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Logging, violence and pleasure: neoliberalism, civil society and corporate governance in West New Britain.


Between 1990 and 2000, a large international logging company based in Malaysia carried out logging in the Kaliai hinterland of West New Britain on behalf of a new-established local landowner company.' During this period, there emerged a law and order problem that had not existed previously and that disappeared once logging ceased. Most of the violence and theft that emerged was directed at the property and employees of the two timber companies. Ordinary villagers did not feel threatened. They went about their normal everyday tasks and, if anything, many conspired in the perpetration and concealment of the new crimes. (2) As a rule, Kaliai villagers are outraged by local felonies, which they frequently interpret in terms of a moral panic about their region becoming part of a growing national problem of criminal gangs (raskol) (Mitchell, Reed, this collection). The new assaults and thefts were not interpreted in that light.

The entry of new exploitative forms of international capital into the Kaliai area was accompanied by militarised forms of state policing. These supplemented non-state forms of social control, such as: modern Melanesian ways of using sorcery and shell-money; and corporate ways of co-opting people through gifts of western money, consumer goods, regular employment, and commoditized pleasures. This paper focuses on the landowner company and its experiments with merging diverse technologies of social control. Local apparatuses of power became reterritorialized. They became encapsulated and re-articulated within modern Western apparatuses of power, which in turn took on a Melanesian character. Whereas previous Marxist scholars have focused on modes of articulation between different economic systems (Althusser and Balibar 1970; Wolpe 1980), it possible to use the work of Agamben (2009), Foucault (1977, 1980) and Deleuze and Guattari (1987) to discuss articulations between different apparatuses of power and the development of hybrid forms of governmentality for policing resistances and producing compliance. These new experiments and assemblages of power often strategically exploited contingent circumstances that had a short-lived, unstable character. It is this organised, creative, yet systemic exploitation of local structures, practices, relations and events, which can be fruitfully analysed through a detailed ethnographic approach that combines a Marxist approach with a Foucauldian-Deleuzian approach.

For Foucault (1980:194-95), an apparatus is made up of relations between heterogeneous elements, which are strategically combined in particular ways at different historical points in time. Those elements can include discourses, institutions, architectural forms, moral-legal codes, social norms, values, bureaucratic rules and different forms of knowledge. An apparatus is not just the elements themselves, their sum total, but is more the relations between the elements. Those relations assume a particular socio-cultural form within the specificity of colonial and post-colonial contexts where they are shaped by how different socio-cultural structures become articulated with each other. Relevant, here, is Sahlins' (1981) anthrohistorical analysis of what he calls the structure of conjuncture. This refers to the specific modes of articulation of different socio-culture orders through how they meet in the specificity of particular events, persons, material objects, cultural meanings and social relations. The structure of these conjunctures and their modes of articulation can be unstable and can be transformed across time. They can involve experiments with various relations, practices and technologies of control, which seek to stabilise and promote certain elements whilst blocking others. In Melanesia, the hegemony of modernity, as a structure of domination, exploitation and civilisation, has never been just direct and immediate. Modernity's hegemony has always been mediated through local relations, practices and cultural forms that offer their own technologies of control and their own techniques for capturing and localising external powers. This localization of modernity, which also modernizes the local, has been a feature of Melanesian millenarian movements, churches, judicial-legal institutions, politics, big men and new forms of consumption (Billings 2002; Eriksen 2008; Foster 1995, 2002; Gregory 1982; Lattas 1993, 1998, 2006, 2010; LiPuma 2001).


In the late 1980s, an Australian manager at Iboki plantation, Ryan, gained the support of villagers to form a landowner company. It secured a forestry concession to log tropical rainforest in the Kaliai interior. The landowner company subcontracted the task of cutting, classifying and exporting the logs to a logging company run by Malaysian Chinese. Villagers were seduced into signing up for logging through expectations of large royalty payments, a permanent infrastructure of roads and bridges, and long term development and employment based on downstream processing and sustainable logging. Undertakings were given not to log wild fruit and nut trees, and not to log close to rivers and small streams, which were to be allowed to flow unhindered. There was a promise to consult and respect local culture, especially masalai sites (wild spirits) and old burial locations. Indeed, the landowner company employed a consultant anthropologist to help formulate ethical and environmental guidelines. Villagers were presented with a 'friendly,' more ethical form of capitalism. It promised to honour ecological and social impact obligations, and to establish a democratic economic 'partnership' with local landowners.

In reality, these environment and infrastructure promises could not be enforced. In the late 1980s, government cutbacks in expenditure led to the closure of the local patrol post at Iboki. The absence of any effective government overseeing authority was made worse by the distance of major administrative centres, like Gloucester and Kimbe, whose public servants lacked the funds and resources to visit the Kaliai area. Occasionally, some forestry officials were present at the large logging camp at Iboki where they were fed and housed by the logging company. It paid and organised forestry officials' travel into and out of the Kaliai area, including for recreational purposes. Like local politicians and urban government bureaucrats, forestry officials were widely regarded to have been bribed, for they refused to act in support of villagers' protests about clear breaches of environmental, cultural and infrastructure undertakings.

Throughout Papua New Guinea, logging expanded in the 1990s as the national government sought extra funds and greater independence from Australian political and economic controls. Foreign government aid and investment from Asia looked a promising alternative. In the 1990s, a Malaysian corporation quickly became the dominant logging company in Papua New Guinea and, up until at least 2005, it controlled 40-50% of the nation's log exports, if not more (Wood 1999). (3) In 1993, this company started its own national newspaper and became a powerful force in national politics. When this logging company arrived in the Kaliai area in 1990, it brought a new racial hierarchy. Its managers were ethnic Chinese, underneath them were other Asian nationals such as surveyors and mechanics from the Philippines, and underneath them were Iban workers from Malaysia who operated the chainsaws, forklifts and trucks. Though there was a promise to train local villagers, they were regarded as dumb and pigheaded; and so they were mainly employed as labour assistants. Partly because of these racial caricatures, the Malaysian loggers were unpopular with Kaliai villagers. The villagers had their own racial caricatures of the Malaysians as an inauthentic counterfeit form of whiteness, which was deceiving them and offering a fraudulent form of modernity (Wood 1995, 1999, 2006). The Malaysians lacked the symbolic moral capital of Anglo-Europeans, who more fully embodied the civilising mission of government and Christianity (Lattas 1998, 2010). Often employed on contracts with piecemeal rates, many foreign logging employees were not Christian and thus worked on Sundays. They were accused of putting money above God, with villagers formulating economic and racial tensions within moral Christian terms (Trnka, this collection).

When the logging company first arrived, most of its employees could not speak English or Pisin, for they had not worked previously in Papua New Guinea. They were further cut off from everyday social relations with villagers because they slept, are their meals and relaxed in a separate compound protected by fences. Throughout New Britain, the Asian logging companies often delegated their 'public relations problems' with local villagers to local landowner companies. More than just corporations for distributing royalties, landowner companies had the responsibility of using local knowledge, relations and practices to control unrest, protests and compensation demands (Benson and Kirsch 2010). In effect, landowner companies privatised and corporatized the problem of producing governable subjects. They experimented with technologies of social control by often deterritorializing and reterritorializing the practices, processes and technologies of power belonging to custom and modernity. From the foreign logging companies, local landowner companies received extra funding over and above royalties and this was called a 'Premium'. In the Kaliai area, this money went into entertaining the directors, executives and senior employees of the landowner company and into buying off opponents so as to prevent organised opposition from growing. The landowner company saw itself as pacifying expectations, desires and demands that had been unleashed by the visible displays of wealth and capital belonging to large-scale international development. When the placating and mollifying process failed, as it increasingly did in the Kaliai area, the logging company passed onto the landowner company the responsibility for calling in the police and the riot squad (raiskot). Later, in the mid 1990s, the logging company made its own direct requests for a police presence in the Kaliai area and it assumed greater responsibility for pacifying local unrest.

The emergence of landowner companies in New Britain gave the extraction of resources by foreign capital a new ideological and institutional framework, namely, that of being a contractual partnership, a democratic joint venture. When logging first started, many Kaliai villagers welcomed it as a large-scale form of development that would provide wealth, infrastructure and employment, which the state had promised but had failed to provide (Wood 1998, 2004, 2006). Indeed, the Malaysian corporation's early rapid building of roads and bridges was used to criticise politicians and state officials who were denounced as corrupt, lazy, inefficient and incompetent. However, it did not take long for villagers to become opposed to both the local landowner company and the Malaysian logging company. The latter's hastily built dirt roads and timber bridges were seen for what they were: a temporary form of development designed to facilitate logging rather than provide villagers with any permanent infrastructure. By the middle of the 1990s, physical threats and bashings of logging company employees had increased, so did burglaries, theft and road blockades directed at its operations and property. None of the local protests had the support of the landowner company whose property also came under attack from angry villagers.

Previously, the Kaliai area was not known for law and order problems. In the early 1970s, villagers had been gaoled for participating in a large millenarian cult led by Censure, which later fragmented into smaller rural cults. All of these cults emphasised increased moral discipline as the true road to an alternative modernity (Counts 1971, 1972; Lattas 1998, 2010). Though ex-cult followers in the bush were very critical of logging, it was not they who carried out the road blockades, thefts, destruction of property and assault on logging company personnel. Instead, it was younger, educated villagers from developed coastal and river areas. These villagers were more heavily involved in cash crops, schools, the Catholic Church, local councils and democratic politics and so their young men had higher expectations of what development could deliver. It was youth who voiced and acted out the frustrations of other villagers who felt that all their legitimate political avenues had been compromised by the two timber companies (Mitchell, this collection).


In the late 1980s, copra production at Iboki Plantation became increasingly uneconomical. The Australian manager, Ryan, eagerly embraced a suggestion about logging made by bush villages from Doko Sagra who were cutting copra for him. Ryan's appointment as managing director of the landowner company was due to his close ties with both coastal and bush villagers. He overcame the animosity and distrust they had of each other. Though by no means wealthy, Ryan had the financial resources and the cultural capital required to organise an application for a forestry concession. This required expensive visits to Port Moresby where he lobbied ministers and public servants. As the application process neared success, Ryan received financial help from the logging company to cover legal and travel expenses, as well as the high entertainment costs involved in creating good ties with urban politicians and government officials.

As a new legal corporate body, the landowner company was used to depower local villagers. Having gained the forestry licence and sub-contracted the Malaysian company, the landowner company claimed to embody villagers' collective contractual voice, which was used to question the legitimacy of specific grievances and protests by particular villagers and to call in the police. At meetings in Kimbe, directors of the landowner company were warned that they had personal contractual obligations to make available timber resources. Though the landowner company did not manipulate royalty payments to different clans, it did have discretion with respect to distributing considerable funds set aside as levies. (4) This money funded strategic gifts that secured the loyalty of certain big men, making it difficult to organise co-ordinated resistances. When it first began, the landowner company recommended to the forestry department the specific clans to be registered as Incorporated Land Groups (Wood 2009). Those recommendations favoured coastal big men who gained a disproportionate influence in the landowner company despite their villages being surrounded mainly by coconuts and kunai grass. (5)

Initially, the logging company responded to local protests, such as road blockades and village demands for payment for gravel and water, by asking the landowner company to mediate. It would send senior directors who resided in Kimbe to meet with local directors residing in Kaliai villages and together they would try to negotiate with opponents. The landowner company had strategically chosen to base its head office in the provincial capital of Kimbe so as to avoid the everyday demands and complaints of Kaliai villagers, something which angered those big men who felt excluded from its decision-making. Having managed Iboki Plantation for many years, Ryan had good local knowledge and contacts. It was perhaps, therefore, no accident that Ryan had Morris, an incompetent drunkard, appointed as the first chairman of the landowner company. Morris was from Bolo village (a mixture of Anem, Mouk and Aria speakers). He claimed to be the leader of bush villagers despite not having a 'name' grounded in customary exchange ties or ceremonies (Chowning 1972; Counts 1968, 1971). In contrast, the company's first secretary, Vincent, was a respected big man, sorcerer and magistrate from the nearby Kombei island of Nutanuvua or Nut. Vincent maintained his local status by residing on his home island even when he later displaced Morris and became Chairman. By 1990, Morris had already moved to live in Kimbe, which alienated him from home villagers, especially when he failed to care for them when they visited town. Ryan was careful to recruit directors from all five Kaliai language groups and especially from major villages with prominent big men. Influential directors and employees of the landowner company, who resided in Kimbe, had the responsibility of taking care of troublesome villagers who visited the company's headquarters. They were given gifts of money, alcohol, tradestore goods and restaurant meals. For more powerful and bothersome opponents, the gifts could be more substantial, such as: a diesel engine; mechanical repairs for a boat or small ship; a dingy or outboard motor; a small bus to ferry passengers in Kimbe; a truck for local transportation in the Kaliai bush; and building materials for a house.


The Kaliai Census Division covers a large area of about 1700 square miles. According to the 1990 national census, it had 37 villages with 5,054 people living in 927 households. Along with 6 different languages, there are also different kinship systems with patrilineal ties being more important on the coast and matri-moieties being more important in the interior. Over this dispersed heterogeneous population, the landowner company established an efficient private system of surveillance and intelligence gathering. During frequent trips to the head office in Kimbe, directors would bring information to the executive on troublesome local groups and individuals. Some directors were given small, hand-held, mobile wirelesses that could reach Kimbe from Kaliai villages. Other directors relied on the newly established network of roads and moving vehicles to travel quickly to the two major camps run by the logging company where they could phone or wireless information to the head office. The landowner company's surveillance and intelligence gathering went beyond anything that the state had previously established. Though the state may have withdrawn, in the 1990s, there occurred a privatisation and a diversification of security. As we shall see, the landowner company deployed multiple strategies of social control that used police, the riot squad, sorcery and strategic gifts so as to suppress, pre-empt and buy off local dissent.

In cases involving attacks against logging company employees and property, the landowner company assumed responsibility for bringing in police from Kimbe or the riot squad from Rabaul. They would be flown in by plane to the new air strip built by the logging company, or by helicopter to more remote clearings. The logging company's fast speed boats were also used to bring in police from Kimbe. Once in the Kaliai area, the logging company's cars, trucks and drivers transported the police and their weapons quickly to different villages to arrest disruptive individuals. Ryan always made sure that influential landowner company directors were involved in co-ordinating these policing operations. The aim was to deflect responsibility and criticisms over policing onto the landowner company because it was recognised very early on that the Malaysians were unpopular and the viability of logging depended on not fuelling simmering discontent. The landowner company had good contacts with senior, urban police officials through a director who was a police sergeant and later a detective in Kimbe. In the mid-1990s, he resigned to focus on the fishing business activities of the landowner company, but he kept up and used his previous contacts to organise police interventions in the Kaliai area.

By 1994, the landowner company found it difficult to silence local protests. Increasingly, its financial resources went into sustaining the expensive urban lifestyle of privileged directors, who liked to travel to hotels and night clubs in Kimbe, Rabaul and Port Moresby. From its inception, the landowner company was heavily involved in a shared masculine culture of commoditized pleasures. Three senior personnel, including the local provincial Member for Kaliai, had their travel expenses to Malaysia paid by the logging company where they were entertained at local brothels. Later, the landowner company paid for similar pleasure trips by directors to Cairns in Australia. Though helping to strengthen male ties of solidarity in the company, these overseas trips undermined the moral credibility of the landowner company as an institution for managing people's income.

Based in Kimbe, the landowner company chose the strategy of not seeking to meet the overwhelming, everyday needs of ordinary villagers but rather to channel its resources strategically to key leaders and opponents. This meant ignoring the needs of most local big men, whose support the landowner company lost. Increasingly, the logging company had to use its financial resources and public relations personnel to solve local protests, road blockades, thefts and attacks upon employees which disrupted production. The Malaysians intervened directly with their own gifts of money and goods to opponents. A key organiser of local protests from Denga village was appointed public relations officer to the logging company. Another protest leader, who also had political ambitions, was appointed public relations officer to the landowner company. These were not big men with a reputation in ceremonies but young, educated coastal men disillusioned with cash crops, trade stores and politics. This co-optation of protest leaders did not go unnoticed by Kaliai big men who denounced these young men as having engaged in a scam, as having used local grievances for personal gain. For 10 years, the two timber companies were effective in undercutting and fragmenting local resistances. This was facilitated by the deafening public silence and inaction of the two local members of parliament, who supported villagers' claims only in private. Both members relied on funds from the two companies to finance their patronage networks and election campaigns. (6) Notwithstanding tensions, yet fearing other political rivals, the landowner company mobilised its directors, financial resources and administrative structure to organise successful election campaigns that helped to re-elect both members, despite their widespread unpopularity. (7)


The state is never a homogenous entity (Miliband 1983; Poulantzas 1978). In the Kaliai area, many big men functioned as minor state officials, such as, magistrates, councillors and village court police. They gave quiet support to those who stole property from the two timber companies. Along with other villagers, they sheltered offenders behind a veil of secrecy and silence. The wholesale store of the landowner company was robbed a number of times. The first was a burglary that resulted in a loss of K4,000 worth of goods. The second robbery in 1994 resulted in a K20,000 loss of goods. It involved a public collective looting of goods by villagers angry over low royalty payments. Close relatives and supporters of the local member, led this raid which was widely understood to have his tacit support. Senior directors claimed the local member was jealous and had been politically damaged through the landowner company's commercial activities at Iboki overshadowing his own personal store at Kandoka village and his village's long held claim to be the vanguard of Kaliai development (Counts 1968).

The residential quarters and the store of the Malaysian logging company were also repeatedly broken into and robbed of goods, though on a smaller scale. Two young men at Bolo village were involved. They had returned from long residence in Kimbe with powerful magic purchased from the Mamusi, which had allowed them to become successful raskol in town (Lattas 2010: 33). They used this magic to put the Malaysians into a deep sleep so they were not heard during their night time burglaries. Reportedly, one young man had limepowder that rendered him invisible. Its 'smoke' (dust) would enter the eyes of a store keeper so he could enter the store without being seen. When both young men first returned from town, big men warned them not to bring with them their raskol pasin (rascal ways). They obeyed and were not known locally to be thieves. However, as unrest over logging grew, both received a tacit licence to deploy their night-time skills and magical powers. The resulting stolen goods were rapidly dispersed as gifts to other villagers and even to local, minor, state officials (Goddard 2005).

Popular support made it difficult to use normal forms of policing, which required villagers to be observant and report suspicious behaviour, such as unusual forms of expenditure or consumption. During this period of time, national state structures lost the support, not just of villagers and big men, but also of local state officials. Cut off from local structures of social control, the two timber companies called in police from Kimbe and the riot squad from Rabaul to quell attacks that were becoming more frequent and daring. One notorious attack involved an attempted armed robbery of a logging company car, with an employee being wounded by the bullet of a homemade gun. Though the looting of company stores was popular, this attack shocked villagers who rejected this escalation in violence and even the presence of guns in the Kaliai area. Those who participated in the armed robbery were relatives of the director who was a police sergeant-detective in Kimbe and so some villagers blamed the landowner company for bringing in dangerous urban raskol pasin.

Initially, police from Kimbe were flown in to try and end the road blockades, the physical attacks and thefts. Many Asian employees had become quite frightened by the collective hostility and resistance they met and the logging company lobbied to have two policemen from Kimbe permanently based at Iboki. For some months, they were present; they were organised in rotating shifts of two weeks. Hostility against the Malaysian company voiced itself in many ways, such as everyday complaints over the prices they paid for local food chickens, fish, pigs and garden produce. There were a number of disputes over sexual relations with local women, where notions of a fair price for prostitution services did not meet local understandings of adultery and compensation to clan relatives. Villagers who worked as labourers claimed the logging company cheated them through the haphazard amounts it deducted for subsistence store goods that they consumed during the fortnight. In 1995, the Malaysian pay master was beaten up by angry workers who found only K5 in their fortnight pay. The fear that Asian employers experienced was also something that some young men from coastal-river villages enjoyed cultivating. On pay day or after royalty payments had been made, company cars whose drivers were often Malaysian-Chinese would be stopped by drunken young men who then used the vehicles and their drivers as personal taxis for visiting relatives, sometimes in the middle of the night. Later, when sober, the young men would boast of their success in intimidating particular employees and in commandeering their cars. Here tensions over economic exploitation authorised new racial conflicts, where drunken young men felt free to engage in unpleasant forms of intimidation that, ordinarily, would be frowned upon.

Both timber companies presented local protests, thefts, and anger as part of an endemic, nationwide break down in law and order (Wood 2006, 2009). They sought to tap into wider national and international discourses articulated by the mass media, aid agencies, local expatriates and foreign governments which spoke of weak state structures and failed nation states in the Pacific (Lattas and Rio, this collection). In personal conversations, managers of both companies described villagers' attitudes to local 'law and order' problems as indicative of a moral-intellectual backwardness that was causing Papua New Guinea's economic problems by scaring off foreign investors who wanted to help. Local unrest was recast, not just as crime and immorality, but also in racial terms as indicative of a violent, primitive, and ungovernable past reasserting itself in a context of weak state power, where the assumed hold of civilisation had grown more precarious. A view of Melanesians as pigheaded, as refusing to be morally schooled, was used to justify the need for a more military-like response to Kaliai villagers' protests, even though these were mostly not violent. (8)


Hegemonic structures often predefine violence by rendering as lawful contract the everyday coercive structure of market relations, which impose poverty and inequality through unequal terms of exchange. Modern capitalist exploitation uses contract law backed up by a judicial-penal system to enforce as legitimate commerce what local people regard as a theft of their resources, which they are powerless to stop. In the Kaliai area, new forms of economic exploitation occurred not just because of state inaction or because government politicians and bureaucrats had been bought off, but also through active military support by the state. In particular, the riot squad was used as an instrument of terror. Its sporadic intense bursts of violence served to intimidate local resistances.

The entry of large-scale, predatory forms of international capital and the increased use of state terror were related in some non-obvious ways. Both emerged from neoliberal policies demanded by the World Bank, aid agencies and foreign governments, such as Australia. They called for cut backs in the public sector, an enlarged private sector, and the privatization of state corporations. In 1990s, rebels closed the Bougainville copper mine, which had been contributing 20% of government revenue. The ensuing funding crisis led the national government to seek other revenue sources from timber royalties and expanded overseas investment from Asia. National and provincial governments turned to foreign missionaries (such as the New Tribes Mission) and logging companies to provide rural infrastructure, such as new airstrips, wharves, health centres and school buildings. The national government devalued Papua New Guinea's currency, which increased prices on imported everyday goods like rice, cooking oil, fuel and tinned meats. It increased school fees, cut subsidies for cash crops such as copra, and reduced expenditure in rural areas. All this made villagers desperate for new sources of income. In West New Britain, the provincial government sold off its shipping service, which provided the only reliable means of transportation for cash crops, consumer goods and passengers along the northwest and southwest coasts. Some of the investments made by local landowner companies sought to counteract these effects by developing private shipping services, but these proved to be unreliable and short-term.

The crisis in state revenue produced not so much less state power in rural areas, but more a transformation in policing practices. As mentioned earlier, by 1990, small administrative patrol posts, like Iboki, had closed and the visible presence of the state was severely curtailed. Regular patrols by kiaps and agricultural development officers came to a stop, so did health and judicial-court patrols. Lacking an effective local presence, the state lacked local knowledge. Urban state officials were cut off from local, minor state representatives, such as rural magistrates, local government councillors and village court police. The new international forms of capital also had no ties at this local level of state power, which was not as reliable in serving their economic interests as national and provincial government structures in Kimbe, Rabaul and Port Moresby. It was urban state officials who entered into an alliance with the logging company and the landowner company, taking advice primarily from them.


Initially, in the early to mid-1990s, police from Kimbe were used to try and suppress local unrest, but this proved ineffective. Kimbe police started to socialise closely with villagers. They listened and sympathised with villagers' complaints. The police chewed freely-given local betelnuts, swam in neighbouring streams, chatted in the men's houses and shared food provided by villagers. Unable to suspend their official orders, the police whispered to villagers how they agreed with their complaints about poor roads and bridges, low royalty payments, blocked streams, an absence of downstream processing, little local employment and an unwillingness to pay for gravel and water. Villagers quoted Kimbe police as whispering to them how they would be behaving likewise if this company dared to operate in the same way in their home regions. When in 1994 the wholesale store owned by the landowner company was ransacked in the middle of the night, rumour has it that Kimbe police helped to distribute the looted goods, making sure everyone received something. Unable to quell local unrest using Kimbe police, both timber companies turned to the riot squad (raiskot) which was infamous for its heavy handed, extra-judicial use of violence. The riot squad was not seen by villagers as an impartial force. Its personnel only stayed for a few days and not long enough to build up local knowledge and social ties. Instead, the riot squad was transported, housed and fed by the logging company. Any arrested prisoners were held temporarily in a shipping container provided by the logging company and kept at its compound. More than a make-shift jail, in the searing tropical heat at Iboki, the iron shipping container quickly became a feared instrument of extra-judicial policing and its alliance with large scale foreign capital.

The riot squad fostered the appearance of being an undisciplined force that could be easily provoked into angry reprisals that could spiral out of control. Its seemingly capricious use of violence served to cast the net of state terror wider than the punishment of immediate offenders so as to threaten and intimidate complicit villagers who supported and hid transgressors. One reason for the riot squad's effectiveness was that it drew upon an established body of popular stories about undisciplined state violence in Bougainville. Villagers also had local historical accounts of violent extra-judicial punishments by native police during the colonial process of pacification (Kituai 1998; Mitchell, this collection). The riot's cultivation of a volatile, trigger-happy persona validated these stories. Its arrival led Kaliai leaders to put a quick stop to local protest actions. Moreover, young offenders who had run off into the bush also returned and gave themselves up when they heard that: their aged parents or other supportive relatives had been beaten up; village livestock had been shot and killed; local canoes blasted with bullet holes; and terrified women and children were hiding and sleeping in the bush. Returned offenders wanted to spare loved ones any additional hardship. The riot squad had little chance of finding anyone hiding in the bush and so it shrewdly threatened to arrest and take away an offender's father or brother until the offender handed himself in. Though seemingly a modern military force, the riot squad did not operate solely within western individualised notions of moral responsibility and punishment. Rather its innovative forms of policing operated through kinship structures. The riot squad punished and deployed the calculated logic of state terror in a powerful Melanesian way.

Through their personal appearance, the riot squad promoted an aura of fear and terror as emanating from a potentially wild, disorderly, native subjectivity. With their unkempt hair, unshaven faces, dishevelled dirty clothes, muddy unlaced boots, unholstered rifles and loose slings of bullets, the riot squad projected a look of undisciplined violence. News of their impeding arrival would send women and children fleeing from villages into the bush. Prior to logging, Kaliai villagers had heard and told apocryphal stories of the riot squad's unpredictable use of violence against other groups in Papua New Guinea. Some stories were told approvingly especially if they involved inflicting a moral lesson upon pig-headed rivals like the Kombei. The stories told of summary executions, beatings, the rape of women, pregnant women being kicked in their wombs so they miscarried, and crying babies being stomped on with heavy boots to silence them. Through its rough, disproportionate, confronting behaviour in the Kaliai area, the riot squad confirmed these fantastic stories of terror. To villagers, the displayed weaponry, warning shots, slain livestock, summary beatings and the iron shipping container were part of a theatre of terror that could easily become an encapsulating reality. The riot squad carried a mystique of it being an exceptional form of state power that stood over and above the laws to which other government agencies and citizens were subject. It was judge, jury and enforcer collapsed into an embodied representative of what Kapferer (2004) has called 'wild sovereignty'.

In his philosophical work on politics, Schmitt (2005: 5) defined sovereignty as grounded in the state's capacity to suspend normal governmental forms and inaugurate a state of exception. Taking up this point, Agamben (2005) has argued that states of exceptionality have become normalised and made into a technique of government. In cultivating a fear of undisciplined fury, the riot squad promised to restore order through extrajudicial violence where the state stood outside the laws it had inaugurated and from that position could re-subdue and re-domesticate primitive natives who have forgotten their own place within law and government. However, the riot squad was effective primarily when it was immediately present. One effect of its terror was to channel villagers' anger into compensation claims for gravel and water, and for graves and masalai sites disturbed by logging and road building. The village of Denga received 15,000 kina for such claims and its protest leader became the public relations officer for the logging company. What today is characterised as Melanesians' eagerness to manufacture and exaggerate compensation demands has been partly created by the threats of extrajudicial violence that shadow local resistances to economic exploitation.


It would be misleading to concentrate just on state violence and terror as the only technology of social control. There also emerged more privatised forms of violence and terror, where sorcery became reterritorialized. It became corporatized and used to intimidate logging opponents and those who challenged the internal hierarchy of the landowner company. Though a whiteman, Ryan had good local knowledge and contacts, so he astutely surrounded himself with prominent coastal big men whom he had befriended as a plantation manager. Indeed, three of the most prominent sorcerers on the Kaliai coast--Vincent, Salinga and Ranga (Salinga's younger brother),--became prominent directors who strongly supported Ryan. Whereas most other directors were young educated men, these three were older regional big men with extensive customary exchange ties. Though not all Kaliai big men are sorcerers, magical powers are often necessary to engage in the competitive world of exchange ceremonies prominent along the coast and major rivers. Magical powers are used to attract shell money to oneself, to convince a previous exchange partner to repay his debt, and to protect oneself from the sorcery of jealous rivals. Sorcerers also use their magical powers to protect their private property: boats, pigs, and food gardens. Salinga, Ranga and Vincent were all heavily involved in copra production and used their sorcery to protect their coconut groves from pilfering and to create indebted labourers who would cut copra in return for being protected from sorcery (Lattas 2010: 25). Such sorcery does not just serve customary concerns. Along the coast sorcery has been extensively reterritorialized into a modern world so that, for example, it both attacks and protects those who venture into the competitive modern world of tradestores, education, politics and government (Lattas 1993,2010; see also Eves 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000; Lederman 1981; Rio 2002; Stephen 1987; Zelenietz and Lindenbaum 1981).

It is this long history of using sorcery for modern competitive purposes that allowed it to become part of the internal power structures of the landowner company. Tensions inside the landowner company were high, for the directors came from six languages (Anem, Aria, Kombei, Lamogai, Lusi and Mouk)--some of whom had a history of warfare and sorcery accusations between them. In particular, Anem, Aria, Lamogai and Mouk villagers residing in the bush did not trust Kombei and Lusi villagers on the coast who had become heavily involved in cash crops, commerce, education and national politics (cf. Ernst 1999). Well before logging, in disputes over land, coastal villagers publicly boasted of their sorcery powers so as to intimidate bush villagers who invariably deny having any sorcery (Lattas 2010: 24-28). As an external whiteman, Ryan was valued by different groups as a possible neutral umpire who could overcome the dangers of a wantok (one language) system of patronage which was seen as plagueing Papua New Guinea (Reed, this collection). Many language groups were especially afraid of the Kombei taking control of the landowner company, royalty payments and forestry resources. The Kombei were the wealthiest group with the strongest political-government connections and it was this modern form of ethnic hegemony which was partly encoded in bush Kaliai sorcery fears about them (Ernst 1999).

Benefiting from internal tensions inside the landowner company, it was not in Ryan's interest to do away with them completely. Ryan's strength lay especially in being able to span across the division between the developed coast and the undeveloped bush. When Ryan managed Iboki plantation, he had developed good personal relations with coastal villagers who visited his store either as customers or as sellers of trochus shells and crocodile skins. Ryan's relations with bush villagers was more through them having worked as copra labourers. In the landowner company, Ryan's position as managing director was secure as long as he was supported by bush villagers and by the respected-feared sorcerers, Salinga, Ranga and Vincent. They used their extensive exchange ties to protect Ryan from challenges by educated coastal villagers claiming to be landowners and playing on national-racial discourses about Melanesians now being independent and needing to control their own resources (Rio, this collection). Initially, challenges to Ryan came from within the landowner company, from its chairman, Morris and his ally, the local Member for Kaliai, Ben. Both had been ex-teachers and had travelled together to Malaysia. Ben was suspected of using Morris as a vehicle to gain control of the company without giving up his political position. Later, a more successful challenge to Ryan came from Paul, an educated man from Nutanuvua Island, more commonly known as Nut. In the late 1980s, he had helped Ryan get logging approval by negotiating through the maze of bureaucratic rules. (9)

At the first landowner company's meetings in Kimbe, the three most powerful directors--Salinga, Ranga and Vincent--made a public show of supporting Ryan and intimidating potential rivals such as Morris. From the landowner company, these big men received much in the way of money and goods which, in the case of Vincent, sometimes created tensions back home on the island of Nut. As coastal big men, Salinga, Ranga and Vincent were expected to have sorcery and to use it judiciously to punish, for example, thieves or adulterers with sickness or death. On the coast, sorcery was regarded as a legitimate alternative customary punishment that offered a more effective deterrence than western judicial punishments (Chowning 1987; Lattas 2010; cf. Rio, this collection). Salinga was not just a haughty local sorcerer but reputedly the 'boss of the fire'. He headed a sorcery hierarchy, which amounted to almost a shadow form of government in that it articulated an alternative system of justice and punishment. Rumour had it that other sorcerers brought their tins with captured souls to Salinga, who would make the final decision if a tin should go into the fire. A military model of warfare informed this sorcery hierarchy, for the ordinary sorcerers were called Salinga's colonels. Under them were their 'dogs', those who sniffed out and brought back to the 'colonels' discarded betelnut skins, nail clippings and other pipia, which allowed the sorcerer to capture a person's soul. The dogs were indebted individuals who had transgressed but had been reprieved from punishment and death on the condition that they become a sorcerer's helper.

Vincent was reportedly one of Salinga's 'colonels'. Not just an important customary big man, he was a prominent magistrate whose official judgements were backed up with sorcery (Lattas 2010: 21-22). After having been secretary of the landowner company, in the mid-1990s, Vincent became chairman. He displaced Morris who was unpopular with other directors. Morris was an untrustworthy drunk and spendthrift, who did not strategically direct and share his pursuit of pleasure with other directors or with rural Kaliai villagers. What's more, Morris did not have any customary knowledge or ceremonial debts to his name. Though Ryan may have appointed Morris as chairman because he seemed more controllable, he soon became part of clandestine moves to unseat Ryan. Vincent was a more trustworthy, respected person for Ryan to deal with. Vincent was also a close ally of Salinga. Though belonging to different language groups, Kombei and Lusi, their respective villages of Nut and Lauvore had close customary ties involving the exchange of ceremonies, shell money and women. Indeed, Salinga's eldest son had married a woman from Nut Island and to his father's displeasure spent most of his time there. When Ryan lived at Iboki Plantation and later in Kimbe, both Salinga and Vincent were invited regularly inside Ryan's house for food, drink and sociality. This entry into the whiteman's domestic space was a privilege and a highly codified gesture of status vis-a-vis other villagers who had to wait patiently underneath the masta's house when they wanted to speak to him. When Ryan moved to Kimbe, the plantation economy's rituals for codifying white privilege were reproduced in the landowner company, with certain key directors only being allowed to go upstairs into Ryan's domestic space.


Over time, folklore stories developed concerning Salinga's close friendship with Ryan. To cargo cult oriented villagers in the bush, Salinga claimed that Ryan was a deceased child of his. When Ryan's dog at Iboki Plantation was poisoned, Ryan went to see Salinga, who then worked sorcery magic. Soon after a man died unexpectedly in a nearby coastal village, with rumour blaming Salinga's sorcery. Aware that villagers were suspicious and feared his close relationship with Salinga, Ryan cultivated their friendship. It protected his property at Iboki Plantation and later his position in the landowner company. Some bush villagers claimed that the reason Ryan had been a successful businessman in the Kaliai area, whilst other whitemen had failed, was due to secret magical help from Salinga. Reportedly, Salinga had even worked sorcery magic so Ryan was no longer seen as a whiteman by other directors but as a blackman. The sorcery magic alluded to was of a hypnotic kind, which is often associated with a masalai or tambaran. These spirits can use a spell to gain control over a victim's mind so that the spirit appears to be something or someone else (Lattas 2010: 42-44). Some of these spells, such as love magic, can be acquired and used by the living. Bush directors suspected that such sorcery had been used to draw Ryan away from them and closer to coastal villagers, whose drunken excessive behaviour Ryan was seen to be now entrapped within.

Ryan socialised closely with coastal villagers. He drank heavily with them, visited night clubs and enjoyed their narratives and practices of womanising. Many bush villagers watched in puzzlement at what they regarded as a whiteman having gone native. They suspected the Kombe had worked magic to attract Ryan to themselves and to foul his thinking so he no longer operated with the self-discipline and moral guidance expected of a whiteman. It is a modern male culture of bonding through shared pleasures involving money, commodities, sexuality and alcohol which is transformed into the lure and mesmerising power of modern sorcery. Its hypnotic power is now directed at capturing urban commoditized desires and pleasurable excess by 'fouling' a whiteman so he appears black and loses his moral governmental functions.

This understanding that whitemen can lose their bearings through the power of native sorcery underpinned magical practices in the colonial period, which Kaliai villagers directed at controlling visiting kiaps (Mitchell, this collection). One form of magic performed by women involved planting limepowder on a path that a kiap needed to walk along to enter a village. He would arrive tired and go into a deep sleep without inspecting the village. The next day he would need to continue on his patrol without having prosecuted anyone. Another form of magic was similar to men's sorcery, it involved reciting the names of the kiap's body parts, especially his internal organs such as the stomach, which is the site for thought and emotions. This magic made the kiap's stomach longlong (confused); it distracted him from his work so he did not prosecute, fine and gaol villagers for poor houses or their failure to give up nomadic practices. Customarily, such magic was performed in warfare to make the stomachs of rivals 'cold', that is to confuse and distract them from the need to fight so many could then be easily killed. Bush villagers suspected their coastal rivals had used such magic on Ryan to confuse and divert him from his proper work of delivering economic benefits from logging.

Instead of operating as an embodiment of the white civilising process and the need to show natives the virtues of self-discipline, Ryan travelled around at night with drunken directors visiting discos, entertaining women and publicly brawling with other drunkards. This merging of two masculine binge cultures, that of 'Ocker' Australians with Melanesians, was reinterpreted as the capturing mesmerizing power of native sorcery. It had ensorcelled a whiteman and diverted the economic benefits of logging to coastal big men in the same way as sorcery had always consolidated their power and wealth. Sorcery, as an unequal form of power, was used to think about the reconsolidation of regional inequalities produced by uneven access to the benefits of large-scale capital. However, sorcery was not just figured as providing more money, for money is also a vehicle for consolidating sorcery powers. Coastal villagers are said to have acquired much of their current powerful sorcery by buying it, using their better access to cash crops, money and markets. Today, sorcery has become a commodity that reconsolidates modernity's unequal relations of power and wealth (Lattas 1993, 2010). Sorcery redirects and recreates modernity by making it not simply a form of racial power and hegemony but also a way for Melanesians to dominate each other in new ways as part of new regional forms of inequality. The evil of contemporary sorcery lies in this complex interface where different apparatuses of power become reterritorialized and articulated through each other.


Simple oppositions of custom versus modernity, native versus masta, break down when faced with the complex conjunctures between different social systems and apparatuses of power. When residing at Iboki, Ryan would visit customary ceremonies at Lauvore and Nut, where he gave shell money in support of Salinga and Vincent. Later, in Kimbe, after heated arguments inside the landowner company, Ryan would heed Salinga's and Vincent's advice to solve the disputes by demanding payment in shell money from those quarrelling. On one occasion, I witnessed Morris paying shell money to Ryan and his spouse after some unpleasant words were exchanged. Coastal big men, such as Vincent, Ranga and Salinga, who had little education, were openly contemptuous of Morris and nick-named him 'MC' (mental case) on the basis of rumours that he had suffered a mental breakdown when he was a teacher. They publicly threatened him with sorcery, especially when Morris became difficult to control, as he plotted with the local Member to push Ryan out of the landowner company. For this reason, Morris was replaced as chairman by Vincent. (10) Beforehand, their rivalry was intense and expressed in hostile accusations that Vincent had tried to kill Morris with sorcery. Seeking to placate Vincent, Morris gave him shell money as compensation for having publicly offended him. Living in a dangerous urban environment and suffering from a lack of sleep and binge drinking, Morris frequently became anxious and sick. He interpreted this as sorcery attacks upon his life and he turned to Vincent for protection from the sorcery of supposedly jealous villagers and urban dwellers who admired his fast living lifestyle. Morris became progressively indebted to Vincent who was credited with having saved Morris's life three times from other people's sorcery. Each time the sorcery came, Vincent had reportedly sent it back. The implication here was that Vincent was no ordinary sorcerer but, like the 'boss of the fire', someone who governed and controlled the sorcery powers of others, determining who would be allowed to live or die.

Before their reconciliation, strong conflicts between Vincent and Morris over who should be chairman came to the fore at public dinners with other directors that I attended. One evening in 1991, at a Kimbe restaurant, Vincent and Morris were drunk and they moved into the competitive joking mode of trying to speak English. This is a standard joking routine that involves banter and jousting between drunken participants who struggle to establish and destabilise each other's claims to the cultural capital of modernity and whiteness. As an ex-teacher, Morris liked this joking game. He invariably would invoke it during heavy drinking sessions when other directors were present as a way of shoring up his cultural capital and right to be chairman. Morris would frequently team up with the local Member, Ben, who was his political ally and also an ex-teacher with good English. Together, they would tease and lure Vincent into speaking his poor broken English as a way of comically mocking his modern credentials in front of other directors. However, on this occasion, the teasing became increasingly aggressive and the bantering traded in English more personal and abusive. Across the dinner table, Morris and Vincent started to yell abuses at each other but now in Melanesian Pisin. Morris told the other directors that he admitted to being only a simple man, for he was not a sorcerer like Vincent. Morris then threatened to close down the project saying it was on his ground in the bush and he was the original 'father' (papa) of the project. Vincent responded by accusing Morris of being a longlong (stupid) man who gossiped and made too many promises to people that could not be fulfilled and that other directors had to solve.

Turning to other directors looking on quietly at the table, Vincent told them not to worry. He admitted to having 'poison' (sorcery) but he would use it to look after them. Whilst he was around, they had nothing to fear. Vincent tried to turn around his sorcery into a protective cloak, into an asset. He sought to create a gift-debt relations with frightened rural directors by offering to safeguard them from the perceived more powerful and indiscriminate sorcery of urban areas (Lattas 1993). At a tacit level, Vincent was perhaps threatening rural directors that they were to support him. He was exploiting their suspicions that many deaths in their home villages had been caused by coastal sorcery. When Vincent was drunk, the directors had seen him boasting of his sorcery, threatening Morris and telling him to say his last goodbyes to his family.

Back at Morris's home village of Bolo, such public threats helped temporarily shore up Morris' leadership with fellow villagers. They used the threat of sorcery to explain why Morris ignored their concerns when they visited town and why he seemed just to look after coastal villagers. Some Bolo villagers speculated that Morris was trying to avoid the fate of a prominent young teacher at Bolo who died in the 1970s, soon after complaining to a visiting Australian kiap about Salinga's sorcery (Lattas 2010: 24). Such speculations excused away Morris's incompetence, corruption, excesses and greed. Here sorcery refigures modern realignments in social allegiances that occur in cities and around western forms of consumption. Those re-alignments are at the expense of local relations and point towards new unfolding realms of deterritorialized desires, which create social relations freed from the need to honour and care for kin or fellow villagers. Mouk villagers residing further in the bush were more critical of Morris and suspected he himself had bought sorcery through his intimate socialising with coastal villagers and town dwellers. Such suspicions are part of a widespread fear that sorcery has become a mobile dangerous commodity removed from the customary control of big men and their exchange relations. Through being bought and sold, sorcery has now become deterritorialized so it empowers an educated Melanesian elite that no longer uses sorcery to police moral-ethical rules or customary obligations but rather to advance the pursuit of modern individualised desires for wealth, power and pleasure (Rio, this collection).

To their bush relatives, Bolo villagers invoked their own fears of coastal sorcery to explain why, despite agreeing with bush villagers, they could not support their proposal to kick coastal villagers out of the landowner company. From the 1960s onwards, Bolo had developed close exchange relations with wealthy, powerful coastal villages, like Lauvore. Fear of sorcery was part of these regional hegemonic relationships. Sorcery fears were how Bolo villagers experienced the double binds and conflicts of loyalty, they nowadays encountered. More than just obedience and meekness towards Lauvore, Bolo villagers lobbied their Mouk relatives to transfer to Salinga a new dingy given by the landowner company so as to avoid his anger.

Within the landowner company, fear of coastal sorcery was visibly confirmed in the mid-1990s, when a young director from the bush village of Doko Sagra, Uplim, died suddenly and unexpectedly. He had fearlessly opposed the influence of coastal villagers inside the landowner company. He was a major supporter of Ryan, who strategically used bush directors (Aria, Lamogai and Mouk) to counterbalance the assertive demands of coastal villagers. Bush villagers' fear that coastal villagers would gain control of the landowner company underpinned some of the fighting and destruction of logging company's property that brought in the riot squad. Kombei villagers had started up their own landowner company to organise logging to the east of the Kaliai. However, long delays in getting approval and finding a contractor led them to search for a more immediate sources of revenue by having currently logged areas inhabited by the Lamogai reassigned to the Kombei landowner company. Its supporters destroyed an important timber bridge over the Aria River and they fought with Lamogai landowners who did not want a Kombei company to control their timber resources and royalty payments (Ernst 1999).

In their support for Ryan against educated coastal villagers, bush directors, who often had just a primary school education, appealed to a colonial racial hierarchy. They asserted the superior knowledge, commercial expertise and fairness of whites against what they saw as corrupt, grasping villagers from developed coastal areas. For bush villagers, Ryan personified the symbolic capital of whiteness which could be used to undercut the ambitions of educated coastal villagers and their claims to be Melanesian representatives of modernity. The excessive binge forms of consumption displayed by coastal directors whilst in Kimbe reinforced to bush villagers the need to keep Ryan as managing director. To some extent, Ryan cultivated these transgressive forms of consumptive excess, for he knew they worked to his advantage. However, Ryan's own participation in this binge culture increasingly undermined his claims to embody the moderating, disciplining force of whiteness.

By 1999, Ryan lost control of the Landowner Company. His sturdy allies, like Salinga and Uplim, had passed away. Other strong supporters along the Kaliai coast and Aria River, where Kombei villagers had extensive trading, ceremonial and kinship ties, were bought off using traditional shell money. Ryan also had made a bitter enemy of Ben, the local Member who wanted control over the landowner company's resources to help fund his own private shipping company and to consolidate his political network. Some attributed Salinga's death to Ben having visited the Lolo area where he bought powerful sorcery. Ben gained the prestige of having freed everyone from a powerful despotic sorcerer and the renown of possessing an even more powerful form of sorcery. Many villagers from Bolo and from Ben's village of Kandoka stayed away from Salinga's funeral, which placed suspicion on them.

In 1995, provincial governments were abolished throughout Papua New Guinea and Ben's interest in the landowner company was fuelled by his uncertain political future. He began to mobilise directors from coastal and river villagers in a move to overthrow Ryan. The Move, as it came to be known in the landowner company, reportedly had the support of the Minister for Forestry, who was from the south coast of West New Britain and was very closely aligned with the Malaysian loggers. The latter started to give active support to the campaign to change the executive of the landowner company, which was becoming more demanding on the Malaysian logging company to make extra premium payments. The landowner company even threatened to subcontract the Kaliai area to another logging company unless the Malaysians made extra payments. Reportedly, at his own personal expense, the local Member paid for disgruntled directors to travel to Port Moresby to lobby the Minister for Forestry to change the executive of the landowner company. Ryan was advised by loyal directors to adopt Melanesian tactics of intimidation. He had his Kaliai opponents met at Port Moresby airport by a collection of raskol who then proceeded to shadow them around the city in a menacing manner. These raskol were relatives of Ryan's girlfriend who was from the Papuan coast. At his own personal expense, Ryan paid for two of the company's powerful sorcerers, its directors Vincent and Ranga, to travel to Port Moresby where they proceeded to follow the disgruntled directors. As Salinga's younger brother, Ranga was a sorcerer in his own right and many believed that, when Salinga died, he took over his brother's place as the Boss of the Fire. Deliberately lurking in the shadows, Vincent and Ranga made only a pretence of hiding. Keeping a visible distance, they made sure their rivals saw that they were being followed to their hotel and to prominent places such as to government offices. Further stress was put on opponents through small pranks such as jamming the key holes of their hotel rooms with matchsticks so that hotel security staff had to be called. The expedition to Port Moresby failed to unseat Ryan, which led Ben to re-cultivate his friendship with Ryan. The local Member started to fear what did eventuate, namely, the Malaysians would support not him but Paul, the educated rival from Nute. Later, in 1998, he displaced both Vincent and Ryan and installed an alternative, more controllable form of Kombei hegemony in the landowner company much to the dismay of many bush villagers. Logging ceased soon after and was only able to continue for a few years through a refusal to call any meetings of the landowner company.


Prior to Ryan's removal, I often attended the official meetings and dinner functions of the landowner company. At one evening meal, at a restaurant in November 1994, Ryan spoke to the directors about the company's internal conflicts. He instructed Vincent how he was to support him against any move to unseat him. Ryan described his task as controlling the bush, whilst Vincent had to control the coast. Much anger was expressed and, at one point, Ryan accused Vincent of being one of the flies and parasites in the company, for Vincent had received much support in the way of money and goods. Vincent responded humbly with: 'Thank you, boss'. Ryan then threatened to smash a bottle into Vincent's face, who simply looked up and repeated what many saw as an old colonial plantation gesture of racial deference: 'Yes boss' (Reed, this collection). Turning to the other directors at the table, Ryan spoke of Ben and Morris as the sort of people who needed their necks cut. He claimed there were gangs from the Papuan coast who could do the job. The fear of bloodthirsty raskol was invoked by Ryan to show that he was not someone to be trifled with. Having lost his sorcery ally in Salinga and starting to suspect that Vincent was wavering, Ryan turned to the popular fear of raskol to articulate a new form of intimidation and respect. He was appealing to new urban ways of articulating a Melanesian big man status, which is sometimes used by politicians who boast and rely on links with raskol gangs (Goddard 2005). (11) Knowing Ryan very well, the directors at the table read the claim for what it was: pretentious bravado by someone increasingly desperate and angry. Suspecting this, Ryan sought to give more validity to his threats by turning his anger towards a young Kombei man at a nearby table who had been previously entertained by Morris but was now alone. Morris had left when the accusations about flies and parasites were being made, for he was regarded in that light. Ryan picked up a chair 'to force it up the arse of the young man' who was accused of being part of destabilisation moves inside the company.

At the table, Ryan argued to the directors what they all knew, namely, that all the logging companies in West New Britain were being mismanaged and were squandering their funds in lavish urban entertainment lifestyles. He argued that their company had, however, delivered some business ventures, namely a wholesale store, some fishing boats and a fishing business that purchased and sold fish, beche de mer and trochus shells. Ryan accused the local Member of destabilising the company's leadership, claiming he was jealous and seeking control of the company's resources. Ryan appealed to the directors' fears of Ben's greater wastefulness and their suspicion that the Member had previously diverted government infrastructure funds away from local projects to himself. Ryan was a master of exploiting local divisions and fears, between bush and coast, but also between villagers on the coast: Kandoka versus Lauvore, and the Lusi versus the Kombei (Ernst 1999). For many years, those divisions fragmented moves to unseat Ryan and supplemented the allegiances created by the male bonds of a culture of excess.


As part of the landowner company's contract with the logging company, Ryan received personally 1.5 kina for each cubic metre of exported logs. Most of this money was spent by Ryan on socialising and placating company directors. When Ryan left the landowner company, he was penniless. Ryan was alienated from the white expatriate community in Kimbe. They rarely visited his house or invited him into their own homes. This ostracism was something he was painfully aware of and that he partly overcame through excessive drinking with Melanesians which only served to alienate him further from Kimbe's expatriate community. In Kimbe, Ryan drank not so much with urban educated Melanesians but with prominent coastal Kaliai and Kombei villagers known for their heavy drinking revelry. The local landowner company did not have a common kinship structure or wantok system to mediate and consolidate its internal relations. Instead a shared consumer culture of drinking, womanising, hotel accommodation, restaurants, night clubs, cars and plane travel was deployed. The expectation was that these corporate gifts would create binding ties of debt, solidarity and complicity that could ward off discontent and prevent the mobilisation of an organised opposition. Opponents were systematically compromised by being incorporated into these celebrated forms of masculine excess. These strategies for manufacturing, if not consent then complicity, were part of a competitive culture of masculine prowess, which was not articulated through customary hunting, fishing or exchange ceremonies but through sharing the good times of unrivalled access to hitherto prohibitively expensive forms of western consumption. During this period of time, a potlatch system of wasteful consumption was developed between landowner companies belonging to different regions who would compete to drink each other to excess in Kimbe and Port Moresby. Landowner companies belonging to the south coast of New Britain were favourite competitors and had an even larger reputation for wasteful extravagance than the Kaliai. Overindulgence, intemperance, immoderation and dissipation were celebrated as part of the embracement of a true way of being a free human subject, whose experiences were not restricted or bound by penny-pinching and necessitousness. Coming from rural worlds of poverty, scarcity and frugality, this modern culture of excess seemed to embody the utopian promise of modernity. Here the emancipation of the subject was figured as modernity's liberation of desire from all constraint.

Within the Kaliai landowner company, informal drinking sessions regularly involved a privileged group of directors recounting the history of their fights, the victories but also the narrow escapes. New corporate solidarities were affirmed through directors coming to each other's aid in drunken fights with other ethnic groups and with other landowner companies. Masculine bravado and prowess was also articulated through a competitive use of money to create a seductive consumer life-style of cars, hotels, restaurants and travel that could generate sexual liaisons with women who worked as secretaries or in some other junior staff position in the hotels, restaurants and offices that the directors visited. The expense of producing this shared consumer world of male pleasure and excess rendered the landowner company increasingly short of money and unable to silence local opposition. It fuelled villagers' anger at the urban life style of directors and led, for example, to Bolo villagers burning down Morris's house in their village. Desperately short of funds, in the late 1990s, the landowner company demanded more funds from its Malaysian contractors who became reluctant to provide more support, for they were increasingly making direct payments in the Kaliai area to quieten down unrest. Seeking to deflect growing discontent, senior Chinese Malaysian employees of the logging company started publicly to criticise the landowner company's management to rural villagers as wasteful and as having received a great deal of money which they failed to pass on. The landowner company's management was mischievously blamed for villagers' low returns on logging, which really had to do with a poor royalty agreement. (12) Ultimately, the Malaysian loggers were the dominant party and they engineered the corporate coup that removed Ryan as managing director. They brought in a 'lawyer' to preside over a meeting of the landowner company's directors that appointed the educated Kombei man, Paul, who had helped Ryan start the landowner company but who had previously been seen as corrupt and a drunk. Many months prior to organising the corporate coup, Paul had embraced born again Christianity and had abstained from alcohol. This created a sharp contrast with the drunken extravagance of existing management in the landowner company. Paul was less demanding on the Malaysian logging company because he mainly looked after his immediate supporters along the coast and up the Aria River. One reason Paul was able to outmanoeuvre Ryan to gain control of the landowner company was because Kombei villagers had good ties with politicians and urban public servants, which supplemented their use of traditional shell money to buy off important directors along the coast and Aria River and even some bush directors. (13)


In his seminal work, Anton Blok attributed the growth of the mafia in Sicily to a weak Italian state and the emergence of absentee landlords. Blok studied how the nation state and different forms of capital contributed to the formation of localised forms of power, which had their own techniques of social control and this included their own forms of violence, codes of honour, exchange relations, etc. In West New Britain, neoliberal privatisation policies, a crisis in state funding and a nationalist emphasis on local business ventures gave rise to local landowner companies (Kavanamur 1998: 104). These hybrid organisations were half-political and half-economic, for they claimed to represent indigenous people whilst also managing and distributing revenue from forestry resources. The landowner company had a contractual obligation to deliver access to resources and this involved controlling local unrest. Having closed down the local patrol post and withdrawn its administrative personnel, the state had retreated to a minimal situation where all it could provide was the sporadic terror of the riot squad, flown in and maintained by timber companies. This use of intermittent state terror emerged partly from the contradictory demands of international funding organisations which demanded the state reduce its expenditure whilst criticising the state for being weak. External international demands for the growth of civil society and the private sector produced a distinctive kind of corporate power that empowered local sorcerers and young educated drunken spendthrifts, both keen to articulate their masculinity within a modern world of excessive consumption. Seeking to make up for low royalty payments, poor infrastructure, inadequate rural employment and a lack of agricultural development, the landowner company used a hybrid mixture of Western and Melanesian forms of intimidation and co-optation. Neoliberalism's romantic celebration of the private sector, of civil society as the engine growth of prosperity and freedom, is built on little knowledge of what is civil society in Melanesia. It ignores how local power brokers are able to take control of modern corporate structures and appropriate their resources away from local communities.

For Melanesia, it is necessary to undertake what Foucault has elsewhere called a history of the art of government. Governmentality cannot be reduced to the simple progressive expansion of centralised state control and surveillance. What has characterised modern neoliberalism is the progressive withdrawal of the state and the expansion of privatised forms of governmentality. In the landowner company, the art of government was experimented with using all kinds of combinations between local customary and modern western practices for controlling people. In rural areas, the withdrawal of the state's everyday administrative presence did not lead to reduced forms of power but to the deployment of sporadic military state terror alongside more privatised forms of surveillance and co-optation. The landowner company deployed its own technologies of power so as to pre-empt, incorporate and curtail local resistances (Benson and Kirsch 2010). Sorcery threats were used but so were gifts of money, entertainment allowances, compensation payments, jobs and western consumer goods. Initially, in the landowner company, it was the older sorcerers-big men who consolidated their power. But, later, it was the younger educated directors who gained control by, paradoxically, merging born-again Christianity with the power of customary exchange ties. The inventiveness of modernity lies not just in the sphere of commerce but also in the sphere of social control, where different technologies of power, which operate in different spheres of life, are deterritorialized and reterritorialized within innovations which raise questions about what is really being secured.


I want to thank Michael Wood for his careful, detailed, thoughtful comments on an early draft of this paper.


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Andrew Lattas

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(1.) Initially most logging took place between the River Banu and the River Aria, in land occupied largely by Anem, Aria and Mouk speakers. Later logging crossed the River Aria into land held by Lamogai speakers. Though Lusi and Kombei did not reside where the logging was taking place many could claim ancestral connections through women who had married and moved down to the coast.

(2.) I will use 'timber companies' to refer to both the local Landowner Company and the Malaysian logging company.

(3.) Official figures give PNG's annual log production between 2002-2005 to be around 2,025,000 cubic metres of which this company produced an annual average of 963,991 cubic metres or 47.6%. However, given the complex, invisible web of other companies affiliated with this Malaysian Corporation, the figure could be as high as 80%.

(4.) For the Kaliai area, the levies received by the Department of Forestry included: Reforestation (IK per m3), Agricultural Development (2K per [m.sup.3]) and Infrastructure Development (1K per [m.sup.3]). Between January a d August 1991,35,925[m.sup.3] was recorded as having been exported from the Kaliai area. The Landowner Company could apply for the use of these levies whose expenditure was never policed by the Department of Forestry.

(5.) To their detriment, bush villagers were advised not to multiply their clans, on the grounds that a larger clan would receive a larger royalty payment. In contrast, coastal villagers adopted the more profitable strategy of multiplying their clans because they rightly suspected that each clan would receive roughly the same amount, which then could be distributed to fewer members. Some powerful coastal families at Lauvore used the fact that big men had more than one wife to claim control over multiple royalty payments. Different brothers from different mothers claimed the right to be directors of the Landowner Company on the grounds that they embodied different matri-clans.

(6.) The Logging Company did not employ any local subcontractors, except briefly a security firm belonging to the Kombe. It was discharged after some property went missing.

(7.) Another external agency, which came into West New Britain between 1993 and 1997, was the Kandrian Gloucester Integrated Development Project (KGIDP). It was partly funded by AusAID and managed by companies associated with the Australian National University. At late night dinners in Kimbe, directors from different local landowner companies often ridiculed KGIDP as yet another useless feasibility study by white academics and Melanesian bureaucrats seeking to sustain their own privileged existence. KGIDP earned the hostility of the provincial government by seeking to keep its extensive funds to itself, for the provincial government was widely regarded as corrupt. KGIDP earned the suspicion of local landowner companies when it suggested managing their money. At Iboki, KGIDP's personnel were evicted by directors from a house belonging to the Landowner Company, which changed its mind about the benefits of their presence.

(8.) The Malaysian Corporation used law and order problems as an excuse for why it had not fulfilled its infrastructure promises such as gravel roads and permanent bridges.

(9.) The parliamentary leadership code prevented the Member from being a director of the local Landowner Company, so he nominated his son. However, it was the Member who attended all Company meetings.

(10.) Morris remained a director living in Kimbe where he continued to use up a great deal of financial resources belonging to the Landowner Company.

(11.) Morris also boasted of his links to raskol gangs in Kimbe: Though he was not really believed, what is relevant is his perceived need to position himself as a leader who has access to such protective and predatory forms of urban violence.

(12.) The total royalties paid each quarter in 1991 varied from K69,000 to K93,000.

(13.) Reportedly, Lamogai villagers were tricked with the promise that one of their directors would be made Chairman.
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Date:Mar 1, 2011
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