota with mirrored windows. They spoke English so fast that very few of the Napamogona actually understood what they said. The man complained about the school buildings not being ready yet and threatened that if people were not engaging more in advertising the new school outside the village borders, they would remain “bush kanaka.” He further stressed that all participants were obliged to pay their fees.

The Napamogona demonstrated their disappointment by simply ignoring the visitors and their requests. The representatives left and were never seen again. They shouted “You will never be ready for us” when they left the village. Work on the half-finished houses was slowly taken up again. One of them was turned into a community building, where people now sit together sheltered from rain, and the other is used for storage purposes.
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1 edition First published in 2017

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Cover of: Culture Change and Ex-Change


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April 2, 2019 Edited by perimetercouncil Edited without comment.
April 2, 2019 Edited by perimetercouncil Edited without comment.
April 2, 2019 Edited by perimetercouncil Added new cover
April 2, 2019 Edited by perimetercouncil Edited without comment.
April 2, 2019 Created by perimetercouncil Added new book.