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Mining Narratives, the Revival of "Clans" and other Changes in Wampar Social Imaginaries: A Case Study from Papua New Guinea


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The prospect of mineral resource exploitation, in the context of legal-political pressures on local communities to comply with the bureaucratic visions of mining companies and the state, and the narrative construction of community futures, invariably sets in motion processes of social boundarymaking. Outcomes are driven not only by discourses originating in the state or the mining companies, but also in local and national narratives about the financial benefits from mining for legally recognised «landowners». Among the Wampar of Papua New Guinea, circulating narratives about mining interplay with and are informed by local social specificities to produce imagined futures that involve the revival of encompassing groups called sagaseg as a basis for Incorporated Land Groups (ilgs). Yet, the creation of ilgs is sensitive to the particularities of kin relations, including those emerging out of interethnic marriages, thus preserving the long-standing Wampar emphasis on inclusive sociality.
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Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 138-139, année 2014
e prospect of mineral resource exploitation, in the context
of legal-political pressures on local communities to comply
with the bureaucratic visions of mining compa nies and the
state, and the narrative construction of community futures,
invariably sets in motion processes of social boundary-
making. Outcomes are driven not only by discourses
originating in the state or the mining companies, but also
in local and national narratives about the nancial benets
from mining for legally recognised «landowners». Among
the Wampar of Papua New Guinea, circulating narratives
about mining interplay with and are informed by local
social specicities to produce imagined futures that involve
the revival of encompassing groups called sagaseg as a basis
for Incorporated Land Groups (ilgs). Yet, the creation of ilgs
is sensitive to the particularities of kin relations, including
those emerging out of interethnic marriages, thus preserving
the long-standing Wampar emphasis on inclusive sociality.
K: mining, circulation of narratives, re -
congurations of sociality, boundary-making,
Incorporated Land Group (), Papua New Guinea
La perspective de l’exploitation minière, dans un contexte
des pressions politico-juridiques sur les communautés locales
pour qu’elles s’alignent sur les visions bureaucratiques des
compagnies minières et de l’État, et les mises en récit sur les
avenirs des communautés, génèrent des processus de redé-
nition des frontières sociales. Les changements ne résultent
pas seulement des discours émanant de l’État ou des rmes,
mais aussi des mises en récits locales et nationales portant sur
les bénéces de l’exploitation minière pour les «propriétaires
terriens» reconnus. Parmi les Wampar de png les récits qui
circulent interagissent avec les spécicités locales et l’avenir
envisagé passe ainsi par la résurrection des groupes inclu-
sifs nommés sagaseg comme base des Incorporated Land
Groups (ilg). Cependant, la constitution des ilg s’est révélée
sensible aux particularités des relations de parenté, incluant
des liens issus de mariages interethniques, ce qui a permis la
préservation d’une socialité mise en avant par les Wampar.
M- : mines, circulation des récits, recon-
guration de la socialité, délimitation des frontières
sociales, Incorporated Land Group (), 
Mining narratives, the revival of «clans» and
other changes in Wampar social imaginaries:
A case study from Papua New Guinea1
Doris BACALZO, Bettina BEER and Tobias SCHWOERER*
1. e three co-authors have equally contributed to this article with eldwork data and analysis and are listed in alphabet-
ical order. We would also like to thank Don Gardner for helpful discussions and comments on earlier versions of this article.
* Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Lucerne, Switzerland,, bettina.,,
A dominant theme in the anthropology of
mining in Papua New Guinea remains the
analysis of transformations in conceptions of
kinship and land tenure, and ultimately the
recongurations in sociality that take place in
local communities with the advent of mineral
exploration and extraction. Wherever the
prospect of resource extraction arises, resource
develope rs and the state dema nd the identi cation
of landowners who can negotiate over access to
hereditary kinship to the exclusion of other types
of social connections among the Fasu under the
impact of the Kutubu oil project (Gilberthorpe,
2013). e opposite tendency, that people operate
in an inclusive mode has been observed less
frequently, and usually only in the initial stages
of a mining project, as among the Gende, where
Zimmer-Tamakoshi (1997, 2001) observed the
continuing importance of the reci procal nature
of all «kin» relations (that are not bound by a
biological reckoning of kinship but rather more
by its social nature), and the Ipili in Porgera, who
have kept their kinship system of cognatic and
ego-centric personal networks intact in a process
that Golub (2007a) refers to as a «forging of
landowner identities.» However, even the Ipili, in
their negotiations with government ocials, were
compelled to limit membership so that while the
out-marrying women, their husbands and children
were included, all other anes were not. Among
the Gende, exclusionary mechanisms have grown
over the course of the last twenty years, from an
initial focus on inclusivity. With the mining
operations of Ramu Nickel, and a second project
in Yandera getting close to realisation, this has
created three distinct localised social networks (the
two areas around the mine sites and a third area on
the Simbu side of the Bismarck range) grounded
in concerns about claims to mining royalties
(Zimmer-Tamakoshi, 2012).
the land, compensation, royalties and other
benets (Gilberthorpe and Banks, 2012; Imbun,
2013). As a consequence, local communities
come under strong pressure to present themselves
according to concepts understandable by the
state and developers. As representatives of the
state in Papua New Guinea use a popular version
of the anthropological idea that unilineal descent
groups constitute corporate, landowning entities
(Jorgensen, 2007; Filer, 2007), its citizens are
required to reshape patterns of sociality to
conform to it: creating unilineal descent groups
where none have existed before, or by rigidifying,
simplifying and standardizing existing patterns
of sociality and landownership (Guddemi, 1997;
Jorgensen, 1997, 2007; Zimmer-Tamakoshi,
1997; Ernst, 1999; Golub, 2007a; Weiner, 2007;
Gilberthorpe, 2013).
Diverse social processes are concerned with
exclusion and inclusion, as people strive to limit
and/or extend membership in newly legalized
groups. Sometimes they pursue exclusionary
strategies that produce novel boundaries within
existing social elds. is can clearly be seen in the
cases of the Lihir Big Men who limit their once
important outside connections (Bainton, 2009);
among the Sawiyanoo of the Left May River, that
reframed land tenure in terms of patrilineal descent
within a decade of mining exploration starting
(Guddemi, 1997); or in the strengthening of
M 1. – Localization of Wampar area and map of the Markham Valley showing Wampar villages
and mining sites
is circulation of narratives transforms not
only Wampar social imaginaries, but also sociality
itself. For these narratives inform processes of
boundary-making apparent in manifold eorts
to enumerate and list group members, which is
the central part of obtaining the legal status of
an Incorporated Land Group () under the
Land Group Incorporation Act (see Fingleton,
2007 for an analysis of the act’s history). What is
striking is that through these exercises, Wampar
actively began to negotiate amongst themselves
with a view to coordinating the creation of s.
In the process, they reactivated and reworked the
Wampar social category of sagaseg, which refers
to large, encompassing, clan-like groups. Prior
to the discovery of valuable mineral resources
nearby, the descendants of a particular person
(mpan)4 had become the primary organizing
framework for economic activities that implicate
land. e signicance of the sagaseg had declined
because of changing practices concerned with
land tenure, kinship and settlement patterns
as a result of colonization, missionization,
and engagement with market forces. With the
advent of mining, the sagaseg is being revived in
the context of possible future benets.
In this paper we present two aspects of the
way mining narratives shape social imaginaries
and ultimately sociality itself: an ethnographic
account of the historical fall and rise of the notion
of sagaseg that shows how the reformulation of
groups into s was sensitive to the specic
social characteristics of each group; and an
account of the way Wampar narratives about
possible futures emerge from highly active
information circuits of dierent scales and
dierent types. e presence of state institutions
and a large mining company, which the Wampar
constitute as corporate macro-agents, might,
under contemporary circumstances, have
elicited a local «public» that acted as a political
subject in the mass-mediated struggle between
visions of the future. In fact, the narrative
rendering of Wampar futures is still sensitive
to a heterogeneous range of specic factors that
pre-empt any tendency to the creation of such a
large-scale political subject (Cody, 2011).
Such processes of representation as landowning
groups, however, are not necessarily directly
instigated by the discourses emanating from the
state and the mining companies. Particularly
in the early stages of resource exploration,
when a mining project is still in its infancy,
local narratives on the prospects of nancial
and economic benets as well as conicts
about «landownership» and what constitutes a
«landowner» take centre stage. ese narratives2
often engender proactive and autonomous
preparations by the local people involved, who
start formalizing and transforming kinship
relations long before a resource development
plan even reaches a feasibility stage (Guddemi,
1997; Zimmer-Tamakoshi, 1997).
When we conducted eldwork among the
Wampar people in the Markham Valley of Papua
New Guinea in 2009, 2010, and 20133 we were
struck by the preoccupation of the people with
a copper/gold mine called Wa-Golpu, which
– apart from exploration drilling – so far exists
only on paper (and on colorful powerpoint
slides or in an animated video on the mining
company’s website). Narratives on the wealth
that this mine will bring to the Wampar, and
the preparations that have to be put in place
to ensure it, owed through the villages. ese
narratives are diverse, refer to local, regional and
national processes and are patterned according
to the level and kind of access people have to
specic information. It became evident that for
the Wampar, Morobe Mining Joint Ventures
() – a 50/50 joint venture between
Australian gold mining giant Newcrest Mining
and South-African based Harmony Gold that
is developing Wa-Golpu – has become a kind
of «person», who is an important agent, and to
whom dierent people are related in dierent
ways. ese relations are carefully observed
and discussed by nearly everybody, with a
view to acquiring enough understanding of
this agent to put social relations with it on the
appropriate footing. Existing social dierences
and inequalities among the Wampar tend to be
reinforced by these relations with , as well
as by access to news and narratives that matter.
2. We understand «narratives» in a wide sense as spoken or written representations of states of aairs and events.
Narratives encompass gossip, rumours, stories, jokes, or statements on Facebook; we follow the general Wampar practice
of dierentiating stories according to their content: e.g., war stories (dzob a tir), stories about ghosts and myths (dzob
mamafe), new stories which deal mostly with personal experiences (dzob wafu) and stories about people (gara gab a dzob)
(Fischer, 1994). We favour this notion of narrative over the concept of «discourse» which carries a burden of theoretical
baggage we prefer not to deal with here in this essentially ethnographic piece.
3. Tobias Schwoerer and Doris Bacalzo did eldwork in the village of Dzifasing between 2009 and 2010. Bettina Beer
did eldwork in Gabsongkeg village, rst in 1997, and thereafter in 1999-2000, 2002, 2003-2004, 2009, and 2013.
Together with other German and Swiss anthropologists who have conducted eldwork in Wampar villages, they are part
of the «Research Focus Wampar».
4. In this paper we use mpan as the Wampar do, in the context of land ownership, to refer to the descendants of a
named ancestor. It is also used in context-specic ways to refer to quite dierent social collectives: to the clan (sagaseg), to
ethnic groups and even to nation states.
increase in interethnic marriages, having children
born out of wedlock and adoptions. Marriages
within the same sagaseg were formerly subject to
sanctions, but this is no longer the case, mostly
because younger people are unclear about their
membership of a sagaseg (Fischer, 1996: 129-
144, 1997: 75-78; Beer, 2006a).
What appear to be the more important
landholding social groups are localised lineages
of varying depths (called mpan). Accordingly,
lineages have become more important with the
increase in cash cropping and cattle farming
(Lütkes, 1999). Yet, knowledge of lineage depth
has also been decreasing (it now hardly covers
more than two or three generations) and land
tenure more and more individualized (Fischer,
1996: 240). One of the clearest examples to
illustrate this central importance of the mpan is
the set-up behind the Dzifasing Cattle Ranch.
is large ranch was founded in the late 1970s
with government support as a model cattle ranch
and breeding station, and is the only one of these
stations established at the time still operating
today. It is a cooperative business enterprise, in
which 13 mpan have pooled their landholdings
west of Dzifasing village. Each mpan is an equal
shareholder in the enterprise. What is notable
in this case is that the pooling took place
independently of their sagaseg aliation, as
the 13 mpan identify themselves with dierent
sagaseg. At the same time not all mpan in each
sagaseg are involved in this enterprise.
With increasing, but unevenly distributed
knowledge about legal frameworks for the
registration of land, some of these localized lineages
took the opportunity oered by the state to register
their portions of land through the Land Group
Incorporation Act, leading to a proliferation of
small Incorporated Land Groups (or s), which
were sometimes in dispute about boundaries.
In 2009, a district land administrator informed
people in one Wampar village that all s with few
registered members and landholdings under dispute
would be deregistered. One specic reason cited
was that a number of extended families registered
their land without informing other members of
their sagaseg. e land administrator subsequently
declared that all future  registrations would
need approval, from in his own words «clan
leaders» and the village kaunsel (the representative
of the ), before being handled by the Lands
Department. e conicting narratives about
«landownership» evident in these relations between
Wampar groups, and between Wampar and
representatives of the state, are aspects of a broader
contemporary engagement between local, national
and international understandings that deeply aect
local social elds in Papua New Guinea (Filer,
2007; Golub, 2007b).
Another challenge to local conceptions of sociality
results from the relatively frequent rate at which
Wampar sociality and social change
Previous research on the impact of mining on
sociality in Papua New Guinea has been focused
on distant communities in mountainous regions
or on small islands, which were completely
overwhelmed and transformed by their experience
with large-scale mining. Wampar communities,
by contrast, are almost «suburbanized», for they
are all situated in the Markham Valley, close to
Lae, the second largest city in the country. Many
people are well educated and long accustomed to
taking up economic opportunities in whatever
form they present themselves. Moreover, and
again in contrast to communities aected by
mining elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, which
were comparatively homogenous prior to the
onset of mining, Wampar social life has already
experienced signicant in-migration, and involves
a substantial number of interethnic marriages
(Beer, 2006a, 2006b, 2010; Bacalzo, 2012).
e Wampar live in eight villages in the Markham
River Valley. ese villages are political units in
the sense that there is a Local Level Government
Councillor (short , kaunsel in Tok Pisin) for each
village, but they dier substantially in their degree
of not only spatial but also political cohesion. e
concentration of the population in villages is a post-
contact phenomenon, developed under the inuence
of colonialism, missionization, and «villagisation»
(see Barker, 1996) after 1911. e Wampar practice
of building houses in gardens away from the villages
osets this centralization in some villages, and in the
last few decades many of these garden houses have
developed into new hamlets away from the main
village. With new economic opportunities through
cash crops, cattle and chicken farms, and marketing
along the main Highway, additional settlements
have proliferated (Fischer, 1996: 124-128). Aside
from the growth in number of hamlets, there has
also been an increasing factionalism in the dominant
Evangelical Lutheran Church and the growth of
new religious denominations and churches. us,
the once centralizing force of a single institutional
church as the centre of village life from the early
colonial period has been dissolved as well.
Fischer (1975, 1996), who has studied the
Wampar since the late 1950s, observed that until
the 1970s, all Wampar conceptualized themselves
as members of the about 30 named social groups
called sagaseg. Already, at this time, several of
these sagaseg were too big to eectively function
as corporate units with respect to land, and their
members already at the start of the 20th century
were spread over dierent villages. Wampar
speak of sagaseg as patrilineal, but (as is often the
case in Papua New Guinea) the incorporation
of non-agnates is common. Also, the fusion
of non-related sagaseg is historically veriable.
Furthermore, marriage patterns and practices
have been diverse and are changing, e.g., with the
Wampar Mining Narratives
e Wampar have already started to feel the
impact of large-scale mining, following the
start of operations at the Hidden Valley gold
and silver mine in 2007. For instance, people
have observed an increased sediment load in
the Markham River that threatens to destroy
riverside gardens, and sightings of dead sh tend
to support narratives about poisoning of the river
and increase anxieties that sh from the river are
no longer edible. e same mining company,
Morobe Mining Joint Ventures (), is now
planning an even larger copper and gold mine in
the immediate vicinity of the Wampar at Wa-
Golpu.  just recently completed a pre-
feasibility study of the prospect, which is expected
to begin full production in 2019. s activity
is evident to anyone living in the area: Wampar
hear sounds (detonations, helicopters, etc.) of
one or both operations, and they see trac,
storage depots and other installations that form
the infrastructure required by Hidden Valley and
Wa-Golpu. Although some Wampar say that
these operations cause earth tremors and kill
sh, rumours about enormous compensation
payments already received by Hidden Valley
landowners also circulate frequently, so that
Wampar have married individuals of other ethnic
groups over the last few decades (Beer, 2006a, 2010).
Analyses of census data show that intermarriages
between Wampar and non-Wampar have constantly
been rising and that the level of intermarriage in
younger marriage cohorts is sizeable, with about
60% of Wampar individuals being intermarried
(Beer and Schroedter, ms). As yet there is no
evidence of the Gende tendency to maintain
exclusivity through marriage (Zimmer-Tamakoshi,
2012). Intermarriages, through transformations of
concrete practices, challenge normative conceptions
of kinship and pose questions about what constitutes
a Wampar, who is a member of what sagaseg, and
how membership of a sagaseg is to be congured.
us, «transcultural kinship» (Beer, 2010), and
«the politics of acknowledgement» (Golub, 2007a:
75), which it has entailed, has added to the uidity
of group recruitment and the entitlements that it
involves. Fieldwork between 2009 and 2013 made
clear to us how kin networks that join ethnically
dierent groups, also act to complexify Wampar
narratives concerning boundaries and identities.
In practice, the specic circumstances of particular
social actors and the kind of relationships that they
have among themselves and with their extended
families, including those of interethnic marriages,
are decisive in accounting for their narrative
F 1. – e Markham River with sedimentation (2009, picture Doris Bacalzo)
pages and internet sites with some news but
mostly pictures of  operations; third,
staged political events and speeches; and fourth
rumours of the enormous wealth landowning
groups can acquire. ese dierent circuits
of representation, charged with values and
emotions, all have a «trickle-down» eect on
Wampar social imaginaries at the village and
household level.
Local socio-cultural brokers
Various members of local communities play
a mediating role as brokers (Paine, 1975;
Lewis and Mosse, 2006), which involves the
interpretation for local circulation of narratives
having their origin in external institutions
(government, corporations, s, etc.). In the
following we exemplify this process through
a discussion of the role of a village kaunsel
who was the representative of the Local Level
Government ().
e kaunsel of Gabsongkeg was invited three
times to  seminars between 2011 and
2012, in his capacity as a  representative. In
early 2013, he went to a fourth workshop during
which the local politicians also visited the mining
site. ese seminars were held at hotels and
restaurants in the city of Lae to which the average
village kaunsel would normally have no access.
Reports that circulated around the villages about
the seminars were largely concerned with the
food and accommodation they involved and the
personal experience of the journey. In addition,
seminar participants are picked up from their
villages in new and expensive company vehicles
and driven into town. Most Wampar don’t pay
a lot of attention to the topics of the seminars,
as they don’t expect their kaunsel to learn facts,
for people do not expect representatives of 
to answer their questions truthfully. ey are,
however, interested in hearing about the otherwise
inaccessible lifestyles associated with .
One seminar, for example, was intended to
answer questions about sh deaths in the Markham
River in 2012, and a «cyanide awareness training
program» was organised in 2013. During and
after the sh deaths in the Markham, Wampar
had a lot of questions about what was going on,
in particular, whether it was safe to eat sh from
the Markham. Even well-connected individuals
found it impossible to get answers from district
government authorities or the company at that
time. e workshop later held by  blamed
artisanal miners in the Watut for the sh deaths,
but it also claimed that sh death had occurred
in former times. e kaunsel and other villagers
did not believe these claims. Many Wampar said
that some white scientists had come to the village
to test Markham water and had warned against
eating its sh. Who they were and to which
many Wampar anticipate the monetary benets
they too will obtain when production at Wa-
Golpu begins.
Although Wampar communities are dierenti-
ally positioned with respect to  operations, in
ways that will impact on their future options, most
of the representations in circulation constitute
common knowledge for the population as a
whole. However, that people do not have access to
all the informational resources they desire is also
common knowledge (in the sense that all people
know it and know that all know it).
We will address how mining and narratives
about it evoke hopes and fears that create
expectations and social tensions, and prompt
actions, while obscuring political issues and power
relations underlying them. ese processes, we
will argue, result from the way the state – in the
interests of mining projects and governmental
processes – creates a zone that «black boxes»
mining enterprises for local people, who, despite
prominent talk of «informed consent», nd
it almost impossible to get reliable answers to
the questions they have. In 2012, for example,
local people demanded information from
authorities about the dead sh that were being
found in the Markham River. But information
relating to Water Discharge Permits is not
available to the public and it was not possible
to determine what responsibility  bore for
the sh deaths. So, in addition to the physical
enclosures required by  operations, which
make parts of Wampar territory inaccessible to
local people, there exists a zone of interaction
that comprises complex relations of inclusion
and exclusion with respect to information: and
given the value of such information, we might
speak of a local knowledge economy, one that
is no less characterised by inequality, tension
and the generation of social relations than the
circulation of other valuables. Creating enclaves
is one of the organizing principles of the political
economy of large-scale capitalist projects like
mines or factories.
Nevertheless, no government or company is in
a position to completely black-box undertakings
of the scale of those that  was set up to
run: narrative representations of what is going
on, in the form of visual images, rumours,
gossip, scandal, jokes, critiques and stories are
circulating continuously. Precisely because
the government and the corporation are so
interested in controlling the mines as enclosures
these become a realm of such productivity for
Wampar projected futures.
Here we want to consider four dierent ways
in which narratives and representations circulate
at the local level: rst, via sociocultural brokers
like village kaunsel and other individuals who
are invited to workshops and mine visits;
second, company and personal Facebook
pages. Many Wampar access the Internet by
smartphones and have Digicel contracts with
very good conditions. Digicel provides Internet
access in most Wampar villages. Both ’s
Hidden Valley and the Wa-Golpu projects
have individual Facebook pages as well, where
employed people post pictures and texts.
ese are the spaces where social relations and
networking are represented and enacted, so that
who is working for the company or supporting
its projects becomes visible. People, like the
company’s social relations managers, post
messages crafted to present the company in a
favourable light, for example, that a girl has been
rescued by an  helicopter and brought to
the next hospital.
Further inuential connections between the
local social networks and the mine are the
personal Facebook pages of Wampar employed
by, or engaged in some capacity with, .
Most frequently, the employees post photos of
themselves and co-workers (emphasising they
are a «team»), wearing shiny orange security
vests, drinking together or posing for the camera
of their mobile phones. Usually they pose in an
oce or with heavy machinery at a mining or
exploration site. e orange vests, machinery
and oces (often equipped with computers)
give others an idea of the desirable jobs and
enjoyable sociality available through connections
to the company and its operations. Photographs
of buildings and houses are shown less often.
Comments on these pictures usually do not pose
questions, but «friends» often express gratitude
for being shown the photos, click the «like it»
button, or otherwise admire what is shown on
the photographs.
Political events
Important political events in the region are
usually visited by s General Manager
of Sustainability and External Relations. Less
important events, such as a groundbreaking
ceremony at a future tailings area, or the
opening of a small bridge, are attended by
 representatives lower in the hierarchy.
e «Launching» of the «Huon Gulf District
Five Year Alignment Development Plan» was
one important event witnessed in 2013. It was
organized by the members of parliament ()
from the two areas most aected by ’s
activities. e main aim of the s was to
show unity in their political strategies and to
maintain their own popularity among voters
by distributing heavy machinery, trucks and
cars to the Local Level Government and food
to all guests of the event. e speeches given
emphasised that the whole population should
stand together, regardless of dierences between
organisation they belonged was not at all clear
to villagers and nobody could answer questions
about these people. Nevertheless, the majority of
Wampar in the village of Gabsongkeg are scared
and follow the advice of the «scientists». ’s
explanations are not trustworthy in this matter.
More generally, the lack of independent sources
of information, the anxieties of local people,
and their mistrust of , put other aspects of
seminars such as the hotel, the food, and modern
technological equipment at the mining site at
the centre of attention. e lack of information
about what is going on in the enclave, and the
mistrust it creates, thus generate a displacement
of the local peoples’ attention and focus. ,
accordingly, is being identied with a luxurious
lifestyle, good modern cars, plenty of food
and nancial resources, but it is expected to be
guarded or even deceptive about its operations.
In this respect  is like any other political
agent on the local scene: the success of political
plans and projects frequently hinge on others
not being aware of their exact nature. e extent
to which local political representatives are in
a position to act as honest brokers in the local
knowledge economy is compromised, even while
accounts of their experiences circulate as relevant
features of the relationships between the Wampar
and .
Another local socio-cultural broker who is
indirectly and directly related to  is a
young man who founded a land-awareness
theatre group, which travels to dierent places to
stage plays about the dangers of selling Wampar
land to businessmen. He thinks  corrupts
the kaunsel with their invitations to hotels and
restaurants. He had declined an oer to stage a
play at one of the  informational events, in
fear that he would not be in a position to criticize
 operations in the future. Nevertheless,
through his critical engagement with ,
and its attempts to associate itself with him,
his connections via Facebook to the companys
General Manager of Sustainability and External
Relations and the support he receives from other
supra-regional theatre groups, he has become
an important broker for representations of the
corporation and s.
e Internet and social media
 presents information on its activities on
an ocial website, as well as via Facebook. e
 website shows a movie about the Wa-
Golpu deposit which is a technical and highly
abstract account of how  will access the
gold and copper deposits. e Facebook page
«Morobe Mining Joint Venture» with 1,555
followers is probably known more widely
among the Wampar than the company’s web
that were already important before large-scale
mining became one of the central issues.
However, not all political events were non-
confrontational. In 2009, a village meeting
was called in Dzifasing to discuss the increased
sedimentation load from the Hidden Valley Mine
and fears of cyanide poisoning. Representatives
from , the National Department of Mining
and the Morobe Provincial Department of
Environment and Conservation were all present
to assure people that everything was under
control. e environmental coordinator of 
explained that there was sediment runo during
the construction phase, but this would diminish
now that a waste rock dump had been completed.
He emphasized that there were no hazardous
chemicals released into the environment, since
the milling plant that uses cyanide started
operating only a day before this meeting. He
further explained that the cyanide would in
future be chemically broken down and stored
within the tailings dam. Following the 
presentation, the government representative
assured the people that the government is there
to make sure everything is safe, and that a mining
license and an environmental impact assessment
permit would not have been granted had 
failed to show it could operate safely. He also
stressed the need for economic development,
especially because the Ok Tedi mine was slowly
ceasing production, but promised that the
Wampar would benet as well, indicating that
100% of royalties would be directed to the
Morobe Provincial Government and from there
down to the Districts and local s.
A local village leader, who was then preparing
to run as a candidate for the National Parliament
in the next election, challenged this presentation:
the Provincial Environmental representative
had to admit that his department had neither
the manpower nor the money to monitor
environmental impacts, and that the mining
company provided this service. e village leader,
cheered on by the villagers, then harangued the
government representatives present for not
working for the interests or protection of the
people, as was their duty, but colluding with the
mining company. He said that people are sick
and tired of «development» which was principally
oriented to helping politicians to steal money,
thus giving voice to a dissenting perspective on
mining development as corruption, one that
did not focus on the potential wealth the local
population could capture. He told the government
representatives that they had this time come to the
wrong place, since he and other Wampar were no
less educated than the cleverest of them. Finally,
he suggested that a feast be prepared to serve the
politicians, bureaucrats and mining company
representatives a meal of Markham sh, so that
settlements and ethnic groups in their levels of
expected compensation and royalties. One of
the s appealed for all ethnic groups to ght
together to ensure that lots of money owed to
the population as a whole. He also emphasised,
that local ethnic groups should exclusively
benet from work in the mine and not migrants
from other parts of Papua New Guinea. People
supported his speech with applause – especially
when royalties were mentioned.
’s general manager sat on the podium
during the event and then gave a short speech in
which he thanked the s for the invitation. He
emphasized that the company would cooperate
with the provincial government and talked about
employment opportunities for local people. No
other information was conveyed by him and he
did not address the claims advanced by the .
Villagers who attended the «Launching» barely
listened to the speeches; they were most excited
by the food preparations that were in evidence,
which included a whole cow, donated by one
of the s. Many people were involved in the
catering for the event, which was the central
topic of discussions. Rumours said that another
cow would be delivered later for the exclusive
consumption of the villagers who had hosted the
«Launching». e «Launching» as a joint activity
of both s and  was interpreted as sign
for a bright future, even while its specicities
remained unclear.
At a «groundbreaking ceremony» in another
Wampar village, at which the spirits associated
with the future tailings site were to be
compensated and pacied,  also sent a
cow, which was central to the whole event.
Representatives of  arrived in a car long
after the ceremony had started, and left after
having a short look around. Local people were
most excited by the preparation of food. ey
explained that one representative of a local
sagaseg, along with representatives of other
Wampar villages, was brought by an 
helicopter to a second venue, where the «real»
ceremony took place. Again  were thought
to be staging one event while others taking place
elsewhere involved its true agenda.
People evaluated this event in terms of the same
representations that would apply to any church
opening or ocial visit by local politicians or
church leaders or the like. e main dierence
seemed to be that cows instead of pigs have
become the new currency for bigger social and
political events, introduced by newly elected
provincial politicians and . At such events
many stories about explorations, upcoming
compensation, royalties and the shape of the
future circulate. At these political events, social
problems and power dierentials remain hidden
by a rhetoric of unity presented in a context of
commensality, one that is itself rooted in practices
Ilg formations and reworking of social
is diverse but related set of narratives has
set in motion a pre-emptive move to list group
members and register claims to land that might be
used for other mine-related purposes. e lack of
transparency and the inaccessibility of pertinent
information, coupled with mistrust in  led
the Wampar to seek to form Incorporated Land
Groups () of their own accord. It is important
to note, that s have so far only been used in
the petroleum and forestry sectors to organize
landowners, with the mining sector having
preferred other mechanisms (Filer, 2007). e
Wampar decision to use the  to safeguard their
interests in the context of mining is a result of
their establishment in earlier business ventures,
mainly in cattle farming. In contrast to these
earlier s, the new mining-related s were
formed on the level of the sagaseg, sometimes
even encompassing sections of the same sagaseg
from dierent villages, and thus contributing to
a certain guarded cooperation between Wampar
villages to secure ownership of the land where the
mine is located, and to a general «strengthening»
of the sagaseg. at the incorporation of Land
Groups is made on the level of the sagaseg, and not
on the level of the landholding mpan, is clearly
inuenced by media and government narratives
that perpetuate an «ideology» of landownership
by «clans» (Filer, 1997, 2007).
We would now like to present cases of 
formation involving dierent sagaseg. e cases
illustrate dierent levels of expertise involved,
and how the particularities of Wampar kin
relations inform the constitution of individual
s. For the purpose of discussion here, we will
describe each case as Sagaseg 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Sagaseg 1
Sagaseg 1 started forming an  while we were
in the eld in 2009. ey held a meeting under
the shade of the mango tree in the dusty yard of
one of the village leaders. All male lineage leaders
came together and in a lined school notebook
drew up a list of those they would count as a
member, constructed a genealogy encompassing
all the lineage leaders and listed all pieces of
land they claim as their own. Being a rather
small sagaseg, its leaders were able to trace their
genealogy to a common ancestor. ey quickly
reached an agreement on the list of members:
it included all living agnatic descendants (male
and female), as well as male and female children
of women of their sagaseg who married a yaner
(strangers or outsiders who are considered non-
Wampar). However, children of these women
married to other Wampar (men from another
they could themselves experience what it means
to pollute the environment.
Being a member of a landowning group
One of the most enthralling narratives to have
captivated the Wampar is the extent of wealth
that is due to landowners of mining projects.
ese narratives circulate throughout Papua New
Guinea and are fuelled both by newspaper and
 reports, and personal reports from individuals
working at or visiting mining sites. As the Wampar
are situated next to the main Highlands Highway,
which also serves as a conduit for gossip and
rumours emanating from the resource projects
provisioned by this vital transport link, they are
always informed about major developments in the
big mining and natural gas projects. Stories about
Porgera landowners marrying dozens of wives for
hundred thousands of Kina, or Lihir landowners
buying real estate property in Brisbane, Australia
circulate nationally. e two major national
newspapers were, in 2009, full of articles on the
negotiations regarding benets worth billions of
Kina for landowners in the Liqueed Natural
Gas () project in the Southern Highlands.
News reports vividly convey messages about the
importance to landowners of a strong negotiating
position in relation to resource companies and
the state. Being a member of a landowning group
recognized by the mining company and the state
is thus seen as a sure way to «strike it rich».
As a consequence, the Wampar are determined to
be recognized as landowners and expect to prot
in two ways. First, they claim the area around
Wa-Golpu as their ancestral homeland, where
they had been living, as a united group, before
migrating down the Watut River and splitting
up into the villages that are now located in the
Markham Valley (Fischer, 2013). Accordingly, all
Wampar see themselves as the rightful landowners
of the project area, and claim that they should
receive all the compensation and benets due to
those in that position. In fact, they are engaged in
a long-standing court battle over landownership
with the Yanta and Hengambu communities
(which speak a dierent language) currently
living close to the project site, and who, together
with the people of the Watut valley immediately
downstream from the project area, have hitherto
been the focus of community programs by
. e Wampar thus feel neglected despite
their historical claims and their much larger
demographic prole; this underlines the need for
them to increase their negotiating power. Second,
there are plans for Tailings Storage Facilities and
access roads on land everyone acknowledges
belongs to the Wampar. Compensation might
thus be forthcoming for these facilities, as well
as for possible environmental devastation of the
rivers and the land adjacent to it.
the grounds that they would marry out of the
sagaseg, another leader opted for a more inclusive
approach. He listed as sagaseg members not only
all children of living women of his lineage,
regardless of whether they were married to
another Wampar or to an outsider, but also the
yaner husband of his sister, thus incorporating
an ane into the sagaseg. is dierence in
approach had much to do with the quality of
relationships between the lineage leader and his
in-married brother-in-law: amicable relations
facilitate their incorporation, whereas when
relations are strained, the yaner husbands
are excluded. e idea of broadening the
membership to incorporate all children of the
lineage leader’s sisters, and even their husbands,
is also associated with the sharing of benets, for
he expects to get a larger share of the benets
due to the sagaseg as a whole because of these
additional group members.
Sagaseg 3
In this sagaseg, the formation of their  was
signicantly inuenced by a man of mixed
parentage, the son of a woman of this sagaseg and
a father from the Sepik. He represented himself
as well versed in the bureaucratic requirements
in registering an incorporated land group,
noting that he knew the necessary shortcuts
and that he had personal contacts with relevant
departmental heads in Port Moresby, through
his employment with Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.
is sagaseg had organised several fundraising
activities to support his work in registering
all of their lineages under a single  group.
ey started the process early, in 2005, and,
by 2009, were expecting the nal papers to be
signed soon. e sagaseg was also in the process
of registering a landowner company with the
Investment Promotion Authority (), and had
already opened a bank account in its name. e
list of members of the  included all cognatic
descendants of the original ancestors (of each
lineage), thus swelling the total membership of
the  to over 700. In their view, the larger the
group, the larger their share of total payments
to the Wampar. In addition, an increase in the
number of members was also seen as a way to
increase the sagasegs negotiating power vis-à-vis
the mining company and the state.
e inclusive system of Sagaseg 3, however,
was buered by some safeguards. ey
indicated in their  bylaws that while all
cognatic descendants are considered members
of their sagaseg as represented in their , only
members that have paid the membership fee of
32 Kina will be entitled to receive a share of the
benets expected from the mining operations.
In addition, only members descended through
the patriline were chosen as  representatives.
sagaseg) were not included, as it was argued that
they belong to the sagaseg of their father and
would be included in an  of their father’s
sagaseg. When we asked why the children of
women in their sagaseg who married an outsider
were included, the leaders answered that they
were only a small sagaseg that would benet from
more people. ey also pointed out that there
would be a lot of money owing from the Wa
mine, which they can generously share with the
families of their sisters and daughters.
e lineage leaders debated whether to include
in their list an extended family (mpan) that
actually claims to belong to a dierent sagaseg.
As there was an ongoing conict between this
mpan and Sagaseg 1 over an extensive tract of
forest located in an area covered by one of ’s
exploration licences, it was deemed wise to ask
them to join Sagaseg 1 in order to avoid a lengthy
court battle. e sagaseg leaders argued that this
mpan was in their patriline, but that one of its
ancestors had been raised by a man of another
sagaseg after his mother remarried, a fact that
current members of the mpan had forgotten,
so they mistakenly thought they were of the
other sagaseg. Wampar pre-colonial history is
dominated by warfare and its eects; this oers
scope for manipulation, through old stories
suddenly recalled, to claim or deny membership
in a sagaseg.
Sagaseg 2
e formation of an  for this sagaseg was
started in 2008 and included all of its lineages in
two Wampar villages. e question of inclusion
or exclusion of people was decided only by the
lineage leaders, who did so in isolation from one
another. e result was a mix of dierent criteria
for inclusion and exclusion. While one lineage
leader generally followed the same criteria
as that of Sagaseg 1, except that he excluded
female descendants of interethnic marriages, on
F 2. – A sagaseg meeting discussing  forma-
tion (2009, picture Tobias Schwörer)
the  formation. How they actually distribute
the wealth across the members once the expected
benets start owing is another question.
ere are nevertheless also dierences between
the specic mechanisms that the three sagaseg
employ to bolster their membership. e
dierent levels and categories of inclusion range
from children of interethnic marriages, also
qualied by their gender, to their non-Wampar
fathers, families of women of the same sagaseg
who married other Wampar men, to all patri-
and matrilineal descendants of the lineage
ancestors. A further dierence is on the level at
which decision-making takes place, which also
depends on the number of lineages within a
sagaseg: Sagaseg 1 is a small group compared with
Sagaseg 2 or 3. e relatively small Sagaseg 1 was
able to reckon on an uncontested connection to
a common ancestor. e relatively bigger Sagaseg
2 has left it to the respective leaders of the
member lineages to organize their list of who is
to be counted and who not. Other sagaseg, which
include several lineages and extended families,
have so far not organized themselves the way the
three other groups have done so. eir size and
pre-existing conicts between their constituent
lineages regarding land boundaries make it hard
for them to consolidate into an . And lastly,
there is a dierence in the levels of knowledge,
experience and connections necessary to
undertake such a bureaucratic endeavour. Sagaseg
3 clearly has an advantage in this sense, as they
count in their midst a mining professional with
the necessary knowledge and contacts.
e Wampar case clearly shows that narrat-
ives concerning mineral extraction have a
signicant impact on local imaginaries and the
way conceptions of kinship, sociality, group
boundaries and access to land are expressed.
e circulation of these narratives takes place
on dierent levels and is distinctively patterned
according to relations and contacts people
have with , state representatives, cultural
brokers and local political leaders. As  has
a very large-scale presence in Morobe Province,
many of its activities impinge on local lives in
unprecedented ways (directly or indirectly –
through companies and political institutions
providing services for ) and decisively
engage real and imagined futures. If we think in
network terms, and constitute  as Wampar
do, as a sort of person, then the company
represents something like a hypernode in social
life. rough the company, local social networks
intensify in various ways but also extend outwards
– around Papua New Guinea and beyond.
A chairman who was only related through his
grandmother was ousted from his position,
which prompted him to cease attending sagaseg
Sagaseg 4
While the three sagaseg described above have
found ways to form themselves into an ,
not all sagaseg have managed to do so despite
considerable eort. e leaders in Sagaseg 4
explained what makes it dicult to form an
 from a large sagaseg that is already divided
by land disputes and other conicts between
its constituent lineages. Pre-existing conicts
between lineages and/or extended families,
breed acute suspicions about representation and
control of benets in the context of mining.
e cooperation necessary for  formation is
hard to achieve. In the absence of an  for this
sagaseg¸ some who would otherwise organize
themselves agnatically have decided to actively
participate in  formation of their matrilateral
e three sagaseg that successfully formed
s comprised members who were strongly
motivated to increase membership in order to
achieve signicant demographic weight. is
motivation is, on the one hand, connected to
narratives that stress the need for negotiating
power vis-à-vis the state and the mining
company, and, on the other, to the idea that
compensation will be a function of the size of an
s membership. Both strategies suggest that it
is advantageous to increase membership of one’s
group to gain a larger share of a limited pool of
benets. is applies both to a lineage leader
seeking a larger share of payments made to the
sagaseg, and to a sagaseg intent on a larger share
of the payments to the Wampar as a whole.
e rationale for this inclusionary strategy is
also connected to narratives that portray the
immense wealth mining provides for landowners.
With such wealth at stake, the importance of a
large number of supporters is stressed, as is the
capacity to share benets widely that, precisely, is
ensured by success in maintaining that support
base. It is thus coherent with Wampar notions
of reciprocity and exchange that characterize
group solidarity. To gain numbers of members
and keep them in the group implies caring and
looking after the well-being of the members. e
male lineage leaders are also particularly mindful
of performing their obligation to look after their
sisters. As explained by a lineage leader in talking
about the  formation, it is in their kastom
(the Tok Pisin word for «culture», «tradition»)
to include their sisters, who therefore should
not be neglected. us, the inclusive motive is
expressed through this cultural value that nds
another expression through engagement with
classify it as unreliable, so they process these
representations and their own everyday
observations, along with the accounts of socio-
cultural brokers and national narratives, in a
manner that produces desires and expectations
relevant to their participation in development
and modernity. Yet these are locally conditioned:
for everyday observations of developments
relating to mining – like the growing number
of immigrants, the increased readiness of local
groups to sell Wampar land, the increase in
lethal accidents on the highlands highway, sh
death in the Markham river, the mushrooming
of fences and security services, which also entail
a wider circulation of rearms and an increase in
criminal activities – also act to create anxieties.
Access to good information, like access to
education, work and income, is still dicult
for the majority of Wampar. ough some
individuals – for example, return migrants with
good education and extensive work experience
– were well-placed to benet from economic
developments induced by s ambitions,
others are left to deal with the increased social
inequality as best they can. e Wampar case
suggests that the representations circulating
within communities located on or near
prospective mining sites, can – from the rst signs
of interest by a mining company – create social
expectations and tensions while simultaneously
disempowering those communities by restricting
information and obscuring political questions
and power relations.
e complex, diverse, and dynamic local
narratives produced at such sites signicantly
shape imagined futures. ey create not only
high expectations of future wealth but also
anxieties about exclusion, which would mean
not only being left out but having to cope with
friends, neighbours and relations who are able to
enjoy the expected benets. As the government
and the mining company are perceived as
untrustworthy, the Wampar proactively acted on
these understandings and started to coordinate
among themselves (sometimes by coordinating
how they compete). ey redene and reshape
themselves in novel ways to make the most of
this new economic opportunity, and attain what
they consider the best possible of imagined
futures. Drawing on their cultural categories to
craft representative groups legible to the state and
the company, they also adapt those categories
to be as inclusive as their understanding of the
future requires.
at most Wampar operate with an inclusive
mode of social boundary-making when
confronted with the prospect of resource
exploitation is not unique in Papua New Guinea,
as the example of Porgera (Golub, 2007a) and
the Gende (Zimmer-Tamakoshi, 1997) has
shown. rough their engagement with the 
Whether, though, the company and its state
partners have created a single public or «large-
scale political subject» seems to be debatable.
Even though  is locally interpreted as
a sort of macro-actor, the representations at
work along the edges of the network, which
dene the quality of its sub-regions, seem too
heterogeneous and locally specic to constitute a
single public sphere. e power of the company
and the state to inect the real and imagined
futures of the Wampar still over-determines each
local impetus, without amounting to anything
that would justify notions of ideological control.
Moreover, neither national narratives, nor those
that result from particular relationships, which
are propagated through social space in locally
specic ways (even if they include social media
and the politics of blogging) to inect face-to-
face encounters and interpretations thereof, are
subject to eective manipulation in a state like
Papua New Guinea.
We argue, therefore, that mining sites and
the narratives relevant to their interpretation
do not so much create «publics», those «large-
scale political subjects, […] that are thinkable
and practicable by means of mass-mediated
communication» (Cody 2011:38), as provoke
representations that transform social imaginaries
in ways that also depend upon local specicities.
 and the mining and exploration sites have
become central to Wampar social networks
through the imaginaries they facilitate. One of
the most important channels for the distribution
of representations of mining is Facebook. e
majority of the population is actively excluded
from access to more direct information, or
F 3. – e «Launching» of the «Huon Gulf
District Five Year Alignment Development Plan»,
members of parliament gave speeches and heavy
machinery was handed over to the Local Level
Government (2013, picture Bettina Beer)
areas in Papua New Guinea, lead us not to
discount the possibility for more exclusionary
processes and increasing inequalities, in the
medium to long-term future.
BDoris, 2012. Transformations in Kin-
ship, Land Rights and Social Boundaries
among the Wampar in Papua New Guinea
and the Generative Agency of Children of
Interethnic Marriages, Childhood 19 (3),
pp. 332-345.
B Nicholas A., 2009. Keeping the
Network Out of View: Mining, Distinctions
and Exclusion in Melanesia, Oceania 79 (1),
pp. 18-33.
B John, 1996. e Category ‘Village’ in
Melanesian Social Worlds: Some eoretical
and Methodological Possibilities, Paideuma
56, pp. 41-62.
B Bettina, 2006a. Interethnic Marriages:
Changing Rules and Shifting Boundaries
among the Wampar in Papua New Guinea,
in B. Waldis and R. Byron (eds), Migration
and Marriage: Heterogamy and Homogamy in
a Changing World, Münster, Lit Verlag, pp.
, 2006b. Stonhet and Yelotop: Body Images,
Physical Markers and Denitions of Ethnic
Boundaries in Papua New Guinea, Anthropo-
logical Forum 16 (2), pp. 105-122.
, 2010. Interethnische Beziehungen und
Transkulturelle Verwandtschaft, in E. Alber,
B. Beer, J. Pauli, and M. Schnegg (eds), Ve r-
wandtschaft Heute: Positionen, Ergebnisse und
Perspektiven, Berlin, Reimer, pp. 145-171.
B Bettina and Julia S, ms. Social
Reproduction and Ethnic Boundaries: Mar-
riage Patterns through Time and Space among
the Wampar, Papua New Guinea. Submitted
to Sociologus.
C Francis, 2011. Publics and Politics, An-
nual Review of Anthropology 40 (1), pp. 37-52.
E omas M., 1999. Land, Stories, and Re-
sources: Discourse and Entication in Ona-
basulu Modernity, American Anthropologist
101 (1), pp. 88-97.
F Colin, 1997. Compensation, Rent and Power
in Papua New Guinea, in S. Toft (ed.), Compen-
sation for Resource Development in Papua New
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framework, they are consciously de-emphasising
patrilineality, which is a notion that they would
otherwise use and emphasize in other contexts
such as when it comes to restricting children of
non-Wampar fathers from planting permanent
cash crops on the land of their Wampar mother,
as this would permanently alienate the land, or
the general narrative on the perceived threat that
migrants and an increase in interethnic marriages
pose for their land resources (see Bacalzo, 2012;
Beer, 2006a). In contrast to these exclusionary
forms of boundary maintenance, the Wampar
are forming s in the context of mining that
are as large as possible by drawing both on the
biological and social dimensions of kinship.
is thus leads to a «revival of clans» that
are actually not strictly unilineal clans. People
often use the word «clan», or more precisely,
the Tok Pisin word klen, to refer to these types
of social groups. ese klen as formed by the
membership list of an , however, are not
complete innovations, as maternal kin have
always enjoyed certain rights in Wampar social
life. ere are numerous cases of matrilineal
transfer of land tenure rights, mostly in the
absence of male descendants (see Fischer, 1996:
135-144). In addition, exogamously married
women are neither cut o from nor deprived of
rights owing from their natal lineages. us,
a married woman continues to identify with
and is recognized as a member of the sagaseg of
her father. Women never completely relinquish
usufruct rights on land belonging to their
natal lineage after marriage. In the context of
interethnic marriages, Wampar mothers are even
able to transfer some of these usufruct rights to
their children.
e revival of the sagaseg among the Wampar
under the inuence of narratives about mining,
after their former decline in colonial and early
post-colonial contexts, suggests that such
categories might always have been sensitive to
specic local and broader narrative inuence.
e analysis of these narrative contexts is thus
crucial for understanding the processes at work,
especially in settings where other social forces
operate (e.g., the state, mining companies), and
where social change (here through interethnic
marriages and the ensuing transcultural kinship)
constantly mediate the conditions for what
kind of concepts can be employed (like with
the required procedure for an  registration
and the codication that follows). is also
suggests need for caution about predicting the
reconguration of these categories into the
future. It is not yet clear, for example, what will
happen to these sagaseg once ocial negotiations
between the mining company, the state and
landowners take place, or when the mine nally
starts operations and the expected benets will
start to ow. e experiences from other mining
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Land Concepts of a Sepik People Aected by
... Others have written of 'the lack of transparency and the inaccessibility of pertinent information' that characterises the ILG system (Bacalzo et al. 2014: 71; Tararia and Ogle 2010). In remote communities, with limited and unreliable mobile phone coverage, few newspapers reaching the area, and no access to the internet, these problems are compounded. ...
... There, what had been distinct oobi were declared to be subclans of a larger entity, only part of which was unambiguously within the area the government recognised as entitled to royalties. In some ways, this reflects what Bacalzo et al. (2014) describe among Wampar people, with the recent revival of larger encompassing groups in a context of an emerging potential to receive royalties from anticipated mining activity in the area. The inclusion of oobi within a particular clan reflected current socio-political realities rather than prior mythological connection. ...
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In Papua New Guinea, local communities increasingly strive to render themselves ‘visible’ to the state as entities entitled to control and claim benefits from developments on their land. When people commit expressions of social form to paper they inevitably reshape previously operative social and political forms. This article compares ways in which two groups of Papua New Guineans have gone about the process of forming Incorporated Land Groups. Different histories of resource extraction, associated differences in engagement with state and companies and different pre-existing social forms are all reflected in the negotiations described. We discuss people's motivations for drawing up lists of members, the ways they went about this and implications for the communities themselves and for ILG registration more generally. Our analysis draws attention to how outcomes are shaped by scales of differentiation and emergent inequalities within the legal entities being imagined.
... The impact of ELD's immanent impacts in PNG has been more widely identified by Banks et al. (2013) with Leach (2011Leach ( , 2014 providing nuanced examples of how living on the edge of mining at Ramu can impact the social fabric of communities and the environment they depend on. In Morobe, environmental impacts and gender inequalities from mining at Hidden Valley (Burton, 2013a,b,c) provide specific, individual examples of impact while past extractive activities and the prospect of future mining have already altered and solidified social boundaries -changing the fabric of social organisation within and between communities (Bacalzo et al., 2014;Beer and Schroedter, 2014;Halvaksz, 2008Halvaksz, , 2014. ...
The gap between the rhetoric and reality of extractive-led development (ELD) looms large over the dominant but flawed discourse of mining for development. Seeking to better understand outcomes from ELD we apply a human flourishing perspective, exploring yet-to-be-experienced impacts in a potentially inflammatory political process. This action research is designed to assist communities respond to the proposed, but yet to be approved Wafi-Golpu project in the Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea. The research exchange documents with a clear voice community concerns about: a lack of information; anxiety about intentional and immanent impacts; fundamentally different conceptualisations of what human flourishing is; a lack of development, services and facilities; unrealistic expectations; and, most powerfully, an undermining of individual and collective agency. We find that despite forty years of waiting for mining, the consent process to date is unjust, flawed and inadequate, de-legitimising any future claims to informed consent. While the immediate practical, on-ground outcomes of this action-research for the communities has been positive, longer term outcomes are yet to be determined. The concept of human flourishing offers a useful and insightful perspective that can inform communities, governments, proponents and researchers alike about the potential impacts of ELD on human well-being.
... Narratives concerning the wealth this mine would bring to the Wampar, and the preparations that have to be put in place to ensure it, spread through almost all the villages. These narratives are diverse, but, along with questions and news on related activities (enlarging the Highlands Highway, building a mining camp on Wampar territory etc.) have been in circulation among the Wampar for the last three years (Bacalzo, Beer, Schwörer 2014). During fieldwork in 2013, Beer recorded the many exciting and worrying developments (especially mining and the sale of land) Wampar associate with significant sociocultural transformations. ...
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The authors describe the structure, formation and interpretation of 35 different string figures (fafoa) made among the Wampar (Morobe province, Papua New Guinea). The string figures were recorded in 2003/4 and 2013, from families of the village of Gabsongkeg. Aspects of the context in which the string figures occur are described. Placed in a comparative perspective, the Wampar string figure repertoire reflects the various relations that existed and exist with neighboring and more distant ethnic groups in Papua New Guinea. Two of the string figures have (until now) only been recorded among the Wampar, while three have been recorded only among the Wampar and their neighbors, the Watut. Nowadays rapid social change often occurs in the communities of Papua New Guinea, and this is certainly true of the Wampar. The making of string figures now competes with several alternative pastimes. This has led to changes in the string figure tradition, yet the material presented in this paper does not support the conclusion that the repertoire is diminishing or that the tradition will die out soon.
... Fischer had conducted fieldwork in Gabmadzung in 1965, and then in Gabsongkeg in 1971/ 72, 1976, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1999/ 2000, 2003/ 04 and 2009. In 2009/ 2010, Doris Bacalzo and Tobias Schwörer did research in Dzifasing, and Heide Lienert, Christiana Lütkes, Rita Kramp, and Juliane Neuhaus worked in different Wampar villages (Bacalzo, Beer and Schwörer, in press;Fischer 1975Fischer , [ed.] 1978). Beer's data is complemented by information on marriages 5 from a 'village register' (1954) instituted by the colonial Australian administration, and from earlier ethnographic censuses, conducted by Hans Fischer in 1971, 1993(Fischer 1997). ...
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In this article we examine how partner choice and strategies of social reproduction among the Wampar of northeastern Papua New Guinea are implicated in currently pressing questions about the future of Wampar as a socio-cultural unit. We use long-term qualitative and quantitative data based on fieldwork and census surveys conducted between 1954 and 2013 from the village of Gabsongkeg to analyse temporal and spatial patterns of partner choice. We are especially interested in interethnic marriages and their effects on group boundaries and group identities, given a pre-existing pattern of ethnic endogamy. Our results show that intermarriages between Wampar and non-Wampar have constantly been rising; in younger marriage cohorts some 60% of Wampar individuals are intermarried with partners of other ethnic identities. The data reveal that local and historical particularities inflect partner choices in ways that impact on settlement patterns, modes of engagement with the economic institutions of the modern state and, ultimately, the taken-for-granted nature of the identity inhering in the name “Wampar”; these impacts, in turn, increase the likelihood of interethnic marriage and precipitate questions about the rights attaching to local corporate identities under conditions where land is increasingly related to its commodity values.
The complexities of Melanesian customary land tenure greatly influence the adoption of community-based reforestation (CBR) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). CBR has recently become a focus for the PNG government due to declining yield from native forests which has renewed attention on developing timber plantations to augment villagers' livelihoods. In this paper, we investigate the factors which affect adoption of timber tree-growing by farmers and communities. We assess the efficacy of a policy frequently employed by non-government organisations (NGOs) in which single or multi-clan based seedling nurseries are used to encourage tree growing. A key finding is that people's need for technical assistance is subordinate to social and cultural factors, principally the need for community harmony. Farmers' motivation to plant trees is adversely influenced by uncertainties inherent in PNG's system of customary land tenure. Interventions – in this case extension assistance to grow trees – may create or exacerbate intra- and inter-clan conflict by bringing long term uncertainties into short term focus. For villagers in PNG, as in other cultures, we conclude that key enabling conditions for collective action revolve around strengthening villagers' bridging social capital in a manner which is sensitive to their longstanding social traditions. Targeted, do-it-yourself, family assistance may be as effective as attempts to encourage collective action. The implications of our findings for Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) which envisages a participatory approach to community engagement, are that cross-community initiatives may not be feasible without extensive investment in building social capital. Initiatives targeted at families or family-groups may be most successful.
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The activities of extractive industry have recently been framed by a language of corporate social responsibility that relies on a system of legibility and objectification. This process reifies ‘cultural units’, abstracting them from the rules of kinship, migration, and exchange that ensure social and economic security. I refer to this process and the ideology of ‘development’ that accompanies it as culturization and examine it in the context of oil extraction in Papua New Guinea's Kutubu region. Drawing on debates on the indigenization and politicization of ‘culture’, I present culturization as a process that relies on rules of inheritance and property to impose a structure of difference in contexts of extractive industry that ignores the intricacies of sociality that ultimately give life meaning. The aim of the paper is to both illustrate the consequences of this process and consider cognate ideas of ‘culture’ vis-à-vis ‘sociality’ to emphasize their mutual theoretical importance to contemporary anthropological inquiry.
Contemporary policy work in Papua New Guinea portrays the country either in terms of an inflexible tradition to be remedied by liberalization, or a weak state whose disintegrating social institutions must be strengthened by regional neighbors. As an analysis of land registration issues surrounding resource developments shows, rural Papua New Guineans demonstrate a willingness to innovate on past practice that is strikingly modern in its outlook, and the politics of land registration cannot be explained by liberalization or disintegration approaches. At the same time, the fluidity of land tenure makes it difficult to study land in Papua New Guinea as if it were common property, as is done in new institutional economics.
Resource development may involve codifications of social organization that alter preexisting arrangements. This is the case in Onabasulu society today, impacted by Chevron's petroleum extractions nearby and the codifications of collective life introduced by multinationals and the State of Papua New Guinea alike. Located on the Great Papuan Plateau of Papua New Guinea, Onabasulu “clans” are largely an artifact of a certificate-based incorporation process and do not preexist the era of petroleum development. This “entification” of clans is matched by an entification of ethnic groups, which previously enjoyed soft (or “thick”) rather than hard (or sharp) edges and boundaries. Various discourses—lineage histories, myths, other stories—are best viewed as instruments that political actors—the Onabasulu as a people, various clans, various individuals—use to embrace, contest, or manipulate the new codifications as these actors strive to position themselves competitively in relation to resources in an era of nationalist and capitalist penetration. “Land, Stories, and Resources” argues for a discourse-centered political ecology of Onabasulu modernity, one that recognizes the political and discursive roots of human-land relations in an unfolding and open-ended history predicated on an emerging politics of difference within a globalizing context, [political ecology, discursive practices, cognized models, Onabasulu (Papua New Guinea)]