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Memory, forgetting and the New Tribes Mission in West New Britain.


This paper explores the politics of memory and forgetting amongst the bush Kaliai people of West New Britain.(1) It focuses on the recent attempts by the New Tribes Mission to transform and eradicate not only the collective memory of the traditional past, but also the more recent collective memories created by cargo cults which are still active in an underground form. In 1986, during my first period of fieldwork, the New Tribes Mission had just arrived but had yet to set up 'literacy classes'. I then rarely heard any mention of Satan or Hell. By 1991, converts to the new mission spoke continuously of Satan and the fires of Hell. Converts took up the new mission's condemnation of their traditional customs which were now denounced as Satan's laws. The ancestors, dead relatives, and masalai, who use to regularly visit people were now seen as Satan's illusions and tricks.(2) An American missionary, whom I will refer to as Sign, was influential in bringing about these mass conversions.(3) He proudly told me how people had cried when confronted with the 'fact' that their dead relatives had died without knowing God. Villagers told me that the reason people were crying was because they had been told their parents and grandparents were burning in Hell for having sinned against God.

Soon after the new mission's arrival in 1985, a clandestine cargo cult developed around the missionary Sign. His Christian millenarian preaching of doom and salvation revived the already existing millenarianism of cargo cults which had been operating in the Kaliai area probably since the time of first contact.(4) Nearly everyone in the Kaliai bush has now renounced their affiliation to the Catholic Church, which remains strong only in villages near the Kaliai coast. Many converts accuse the Catholic Church of hiding the true Bible from them; some hold the Pope directly responsible for blocking the new Law which will deliver cargo to Melanesians.

Part of the new mission's success came because it recruited its personnel largely from America. Since the Second World War, many cargo cults in Melanesia have referred to Americans as the good whites - as opposed to the bad whites - the Australians - who were just interested in working Melanesians hard and in pulling money from them (cf Chowning 1990; Lawrence 1964; see Losche this volume). Contemporary Kaliai cargo cult stories tell of how when God ran away from people's ancestors, he went to the Americans to whom he gave everything. Many Kaliai believe that God, Christ, and their dead relatives, all reside in America. Many are waiting for the black God whom they wronged to return, with the new Law which will straighten their existence. When the American missionaries came telling people that Christ was coming and they were bringing His word and His law, this confirmed people's millenarian understandings of America.

Throughout Melanesia, memories of the Second World War have served to validate cargo cult understandings that there are other, more equitable ways of organising human existence than the coercive selfish laws of the Australians. During the war, some bush Kaliai men were recruited to fight alongside American soldiers and they remember the law of America as the law of everything being free. They remember the black Afro-American soldiers who wore the same clothes as whites and ate European food. These old men tell of how they were treated as equals by American soldiers. The discipline and subordination to whites which were part of the war have been forgotten. What the old men selectively remember is the utopian dimension of their relations with Americans. Cargo myths have blended with these war memories to form a powerful horizon of expectation into which came the American New Tribes Mission which reinforced this horizon of expectation with its own millenarian redemptive view of its missionising and of America.

Prior to European contact, the bush Kaliai used cults to contact the dead so as to acquire better gardens, more shell money and the return of the dead (see Haley this volume). The arrival of the Germans at the beginning of the century shifted Kaliai millenarian relations with the dead towards the task of acquiring a European lifestyle. The early incorporation of Europeans into local millenarian relations with the dead has meant that most bush Kaliai regard their cargo cult stories as traditional stories, for these stories also came from their grandparents (see Haley this volume). A certain strategic forgetfulness to borrowings from Christian culture has allowed people to internalise and own Biblical themes to the point where people are pleasantly surprised when whites reveal that they also have these same Biblical themes. When the New Tribes Mission started preaching about the Fall of humanity and Christ's crucifixion, people were able to inform the missionaries that their grandparents had already told them how the Kaliai had sinned against God, crucified him and chased him away.

In his description of the Vailala movement, Williams reveals a similar process of forgetting, where people edit out any acknowledgment of European influence in the new beliefs and practices of their cults.

It may be noted that certain Automaniacs will even deny that they have acquired their knowledge of Jehova, Heaven, the Sabbath, etc., from natural sources such as the Mission School, claiming that it has come to them apocalyptically out of their stomachs. (Williams 1976 [1923]: 353)

Williams went on to define Vailala followers as Automaniacs and as mad - a definition which I see as a way of policing the requirement to remember the debt one has to the white man for the new moral knowledge that underpins one's existence (cf Lattas 1992a, Lindstrom 1993; Kaplan 1995). There is a politics in the forgetting of that debt, for this forgetting allows cult followers to escape the pastoral caretaker role of Europeans and their institutions. The forgetting allows people to escape the obligation to pay back the debt with acknowledgment and spiritual attendance to the new norms and institutions which seek to incorporate them. Indeed, cargo cult leaders, who claim that Biblical knowledge as their own, can now appropriate that pastoral power over subjects which comes from people acknowledging and remembering their debt to the new cult knowledge that now subjectively forms them. Memory here is central to the creation of power relations whose terms of exchange are not the debts of material objects but the debts created by the transfer of knowledge and its accompanying processes of self-creation.

The New Tribes Mission has been trying to combat people's tendency to forget the origin of those reworked Biblical themes which were used in cargo cults to create people's new sense of their past, present and future. Indeed, local cargo cult leaders, like Censure, were angry that the New Tribes Mission claimed credit for revealing the names Sinai, Galilee, Heaven, Jerusalem, Jordan, Nazareth and the Red Sea. Cult followers loyal to Censure still claim credit for him having first revealed these Biblical names, which he used to rename local mountains and lakes.(5) Traditionally, a great deal of the respect and power of big men came from their knowledge of the names of local places, heroes, ceremonies, and masks (cf Feld 1982; Weiner 1991). Many bush Kaliai cargo cult leaders approached Christianity in a similar way and sought to re-empower themselves through seizing control of its names which they transferred to the Kaliai bush. To his followers, Censure claimed he acquired his new names not from the Bible but from the Wind of God which came to him from certain female Christs in the underground. In effect, Censure used the sacred geography of the Bible to keep alive the traditional significance of the Kaliai landscape as a transformative space of hidden power. He kept alive the memory of the dead and of ancestors by empowering their memory via the mediation of European culture.

In transferring the Bible's geography to the Kaliai bush, Censure recreated the terrain of Kaliai existence into a space for remembering re-worked Christian narratives which localised Christ and Moses; which spoke of them as having been originally Kaliai ancestors. The Kaliai landscape was now a mnemonic field for recalling the details of a new black theology which the Kaliai had derived from their dead (see Haley this volume). The cargo cults invented new ways of memorialising the dead who now became the source of that reworked Christian knowledge which people used to re-situate the boundaries of who they were.

In traditional Kaliai culture, the arrangement of space often operates as a technique for ordering diversity, for remembering the details of stories (cf Basso 1984, 1988; Feld 1982; Weiner 1991). The ordering framework of a story can often be found in the visual field which engages people. When telling a story, people correct the details of their stories by thinking about the details of how to get from one place to another (see Haley this volume). The visual field is not independent of narrative, instead it is a landscape formed out of the narratives which register and name its significant sites. In effect, the landscape internalises and re-objectifies the ordering framework of narrative. Censure used this traditional mnemonic role of the landscape to objectify and give a permanent lasting framework to the new cult stories that he was developing, like those involving a black Moses and underground female Christs. So effective were the cargo cult uses of these traditional mnemonic techniques that the American missionaries had to put some energy into convincing people that the Sinai, Galilee, Heaven, Jerusalem, Jordan, Nazareth and the Red Sea had not been discovered by Censure; nor was Moses a Kaliai ancestor, or Christ a woman.

Recently, some of the New Tribes Mission missionaries based at Quako on the Aria River showed local villagers a map with America and the significant Biblical sites of the ancient Middle East. Some people were shocked that America was so far from the lands of the Bible. Some saw the American missionaries as hiding the true geography of the world from them. Others could not accept that Galilee and Jerusalem were not in the Kaliai area. One of the local 'teachers' in the New Tribes Mission gave me this account of how some converts saw the missionaries as tricking them.

They [cargo cult followers inside the New Tribes Mission] all think that this map is nothing and that you white skins are really the dead, and youse all have gone and come back ... They think that these places reside only in our own area.

They all say that all the whites are lying. They all think that the New Tribes Mission are tricking them with this map. Their thinking is like this, that we stop with all pig headed customs of this ground and they [the missionaries] are not enough to reveal the true talk to us. Their thinking is like that.

Bush Kaliai cargo cult stories, which localised the Bible, used the field of vision to create their new shared memories of the past into a new sense of community (cf Halbwachs 1992). New racial and ethnic forms of collectivity were created out of a process of people sharing a common memory of key Biblical events as having occurred in their area. Through sharing a common vision of space, people also came to share a common sense of history which they used to distinguish their cult community from others and from the public world of truths proposed by Europeans (see Beckett this volume). It becomes difficult to forget or escape the captivating nature of a story once its details have been memorialised in the details of a surrounding landscape, for the field of vision comes to continuously resonate and evoke a shared memory of the past. A certain depth is added to the field of vision such that subjects and their identities emerge out of the seemingly simple process of looking at the world. This is part of the taken for granted nature of identity and it is why the politics of identity and memory often involves a politics of space.

To control space is to control the boundaries of people's identities; it is to control the memories that position and create subjects. The mnemonic nature of space comes from the way it localises those truths of the past that position and create people's sense of who they are in the present (Beckett this volume). To control how space is named and remembered is to control that mythic domain of objectification within which people locate the primordial collective truths that have generated their collective distinctiveness. The new mission's attempts to recreate people as moral subjects required that they map themselves out differently, that they establish new spatial boundaries to confer a new sense of their past. The moral requirement to forget the Satanic knowledge of cargo cults mediated a spatial re-positioning of subjects that abolished and undermined that spatialisation of history which localised the details of a black theology.

Colonialism, as the occupancy and control of space, has to be seen not just as the conquest of a physical terrain but also as the struggle to conquer those new imaginary geographies which emerge from an appropriated world of Christianity that people have localised, indigenised and re-constituted as memory, as tradition. The resistance to European hegemony involved a forgetting of one's debt to the white man's narratives through a process which internalised a reworked Christianity into subjects by internalising it into their landscape.(6) Indeed, in their cults, people developed counter narratives about the debt which Europeans had to the Kaliai for the knowledge which God gave them after he ran away from His homeland (Lattas 1991, 1992b, 1992c).


When people joined the New Tribes Mission, they were urged to forget their traditional rituals, songs and dances. They were to reject the collective memories embodied and transmitted by traditional ceremonies. The repetitive nature of traditional songs, dances and rituals trained the body to form a memory of the past inside the corporeal schemes and habits of the body (Stoller 1995; cf Kawin 1989). It was this pagan memory transmitted through repetitive ritual routines that the new mission attacked when it sought to abolish traditional ceremonies by denouncing them as Satanic. Yet this moral puritanical requirement to forget the past came to be mediated partly by people's traditional understandings about knowledge, for the process of forgetting often became an embodied process. In order to purge themselves of their well established memories - of the evil traditional knowledge in their stomachs - some converts took up the practice of making themselves vomit. Like other Melanesian groups, the Kaliai speak of the stomach as a site of knowledge. If someone has forgotten something then their stomach is said to have become blocked. Later, when memories and knowledge flow freely, they do so because their stomach has become open and clear. When I asked why converts were making themselves vomit, I was told they were purifying their stomachs so that the new cleaner talk of God could come inside, whereas previously it had been blocked. Converts also developed new songs, dances and rituals which were initially worked every morning and evening so that they would remember what they owed to God. We are dealing here with the body as a mnemonic field; and in particular with embodied practices for producing forgetting and for internalising new memories (see Eves this volume). The body becomes a vehicle for objectifying and mediating reorganisations of subjectivity.

Many anthropologists have pointed to the embodied nature of identity and subjectivity in Melanesia, where people often have difficulty embracing a western ideology of the 'true self' as located in a disembodied spirit or soul. Though they joined the New Tribes Mission, people had yet to make the transition to a western ideology which mystifies the subject and processes of knowledge as disembodied - as spirit, mind, and soul. Through new rituals and purging practices like vomiting, people sought to produce purer bodies and interiorities to inhabit; they inscribed their new bodies with new memories; they produced new corporeal schemes for living their new Christianity and new self.

Many anthropologists have explored the embodied forms that knowledge and identity assume in traditional Melanesian societies (Battaglia 1990; Herdt 1981, 1987; Meigs 1978, 1984; Mimica 1988; Weiner, J 1984; Weiner, A 1980). These anthropologists have focused on traditional initiation rituals, which use strict diets, dehydration and beatings to mediate the acquisition of new forms of personhood. Experiences of pain work to sensitise initiates to the new knowledge they are acquiring, ensuring that it is unlikely to be forgotten. The new memories are incorporated into the new bodily schemes that initiates acquire in the process of having their identities transformed by rituals. During bush Kaliai initiation rituals, initiates learn new names which are associated with different bodily parts (Lattas 1989). They learn to map out their bodies differently and to use their bodies as a memory space for evoking the secret names belonging to tambaran like Varku and Mukmuk. The expectation was that initiates were as unlikely to forget the new knowledge they had acquired as they were to forget the new identities, bodily schemes and memories of pain which accompanied the learning of those names. We are dealing here with the role of violence and pain in transforming the body into a mnemonic field. During the initiation ritual for Varku, an initiate was said to 'eat' the burning lime powder that was slapped onto the different parts of his body as the secret name for that bodily part was called out. The 'eating' of pain and lime powder by initiates was a way of objectifying and realising the internalisation of new knowledge which would reconstitute his identity and relationships with others. The internalisation of new memories occurred alongside a remapping of the bodies of those who were converted from boys to big men. The lime powder was also said to eat the initiates; so did the monstrous tambaran who owned this lime powder. Indeed, the tambaran is said to swallow initiates into his stomach before vomiting them out as different people who will be called new names (Lattas 1989). Like the embodied transformative practices of traditional initiation rituals, the vomiting by New Tribes Mission converts and their development of new rituals fitted into a culture where people internalised and ingested new forms of knowledge through their bodies.


Kaliai tradition often relied on images of violence, the grotesque and the unusual to force people to internalise new memories. When justifying the use of traditional masks (tumbuan, Nakamutmut) to control women and children, Kaliai men claim that creating these murderous monsters helps people to remember the dangers of social transgression. Men often circulate stories about masks eating women and transgressors as a way of ensuring people remember their subservience to the laws policed by tambaran.

Many traditional Kaliai stories are also full of exceptional events, murders, tricks, and transgressions; they are full of dangerous tambaran (mahrva), tevil and masalai (pura) which try to eat people. Though, in terms of these stories, people do not give the production of memory as the reason for these images of horror, these images nevertheless help people remember the stories and moral lessons they contain. The stories use fear to impress upon people a respect for rules. Those rules can often seem quite arbitrary, like talking quietly in the mountains or not talking disrespectfully to birds or animals, yet I would argue that the social order feeds off and emerges out of this generalised respect for rules and the fear of the consequences of a world without rules. Often it is not so much the specific rules that are being impressed upon people but more the safety that comes from remembering and adhering to rules.

I believe part of the reason Christianity resonates so powerfully with individuals is that it uses similar mnemonic techniques of fear to those of traditional Kaliai culture. In her book The Art of Memory, Yates has analysed the role of images of violence and the unusual in the creation of mediaeval memory:

Can memory be one possible explanation of the mediaeval love of the grotesque, the idiosyncratic? Are the strange figures to be seen on the pages of manuscripts and in all forms of mediaeval art not so much the revelation of a tortured psychology as evidence that the Middle Ages, when men had to remember, followed classical rules for making memorable images? (Yates 1966 [1984]:104)

In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche also developed an analysis of the mnemotechnics of pain and suffering in Christianity. Nietzsche saw suffering and cruelty as working to create uniform subjects who are predictable and can be relied upon to behave in a certain way.(7) Memory creates subjects who are calculable and it does so by instilling in them a moral arithmetic. Punishment and pain create subjects with a sense of debt, who remember their promises and what they owe. For Nietzsche, the sovereign individual is the end product of this technology for producing a memory; the subject has historically emerged as one of the individualising effects of the moral calculus that this technology produces. Memory is here not a natural phenomenon belonging to the individual, instead the individual emerges out of the violent production of a moral conscience.

... perhaps indeed there was nothing more fearful and uncanny in the whole history of man than his mnemotechnics. 'If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in: only than which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory' - this is a main clause of the oldest (unhappily also the most enduring) psychology on earth ... Man could never do without blood, torture, and sacrifices when he felt the need to create a memory for himself; the most dreadful sacrifices and pledges (sacrifices of the first-born among them), the most repulsive mutilations (and all religions are at the deepest level systems of cruelties) - all this has its origin in the instinct that realized that pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics. (Nietzsche 1969: 61)

I want to use the Kaliai area to suggest a genealogy of morals for Melanesia which would be partly a history of the different mnemonic techniques through which debt, consciousness and identity have been produced. Nietzsche's concern with exploring memory in terms of power is particularly relevant for the New Tribes Mission which has adopted an uncompromising, fundamentalist type of proselytising. When, in 1989, earthquakes damaged San Francisco, the missionaries warned villagers that this was God's punishment for sin. The missionaries have also used the fires of hell to burn a memory into the native mind. So as to further impress people with the need to give up Satan's ways, villagers were shown pictures and videos of Hell and the dead burning for their sins. Catholic followers gave me the following account of the campaigns of terror that were used to get them to convert.

Now they have worked a picture that we [Catholics] are in darkness and cooking in fires, whilst they [New Tribes Mission converts] remain all right. They have seen our souls cooking in fires but their souls are good. We have seen this picture on paper.

I see the New Tribes Mission as participating in a long colonial tradition of mnemonics, that is bound up with a European view of the native mind as more susceptible to images than to abstract concepts. Very early on in the colonial history of Papua New Guinea, there emerged a view of the native as removed from the abstract power of words and as more a creature of the senses.(8) In his analysis of the Vailala movement, Williams (1976 [1923]:376-8) recommended a Christianity of rituals rather than one born of theology for this was closer to the native mind's capacities and more likely to capture it (Lattas 1992b: 8-9). Williams (1976 [1923]: 378) recommended that Christianity focus not on doctrine but be: 'full of sacrifice, communion feasts, baptism by immersion, processions, pageants, fastings, flagellations and the like. The poor native hates thinking, but he loves carrying on.' I think ideas like Williams' have underpinned the missionising practices of the New Tribes Mission. On the Sepik River, one group of New Tribes Mission missionaries set about dramatically performing the entire Bible so as to disseminate its meanings to illiterate villagers. In the Kaliai bush, villagers have been shown videos of Adam and Eve, Moses, Christ and the stories about their lives. The missionaries have also used dramatic plays to re-enact Biblical events like Christ's crucifixion. One convert told me how the missionary Sign had schooled them in this ritual: 'Yes he schooled us in following this, he schooled us in this to raus (purge, expel) sin, to raus sin through this blood.' Crucifixion rituals were performed at Easter and to mark the conversion of Catholic villages from sin and darkness to the world of light and knowledge.(9) The lay preachers of the new mission justified these crucifixion rituals as practices for implanting Christian messages in the minds of those who were unclear about God because their minds were dominated by memories of the past.

Yet these rituals were interpreted by many converts through their memories of previous cargo cult rituals which they had performed to bring back Christ and the dead. I was given the following description of how one man was put on the cross and how around his neck was hung a plastic bag containing red dye that symbolised Christ's blood. Two women stood at the base of this cross and they represented the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. A man carrying a spear came and pierced the bag of red dye and when the blood spilt out, everyone cried for the blood that was washing away their sins. Each Easter when this ritual was performed, some converts predicted that Christ would soon return and they urged Catholic relatives to join the new mission, otherwise they would miss out on the coming cargo. During one particular crucifixion ritual, a spear was hurriedly taken away from one man and given to another. People were afraid that instead of piercing the bag this man might actually perform the crucifixion and spear the man on the cross. Other Mouk converts also told me of the strong fear they had that this man might feel the need to kill Christ again so as to properly cleanse the Kaliai of the sins of their pagan past. In the Aria village of Robos, a teacher in the New Tribes Mission told me that many new converts were frightened when first seeing this ritual for they were not sure if they were going to perform a murder that would mime the original murder of Christ. A few converts have told me that they expected something to come up through this ritual. One Catholic follower described to me the claims of his relatives in the New Tribes Mission:

I want to talk about this picture, when they work at shooting Jesus. All the men believe it and they talk like this: that this is not tok piksa ('talk picture', ie simply an image or representation), that they are working something true, this is something true.

Here the mnemonic techniques of ritual, which were used by the new mission to firmly implant its crucifixion debt, come to be appropriated to sustain other memories, namely of a black Christ whom the Kaliai chased away and whom some say was killed by their neighbours - the Lolo. In performing these crucifixion rituals, people remembered their regional role in Christ's downfall. For some, these crucifixion rituals operated as purification rites where people sought a magical solution to the memory of their guilt. The crucifixion rituals came to be interpreted along the lines of traditional understandings of rituals as magical acts that provide some control over that which comes to be copied. People's memories of their pagan culture and the meaning it assigns to ritual was used to re-contextualise the very rites through which they were meant to forget their pagan past. A different understanding of mimesis here subverts the pedagogic memory projects of the New Tribes Mission. Its desire to use rituals to get people to remember what they owe to Christ comes to be interpreted within more local indigenous understandings of ritual where to copy something is to bring it close and gain control over it (Taussig 1993, Stoller 1994). In re-enacting the crucifixion, people were re-enacting a magical cleansing rite that would allow them to enjoy the new world of cargo which the sins of the pagan past had kept away.

Some of the crying which accompanied these rituals was not only for the blood of Christ which was now cleansing people, but it was also for those deceased relatives who had not known God and who had not been cleansed by him. One convert explained it to me:

All these men who cry, its meaning is like this, they kill Jesus and his blood is spilt and it goes down, his blood goes down and changes all those people down below, their bikhet, they all say 'sin'. They all kill Jesus, his blood is spilt and it purges all the sin of all men. The picture [meaning of the ritual] goes like this.

All right, this blood of Jesus that is spilt, it washes all this line who have gone inside the New Tribes Mission. This picture of the blood of Jesus will purge (raus) their sin. Well when this happens everybody thinks plenty because they say 'the picture of Jesus we have speared it, killed him, his blood has come down and changed me, and now, when I die, I can go good on top to the hand of Papa. But my grandparents, my mother, my brother, they did not see the picture of Jesus and they have gone to live in the fire'. They cry over this.

The space of redemption here is the pain of coming to be separated by one's salvation from the world of one's grandparents. Through these crucifixion rituals, people explored that moral remaking of themselves that distanced them from their past. They suffered through the blood that washed them but that had not washed their burning ancestors. The spatial separation of Heaven from the underground world of the ancestors became a metaphor for a process of non-reconciliation which the New Tribes Mission has inaugurated with the cultural world of the past. People's tears marked the fact that they found it hard to live with these cleavages and especially with the idea of coming to be permanently alienated from those loving parents and grandparents who reared them and whom they had previously kept close.

Many converts remember the time prior to the arrival of the new mission as an age without ethics and etiquette. People have chosen to forget and repress all the traditional forms of hospitality which they had previously practised. What they now claim to remember is the murderous past of war and the guilt of having broken the necks of widows. Despite the fact that people had been under the influence of the Catholic Church for two generations, some New Tribes Mission converts now remember themselves as having been ignorant of God and claim it was the New Tribes Mission which first brought God to them. This is also how the new missionaries like to characterise their missionising, especially given the Catholic Church's claim that they have been clandestinely stealing its congregations.

It was Nietzsche (1969: 57) who pointed out that forgetting is an active principle of repression which is necessary for forming consciousness. Nietzsche (1969: 58) wrote about: 'the purpose of active forgetfulness, which is like a doorkeeper, a preserver of psychic order, repose, and etiquette.' In this scheme of things, the psychic structures underpinning social order emerge out of active forgetfulness; they also emerge out of ways of controlling, denying and reforming the memory space of the body. Nietzsche analysed the way religious ascetic regimes and disciplines were used to internalise ideas into the nervous system of subjects so that those ideas gain the power and affect of bodily sensations. Those ideas become a memory in the body. Nietzsche's point is that ascetic techniques for forming the self also often function as bodily techniques for forming memory. Memory emerges out of techniques which problematise the body and how it relates to the world, the self and to others. Christianity's strict codes of prohibition with respect to the body are treated as ways of permanently internalising ideas into the body and as thus are part of its processes of normalisation. In the Kaliai area, the new ascetic regimes of the New Tribes Mission worked to transform the body's experiences into a mnemonic field. Many converts gave up betel nut chewing and smoking so as to demonstrate both their commitment to God and that they were continuously remembering him.(10) Sensations of withdrawal became stimuli for thinking about God; ways of remembering the need to continuously struggle against the temptations and pull of the past. Subduing and repressing the body's cravings was equated with the project of producing a subject free of disruptive desires, which is how people now came to remember their traditional past and the habits of their ancestors. People's struggle against their bodies was perceived as a struggle against ignorant false customs; desire itself came to be historicised, that is viewed as something belonging to the past. The body's desires for betel nut and tobacco became a way of objectifying the general need to struggle against those sensual desires of the past which were seen to disrupt the moral order of village life. One convert explained it like this to me: 'Betel nut is not true food, it is something no good, if we eat it then we spark and work all sorts of mad customs.' These ideas came from Sign who was said to have:

crossed everybody who ate Betel nut and who smoked. He said this fouled people's thinking and that it pulled back all sorts of wrongs and made people go towards sin.

One reason people gave for converting to the new mission was that it offered better techniques for producing moral order(11). Villagers were instructed by their teachers to give up traditional pagan dances for these had the effect of stopping people thinking about God and they brought back the disordering desires of the past. One convert criticised the flirting and courting that often occurred in traditional ceremonies:

Its meaning is like this, if we go to church then we can only follow the law of God and if we work these other kinds of things, belonging to humbug, then we will pull these customs of our ancestors back and then we will no longer be hearing the talk of God.

For the last eight years, the bush Kaliai have performed no traditional ceremonies. This abrupt termination of custom work has ended all those ways of memorialising the self which had previously used ceremonial exchange to create debts that others would be forced to remember (Battaglia 1990, Munn 1986, Young 1971). Nowadays, people's pride in gardens, and in the beauty of traditional dances, songs and decorations is seen as antithetical to that humility before God the creator that all subjects need to show. He is the only truly creator who ought to be remembered.

Contemporary Melanesian history needs to be approached through what Foucault (1982: 343) calls a 'genealogy of problems, of problematiques'; that is a history of the different ways the self has been problematised. We are dealing here with what Foucault calls modes of subjection which is the way subjects are ethically positioned in relationship to themselves. The asceticism and puritanism of the New Tribes Mission represent the emergence of new forms of self-scrutiny and an intensification of that civilising project which is especially directed at pacifying and subduing a traditional culture of masculine virility. The process of Christianisation is in particular often lived out as the process of domesticating a wild male subject. Men's culture of war and their violent domination of women come to be equated with the pleasures of the body which are seen to relive the original sin. In subduing those pleasures and desires, Christianity is experienced as a struggle to transcend those dark memories that are God's punishment to one's race. To realise this goal of forgetting, more and more aspects of every day life come to be policed by 'teachers' whom the European missionaries appoint but claim no responsibility over when they are challenged about the consequences of what their 'teachers' are doing. A convenient division of labour has emerged where the European missionaries use their native 'teachers' to do the everyday backbreaking work of repressing everything to do with the past whilst they can pretend to government officers to not know about this violation of Papua New Guinea's constitution which requires some respect be paid to tradition.


Before, I spoke about how people had strategically forgotten what they had acquired from European culture. I would like now to argue that it is a mistake to see memory and forgetting as opposites, rather they are often two sides of the same process. More than this, we are often dealing with the paradoxical situation of people needing to remember that they need to forget. In a strange sort of way, the moral requirement to forget can keep alive a memory of what needs to be expelled and repressed from memory. Here, the active process of forgetting subverts itself by keeping in consciousness a memory of what one needs to forget. The politics of memory and forgetting in the bush Kaliai are full of these sorts of ambiguities and paradoxes which give a certain instability to the process of cultural repression that the missionaries would like to put in place (cf Neumann 1992). These paradoxes and ambiguities can be subversive but at the same time they can also sustain and make possible the success of missionising. Though the New Tribes Mission has created a movement that seeks explicitly to obliterate tradition, the power of God feeds off people's memories about the traditional power of masalai and sorcerers from whose reality people want to be rescued by the new mission.

With respect to sorcery, converts to the new mission do not deny its existence, instead they see themselves as needing to relinquish and forget their use of this 'black power'. People believe that once they do so that God will be obligated to protect the bush Kaliai from the sorcery of others (especially those on the coast) who refuse to forget these evil Satanic powers of tradition. 'Teachers' belonging to the New Tribes Mission entice people to join the new mission not by denying sorcery's power but by claiming those who join the mission will be protected from sorcery by God. At a large meeting on the coast in the early 1990s, Warenga - a teacher for the New Tribes Mission, rose and claimed that sorcery would destroy coastal villagers for they had sinned against God, but that this sorcery could no longer harm the true believers of the New Tribes Mission.

This is our talk. It is clear, it is our talk. If a man tried to kill me, do you think I would die? I say this because sorcery has been tried and it was not strong enough. I also drank bleach but it too was not strong enough. I also drank fish poison but it too was not strong enough. Look I have won over these three things, they were not strong enough. Councillor, it all has to do with belief. We Christians [New Tribes Mission converts] believe in one God, in the ten laws of God; because we believe, this something [sorcery] does not have the power to grab hold of us. However, youse [Catholic followers on the coast] have all broken God's ten laws and because of this sorcery destroys you. The cause is with you. [Other New Tribe followers call out 'enough, enough!']

The European missionaries are embarrassed by such excessive public eulogies to God's power, but they also turn a blind eye to the 'teachers' who have been successfully recruiting followers using these claims. When I challenged Sign about the claims of his 'teachers', he said it was true that a knowledge of God would result in sorcery becoming eradicated. Here a convenient ambiguity about how sorcery will be abolished by Christianity allows the new mission to feed off people's painful memories of relatives dying through sorcery. It allows the new mission to appropriate these painful memories of loss which now become anchor points for consolidating the cleansing word of God. Underpinning the growth of the New Tribes Mission has been an anti-sorcery movement where the power of God feeds off reminding people of the power of a demonic dark past from which it can save them.

Though required to believe exclusively in God's power, many converts cannot bring themselves to reject completely the collective memories evoked by masalai sites and underground spaces belonging to the dead. Traditionally these spaces underpinned the identities of communities and their right to claim certain territory as their own. Many converts continue to believe the story of how the mother of one their leaders fell into a stream and ended up standing in a village plaza belonging to the dead who started quarrelling over whether she should stay or not. In the end they decided to send her back to the surface world and to her husband. Nowadays converts have modified the original version of this story to add the Christian gloss that it was God who spoke and sent her back. Here, the power of God does not completely obliterate the remembered power of the dead and where they reside, instead God appropriates from the dead their benevolent merciful qualities. The dead lose their redeeming characteristics and God comes to be remembered as the one who saves people from their ancestors, from their heathen past. Such reinterpretations result in the collective memories of people becoming increasingly Christianised; with God's power now set up in opposition to the traditional power of the underground dead whose menacing actions he counteracts. The new collective memory of God saving a woman from an underground site is really an allegory for that salvation from their past which Christianity seeks to enact by getting people to forget the knowledge of their grandparents. The underground here becomes a metaphor for a deeply buried world of tradition from which people have to be rescued.

To some extent, the New Tribes Mission and its 'teachers' need the remembered power of the dead and of masalai (just as much as the power of Satan) in order to establish the greatness of God's power. If the dead or masalai had no power then what point or need would there be for God's intervention. The incorporation of people into Christian hegemony is predicated on sustaining memories of alternative spaces of power which have to be tamed and subdued as a way of gaining a foothold in the interiority of subjects who map themselves through these spaces. It is the colonisation quest which has to be reproduced and kept ongoing by sustaining a residue of the demonic in the landscape and in subjects. Underneath the new mission (and making its success possible) is a new form of folklore Christianity which sustains selective memories of ancient archaic powers; it keeps alive the menacing alternative powers to God which the mission seeks to repress. The pacification and domestication of subjects here comes to be lived as the pacification and domestication of the landscape of the past from which people have sprung. The process of forgetting can never be complete or total, for Christianity requires a particular memory of the past and of the landscape in order to objectify and mediate its conquest of subjects through conquering the sites and spaces which mediate and locate their identities.

Particular sites and stories which had located people's relationship to the dead and their landscape come to be colonised by a new folklore form of Christianity which both mediates but also slackens the hold of the new mission. For there is also a subversive edge even to the above story: in that by incorporating the redemptive power of God into their demonic landscape, God is also partly indigenised and localised, he is appropriated and made to keep alive the very memory spaces He should obliterate. Here, people incorporate an acknowledgment of God's supreme power and presence so as to keep alive their underground world.

There is a long colonial history of bush Kaliai villagers equating the pacification of the landscape with the pacification and domestication of themselves. When I arrived in 1986, many villagers saw the Catholic Church as having helped put an end not only to warfare and widow killing, but as also having led to a general reduction in masalai activity. It did this by blessing masalai sites with holy water which transformed those sites into inert forms of stone. The Catholic Church's presence was also seen to have reduced the presence of tambaran and the dead in the bush. The latter were said to no longer come and chase the Kaliai. Here the violence in the landscape is a way of objectifying the violence of the past in the community. It is not accidental that Catholic priests went around blessing masalai sites, pacifying subjects by pacifying the terrain of their thoughts. These blessings turned masalai sites into inert stone and established the power of the Catholic Church through capturing the collective memory sites of communities. Yet, one effect of these blessings was to acknowledge the existence of a rival autochthonous power in the landscape; the church ended up keeping alive a blasphemous space outside Christian cosmography. Indeed Christian hegemony here keeps alive that traditional culture of alternative spaces of power which often sustained resistance cargo cult narratives about other better subterranean worlds.

Many converts to the New Tribes Mission still find it hard to eat food from masalai sites and they see God, not so much as abolishing these sites, but as having civilised them. When converts suspect that the soul of a child has been captured by a masalai site, they pray to God to free the child's soul. They no longer employ a shaman to travel in his dreams to do battle with the masalai. The struggle against the captivating power of underground sites of the dead and masalai is now waged by God and it is partly a struggle against the ancient powers of the past, yet this struggle instead of eliminating these cultural memories presupposes them and sustains them. I believe that it is partly the resistances to full conversion that are offered by stubborn memories and the habits of tradition which are transformed and rendered by people as the resistances of the dead and of masalai to the domesticating power of God and Church. This fetishised image of demonic resistance and residue is sustained by villagers who struggle to subdue in the landscape the cultural memories that exist inside themselves.


Currently the Kaliai are torn between two opposing tendencies. There are those who maintain that the freedom to become something new lies in a massive act of forgetting the past and in producing oneself as a subject without one's grandparents' memories. A certain collective amnesia will restore people to God and take them away from Satan's tricks. In opposition to this position are the old men and some cargo cult leaders who believe that 'black-skins' (mipela blakskin) will always remain dominated by 'white-skins' if people forget their past. These cargo cult followers believe in the liberating power of remembrance and they search for a memory which will disclose the lost secret that whites hide. When no-one is around, some converts will even criticise the new mission's use of Satan to silence traditional stories about the underground. This is what one convert said:

What story of our ancestors will help us? We work at finding it. But some now look to the government ... Yet, all the big men told us: 'this underground is something important; the mountains have got all kinds of marks; and they have people inside.' Now the Bible informs us [preaching of the New Tribes Mission] that this sort of talk is tudak (very dark), that it is a lie of Satan. This sort of information [from the Bible] now blocks our eyes. Our ancestors knew something, but they did not correctly pass it on to us.

You [whites] all talk that the cause lies with us, but I feel that you are hiding things, that you are stealing things. The king and queen worked the law and this law has covered us up, it has covered up the law of everything being free.

I work at finding the road, this road [to the dead and everything being free]. They [whites] gave us the road of business, we worked this road but we still exist like our grandfathers. All these black-skins who support whites [poroman yupela] work at faulim mipela [tricking, deceiving us].

This convert went on to complain how in those underground places where everyone had previously spoken that there lived a tambaran or masalai, the young - new line of men - now only spoke of Satan's presence. Like a number of other Kaliai cargo cult leaders, this man wanted to re-empower traditional masalai sites by having them seen positively. He suggested to me that God had put monsters at these sites to guard their secret treasures.

These places have something, like when we spoke about this place which has gas, they call it 'masalai' but something is there underneath ... I think there is something there that looks after this hole. The Big Man put them there to look after the gold, he put them there to look after something? ... We find people calling them dangerous places but no there is something there; this something that gets up all kinds of work [cargo] is there.

Currently there are a number of people in the New Tribes Mission who continue to pour over the knowledge of their ancestors to discover a lost secret clue which will unlock the dead in the mountains and in the underground. The past is recollected to provide a space of freedom outside the control of whites and state development projects. One's memories here are the conditions of one's autonomy (see Beckett and Losche this volume). I was given the following description of how one old man stood up in the men's house and denounced the New Tribes Mission for making people give up their garden magic.

This is a lie [garden magic as Satan's power] belonging to you and that one-talk of yours - Sign. Well you all lie and we have all lost the power for working food so that now all we eat is manioc and sweet potato. Before we did not eat this sort of food. Well what do you think, that this food of yours is real food? It is just rubbish food. You are all just lying for I have seen the insects that are now boring holes into your taro. I am really angry, for I want to work custom to straighten all this but I am not allowed. I am going to wait for this man [Sign] and I am going to work this work [customary magic] good. I am going to straighten my gardens so that all my taro comes up good and I can eat it.

This old man was reacting against the tendency to perceive all power outside God and the church as a rival power which is equivalent to the rival power of Satan. The New Tribes Mission seeks to monopolise the power to create in God. Followers are required to pray to God for help in their gardens rather than call upon those dead ancestors who are remembered to be successful gardeners. This old man went on to challenge the existence of the fires of hell through which the mission polices its congregation. Referring to people's understandings that the fires of Hell must be in the underground spaces of the dead and must be like that in volcanoes, this old man denied that there were fires in volcanoes. He made a speech about how his contact with the dead had made him longlong [mad] and how this 'madness' had allowed him to journey in dreams to volcanoes where he saw that they were really doors. Indeed, this old man claimed that the government had put a taboo on people travelling close to volcanoes so that Melanesians did not discover the underground spaces of power to which they led. He claimed it was no accident that all the major government stations had been built at volcanic sites - at Rabaul, Talasea and Gloucester. I was given the following description of this man's speech against the preachings of Sign:

He [Sign] speaks like this 'If you are all pig headed then you will all go to the fire.' Well this fire have you all seen it? Have you seen the fire? Well I have. It is like this, I fouled around when this longlong of mine came up. I fouled around and I came up to Nangla [volcano]. There is not a fire there, it is a door. There is a door at Nangla, there is another door at this mountain at Kimbe, at Talasea. There is a fire also at Rabaul. Well you all look, the government has blocked off this door, it has also blocked off this here and it has also blocked off this one at Gloucester [referring to people's suspicions concerning government's prohibitions about them entering volcanic regions] ... Now this fire, it is not a true fire. The fire is there like this, there is hot water there. When we die we go down this ladder, we go warm our skins on this fire and then we go to Papa [God]. But where is the fire? Well when this sick [his madness] came up to me, when this longlong came up to me I wandered through the bush and came up to it and I saw it with my own eyes.' ... Now look, the government has come and it has blocked the door belonging to us, then it went over there and blocked that door, and at Rabaul it also blocks the door. Now, where do you all think the fire is?

Here an old man reinterprets the fires of hell to be the true hidden underground power of the dead which whites are concealing. The old people, who are the custodians of memories and of alternative mythic schemes for figuring human existence, are regarded as problematic by the New Tribes Mission and the young men who have become aligned with the European missionaries. These guardians of tradition see the future as grounded in a memory of the past, they are unhappy about the loss of tradition and complain that the fear campaigns of the New Tribes Mission are just another white man's trick.


The New Tribes Mission's proselytising is very different from the Catholic Church which had an explicit policy of building its support around a respect for the collective memory of tradition. Catholic priests would pray at village grave sites, believing that this would introduce people to God, by equating church service with people's understandings of the sacred. Inside Kaliai Catholic churches one finds traditional paintings and designs; and outside one coastal church there is a carved post of a figure who is half-snake and half-human hero and whom many coastal villagers see as a black Christ. Despite their intolerant Protestant fundamentalism, this logic of strategic incorporation is also not totally foreign to the New Tribes Mission. They use the local languages of Aria and Mouk to get across their message. It also seems that individual missionaries use strategic lies to get people's trust and to incorporate themselves into communities in what seems to be a strategy of subversion from within. When they first arrived in the Kaliai area, the new missionaries asked people to come tell their stories. The major cargo cult leaders went and worked the story of Titikolo who is a trickster-God; he is also said to be Moses and other times identified with Christ. Titikolo is a person who travels around changing his name and working different tricks in different communities. I was told by two big men who went and storied to Sign that when they narrated the different names of Titikolo, Sign replied back that all their names could be found in the Bible. The son of one of these big men described their experiences like this:

They told the story and Sign said that all these names are here in the book. [Sign speaking] 'This story is true, the name of this man is here.' If they continued the story again but a different part, they were told 'it is here, the name of this man is here'. If they storied again, whatever they called, all the different names were said to be there. [Sign speaking] 'The names are here!'

One of these big man - Nangile - told me that Sign had informed them that there was one name missing from their story and if they could call this last name then the new law would come. Nangile, who is now dead but who was an influential cargo cult leader, told me how he and his relatives would lie awake at night, thinking hard, trying to remember what name they might have lost. In 1986, when I was at the village of Bolo, we were visited by a man from the neighbouring Lamogai area, who told us that there an American missionary stood up, held up a piece of cloth and informed villagers that if they could name its creator then the law would break. There are many stories like this and they work to confirm the belief of rival Catholic followers that the new missionaries are exploiting local cargo cults, if not working a cargo cult of their own. The information which I was often given by bush Kaliai villagers was about the missionaries actively seeking to incorporate themselves into local culture. I was even given details of how they had sought to insert themselves into the generative time of people's past. Paul told me how his father - Yange - was giving genealogies to Sign who informed him that he had been born at the same time as Yange's ancestor - Akono.

He [Sign] said what my kandred [maternal uncle] just said? He said: 'Ah Yange, I think we two are the same bird [ie moiety] - Matagel [a totem of the Big Bird moiety].' ... He spoke 'do you know of the time they carried me?' [Yange] 'No'. He then spoke: 'No, you do, you know they carried me at the same time as they carried your ancestor. When they [the women] were pregnant with me they were also pregnant with Akono. When they gave birth to Akono, they also gave birth to me'. He said that the two of them were brothers. [Sign speaking]: 'Akono is my brother. You must not believe that I belong to this [present] time. No way, I belong to the true past.'

Many of those who joined the new mission regarded Sign as one of their returned ancestors; an association which was reinforced by the fact that Sign quickly learnt to speak the Mouk language. All of this had the effect of indigenising the mission's power and also to some extent subverting it for the missionaries were now used to validate and sustain the very world of the living dead that people were told to forget. When the missionaries first arrived, many people cried for they believed they recognised them to be deceased relatives. Currently, some people see the missionaries as having detailed knowledge about their ancestors which the missionaries have acquired from their Bible. People's memories have come to be validated and shared with the memory spaces of the Bible as a way of incorporating the missionaries into the local kinship system. Some people accuse the American missionaries of seeking to capture converts by incorporating people's kinship system into the Bible. Two respected friends gave me the following account of how Sign went about collecting genealogies.

It is like this. If I follow my story [genealogy] and go back and back to my sting [first originating ancestor], if I come up to my sting and then go beyond it, I come up to Papa, God. It is like this if I storied and came up to my sting then Sign would say: 'I really think you know for the names are here' [pointing to the Bible]

It is hard to know to what extent people are re-interpreting their interactions with Europeans to fit their desires or to what extent the missionaries are strategically seeking to colonise and incorporate themselves into people's culture and past. My own feeling is that both of these things have been happening.

People have been re-interpreting and remembering their interactions with the missionaries using the narrative schemes provided by cargo cult stories which tap people's desire to abolish the racial dichotomy between Melanesians and Europeans. Some converts even believe that their dead relatives live and visit Sign's house. I was told of how when a female relative died, Sign told people: 'You can go bury her, but she has already come to live with me.' Unsure, I asked people where she was living and the reply was:

She lives with Sign himself at Amcor. She lives inside Sign's house. They [converts] talk like this. They say she does and so do plenty of [dead] men and plenty of [dead] women. This old man Akono also lives with Sign inside the house.

Sign rarely allows people to enter his house and this has helped generate its mystique, namely a perception of it as taboo place that is analogous to the taboo sites where the dead live. The fact that the house contains photos of deceased people has further worked to confirm people's understanding of it as a space belonging to the dead. Photos and representations are referred to as ano which is the same local word that people use for soul, that is the second body that a person inhabits when they die (Lattas 1992b).(12) One Catholic man gave me the following account of how his relatives saw these photographs as having captured people's soul.

When they are around Sign takes their photo. Later, it comes up as a picture, which looks like them. They look at the picture and think that all the people who have died have come back here.... When they walk about they get their picture taken. When she [a woman who recently died] was sick, he photographed her. When she was brought to the plane, they photographed her. When she was about to die, they photographed her. When she died they worked her picture [photograph] to come up. Now they think that this woman died and has come back here. They all think whites have got a way of 'stilim you me long photo'. When they get us on photo, they have a way of changing, of turning it, so that when I die they get my ano [soul] to live but my body remains behind.

A number of Catholics told me how when they started crying for the above woman, they were told by converts that they should not do so, for she was already living with Sign:

You do not know, but we know. She is there. You are sorry for her and cry, but we worry only for the time we received food, when she gave it to us and we think about her and cry only a little. But you do not know, so you cry a lot over this sorrow. You do not know about the as [hidden underpinnings] of all this.

To their Catholic relatives, converts have also spoken of a room inside Sign's house which it was completely taboo for anyone to enter and there lived the souls of the dead: 'This room is truly taboo. We can hear them talking there, but we can not see them.' Through photographs, the missionaries have captured not only people's memories but also the cargo cult culture involving the dead which now increasingly revolves around the missionary Sign. People have been seeking to empower the mission which has incorporated them by merging it with the power of the dead. When Sign invited converts to come and hear audio tapes of deceased people, this was interpreted by converts as Sign inviting them to hear the dead talking anew in the present.

When they [the dead] want to talk, Sign will say: 'You all come, you all come and hear the men who are going to talk. The old man Akono will come to talk, the wife of so and so will come and talk, the wife of Argus will come and talk.'

One teacher in the New Tribes Mission told his brother how he had attended the above gathering of the dead but that there were too many dead people gathered together and he had not been able to hear all that they said clearly, but he did hear them say: 'We want you to get all our line so they can see us and we can see them'. One person told me that what people had heard played back were audio-tapes of deceased relatives: 'They record the voices of all people, play it, everyone hears it and thinks that it is the talk of all the dead speaking.' We see here the way people's perception and memories of what takes place is shaped by their desires for the Americans to save them from the world of darkness which God gave them which is partly what the missionaries say that they are there to do. People's solidarity with the new mission is built around making it the custodian of their ghosts. Europeans seem to have more powerful techniques for capturing the spirit of someone, for making the ghost of the dead speak again.

We see here a desire to keep alive memories of the dead, but not simply as ideas inside people's heads. Instead people want to animate their memories and have them live as voices alongside themselves. In a context where the New Tribes Mission seeks to transfer the dead to Heaven and outside people's reach, people's response is not to reject the missionaries and their Christianity but to move their dead into the world of heavenly existence that the missionaries seem to be living inside their houses. The powerful technology of Europeans is not only a more powerful way of memorialising the dead but it also seems to capture the spirit and likeness of the dead, their souls. In seeking the animating soul of these new memorialising techniques, people are using the assumptions of a world of magic (where an image or likeness captures and brings close that which is distant and which it represents) so as to capture and bring close the animating power of the past which underpins the present. It is through the detour of the past that all realities are formed and it is this capture of the past by European technology that has to be re-claimed back through cult secrets if people are to have a past whose ownership and control not only distinguishes them but also makes it possible for them to move into the control of their own future.


I would like to thank Steve Feld and Klaus Neumann for their comments on this paper. I would also like to thank the Australian Research Council and Macquarie University for having provided the funds that made possible my fieldwork and the writing up of its results.


1. In this paper I have hidden the identity of informants in the New Tribes Mission as well as their Catholic relatives. Today the New Tribes Mission is cracking down hard on those who try to work a cargo cult culture or a re-worked form of Christianity inside the new mission. Converts who have come to tell me their stories and beliefs have been castigated and disciplined by the American missionaries.

2. Traditionally, masalai could capture the thoughts of people and hypnotise them into believing in a world which did not exist around them. In Christianity, this capacity to deceive people is assigned to Satan and leads, as Foucault has pointed out, to the problematisation of subjectivity.

... for Christians, the possibility that Satan can get inside your soul and give you thoughts you cannot recognise as satanic, but that you might interpret as coming from God, leads to uncertainty about what is going on inside your soul. You are unable to know what the real root of your desire is, at least without hermeneutic work. (1982: 361)

In the New Tribes Mission, what accompanied this hermeneutic labour of self-scrutiny was a whole culture of confession where people would come forward in Church and state publicly their ill-thoughts and desires.

3. I have used the name Sign to disguise the identity of this missionary but so as to also capture the resonances of his real name which in pidgin contains the meanings symbolising, and foretelling. There is a certain millenarian promise read into the name of this missionary.

4. Many of the cargo cult stories that I collected from old men had been told to them by their parents and grandparents and some specifically deal with the Germans who arrived at the beginning of the century.

5. People also used the dead to refresh their memories. If people had forgotten the name of a locality then in dreams an ancestor could be approached to reveal this forgotten name. The past always had a living accessible dimension to it, the dead ancestors were always there to recollect the lost names which were so essential to Kaliai narratives and rituals. Indeed, in cargo cults the completion of the world was often thought of as a set of complete names.

6. Drawing upon the work of Bergson, Halbwachs, and Benjamin, Klaus Neumann (1992: 239-48) has recently done a good analysis of the politics of memory in relationship to resisting and subverting the hegemony of colonial ideology and reality.

7. One of Bergson's great contributions was to recognise the way perception and memory are closely intertwined. He argues that perceptual images sustain and make possible the existence of memory whilst memory in turn informs and creates what we perceive. For Bergson (1991: 133): 'Perception is never a mere contact of the mind with the object present; it is impregnated with memory-images which complete it as they interpret it.'. One of Bergson's deficiencies is that he does not sufficiently historicise memory in terms of the social practices which produce and transform it. Here we need to turn to writers like Halbwachs, Nietzsche and Yates.

8. There was widespread perception of the native as incapable of abstract thought and only conceptually capable of appreciating concrete phenomena like ceremony and ritual. Writing in the 1919-20 Annual Report for the Territory of Papua, Murray argued:

As Mr James points out in Primitive Ritual and Belief (pp. 5,224) the primitive mind is incapable of grasping the abstract thought to any appreciable extent; the savage is a ceremonialist, not a dogmatic theologian. Religion to him is a matter of practice, not of theory - a thing, in other words, to live out rather than to think out ... (Murray 1919-20:109)

Views of the native as a prisoner of perception and of the sensuous, rather than of thought and contemplation, were also applied to Australian Aborigines (Lattas 1987). Said (1978:105-6) has also documented the use of these colonial assumptions in the discourses of Orientalism.

9. When I visited Molou village in 1990, it was under enormous moral pressure to convert with the missionary Sign often delivering petty forms of punishment to villagers for remaining outside his mission. When I left the field to come back to Australia most of Molou village converted to the New Tribes Mission, though a couple of people stayed outside for which they are still being harassed.

10. Recently Robert Foster (1992) has analysed the moral and health campaigns against betel nut chewing in Papua New Guinea as a way of disciplining the body and creating new national citizens. I would emphasise here the role of ascetic disciplinary techniques in producing a collective memory inside the body for the nation's citizens to share. Abstinence and a certain sublimation of the body's desires is part of a discourse which sees the individual as having to subordinate and discipline his needs, impulses and self in relationship to society and the nation state.

11. New Tribes Mission followers have developed new rules of etiquette and forms of moral propriety which they believed copy the forms of moral discipline and notions of property belonging to Europeans. In terms of property, converts are often critical of those relaxed forms of borrowing that are born out of the familiar ties of kinship which the bush Kaliai have so far existed with. Converts have developed rules of this sort 'I could not go get taro from someone else's garden, only the person who owned that garden could go get it and give it to me.' People believe that the New Tribes cult is in decline because nowadays people sing out to their relatives to go to their gardens and pick taro. It was explained to me: 'Before only if you climbed your coconuts and brought them down and gave them to me only then could I eat them.'

12. When asked about how their grandparents treated photos, one man replied:

They were all afraid. They did not like you taking their photos. If you gave them a photo, they would break them and throw them away. They thought it was a tambaran or what?
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Author:Lattas, Andrew
Date:Jun 1, 1996
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