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The development of ethnic identity and ethnic stereotypes on Papua New Guinea plantations. - article ; n°82 ; vol.42, pg 153-162

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Journal de la Société des océanistes - Année 1986 - Volume 42 - Numéro 82 - Pages 153-162
The region that includes Papua New Guinea is famous for linguistic diversity. For the period preceding European influence, it is probably safe to assume that this linguistic diversity was accompanied by an equal degree of cultural diversity. Much of this latter has been reduced in recent decades, both because of policies on the part of missionaries and government officials eliminating customs they found offensive, and because of the voluntary adoption of foreign items and customs considered superior to traditional ones. At the same time, however, neighboring societies have amalgamated themselves into groupings that are viewed as sharing features that distinguish their members from people belonging to other ethnic units within Papua New Guinea. Some of this amalgamation resulted from the often artificial boundaries employed by the colonial administration and by missions, which led those within their compass to accept a measure of common identity. It seems, however, that a more powerful factor was the plantation experience.
Labor recruiters and plantation managers were responsible for a considerable part of the new groupings. They tended to develop stereotypes about people from particular regions, and these influenced decisions to seek them out or avoid recruiting them. The regions were labelled with terms, which might originally have applied to a small area. The common practice of housing together men from the same region and of assigning them to similar tasks led to further consolidation of a joint identification. Traditional antaganisms between villages often vanished when the recruits were confronted with people who were culturally, or physically, very different. The equivalent of the Pidgin term wantok (from one talk), originally designating those who shared a language and culture, was extended to those who were more similar than others encountered in the new surroundings. Cultural resemblances were stressed, and sometimes assumed to exist when they did not. Just as the workers developed a new sense of unity with their former enemies, they also accepted the essential unity of other groups working on the same plantation or living near it. Stereotypes about such and such people included not only ideas about their cultural practices but about their natures — as aggressive, oversexed, callous. The stereotypes were not all negative, but those most often mentioned were, and they played a part in the subsequent history of relations between ethnic groups. Although the plantation experience also produced lasting friendships across ethnic barriers, and although it was a factor in the spread of ideas and customs between cultures, the raising and firming of barriers between new groupings of neighboring societies has been an equally important consequence.
La partie du monde qui comprend la Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée est réputée pour sa diversité linguistique. On peut supposer que la période précédant la pénétration européenne a connu une diversité culturelle au même degré. Celle-ci a été grandement réduite pendant les dernières décennies par une politique délibérée des missionnaires et des administrations éliminant des coutumes jugées choquantes, ainsi que par l'adoption volontaire d'objets et de pratiques d'origine étrangère que l'on plaça au-dessus de sa propre tradition. En même temps, pourtant, des sociétés voisines se sont amalgamées en groupements qui sont perçus comme partageant des traits qui distinguent leurs membres des gens appartenant à d'autres «entités ethniques». Cette unification résulta pour partie de l'établissement de frontières souvent artificielles par l'Administration coloniale et par les missions qui poussa les gens vivant à l'intérieur à se reconnaître une certaine identité en commun. Mais il semble qu'un facteur plus puissant en fut l'expérience de la plantation.
Les recruteurs de main-d'œuvre et les gérants de plantations contribuèrent largement à ces regroupements inédits. Ils eurent tendance à élaborer des stéréotypes sur les gens de régions déterminées et leur décision de les recruter ou de les refuser en fut affectée. Les régions en question furent baptisées de noms qui s'étaient peut-être appliqués initialement à un lieu beaucoup plus petit. La pratique générale de faire cohabiter les hommes d'une même région et de les affecter à des tâches similaires renforça cette identité collective. Les oppositions traditionnelles entre villages disparurent souvent lorsque les recrues furent confrontées à des gens qui étaient très différents d'elles sur le plan culturel ou physique. L'équivalent du mot pidgin wantok (dérivé de « même langue »), désignant d'abord ceux qui avaient langue et culture en commun, fut étendu à tous ceux qui se ressemblaient davantage que les autres que ces situations nouvelles obligeaient à côtoyer. Les similitudes culturelles furent mises en relief et parfois supposées exister quand bien même elles étaient sans fondement. De même que les travailleurs en vinrent à éprouver un sens nouveau d'unité avec leurs anciens ennemis, de même ils reconnurent l'unité des groupes différant d'eux-mêmes et se trouvant sur la même plantation ou dans son voisinage. Les stéréotypes sur tels ou tels gens comprenaient non seulement des idées sur leurs pratiques culturelles mais aussi sur leur nature (salaces, agressifs ou impitoyables). Tous n'étaient pas négatifs, mais les plus usités l'étaient, et ils jouèrent ultérieurement un rôle dans l'histoire des relations inter-ethniques. Bien que l'expérience de la plantation fût la source d'amitiés durables par-dessus les barrières ethniques et contribuât à répandre idées et coutumes d'une culture à l'autre, l'apparition et le renforcement de barrières entre nouveaux regroupements de sociétés voisines furent des conséquences également importantes.
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Ann Chowning
The development of ethnic identity and ethnic stereotypes on
Papua New Guinea plantations.
In: Journal de la Société des océanistes. N°82-83, Tome 42, 1986. pp. 153-162.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Chowning Ann. The development of ethnic identity and ethnic stereotypes on Papua New Guinea plantations. In: Journal de la
Société des océanistes. N°82-83, Tome 42, 1986. pp. 153-162.
doi : 10.3406/jso.1986.2829
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/jso_0300-953X_1986_num_42_82_2829Abstract
The region that includes Papua New Guinea is famous for linguistic diversity. For the period preceding
European influence, it is probably safe to assume that this diversity was accompanied by an
equal degree of cultural diversity. Much of this latter has been reduced in recent decades, both because
of policies on the part of missionaries and government officials eliminating customs they found
offensive, and because of the voluntary adoption of foreign items and customs considered superior to
traditional ones. At the same time, however, neighboring societies have amalgamated themselves into
groupings that are viewed as sharing features that distinguish their members from people belonging to
other "ethnic units" within Papua New Guinea. Some of this amalgamation resulted from the often
artificial boundaries employed by the colonial administration and by missions, which led those within
their compass to accept a measure of common identity. It seems, however, that a more powerful factor
was the plantation experience.
Labor recruiters and plantation managers were responsible for a considerable part of the new
groupings. They tended to develop stereotypes about people from particular regions, and these
influenced decisions to seek them out or avoid recruiting them. The regions were labelled with terms,
which might originally have applied to a small area. The common practice of housing together men from
the same region and of assigning them to similar tasks led to further consolidation of a joint
identification. Traditional antaganisms between villages often vanished when the recruits were
confronted with people who were culturally, or physically, very different. The equivalent of the Pidgin
term wantok (from "one talk"), originally designating those who shared a language and culture, was
extended to those who were more similar than others encountered in the new surroundings. Cultural
resemblances were stressed, and sometimes assumed to exist when they did not. Just as the workers
developed a new sense of unity with their former enemies, they also accepted the essential unity of
other groups working on the same plantation or living near it. Stereotypes about such and such people
included not only ideas about their cultural practices but about their natures — as aggressive,
oversexed, callous. The stereotypes were not all negative, but those most often mentioned were, and
they played a part in the subsequent history of relations between ethnic groups. Although the plantation
experience also produced lasting friendships across ethnic barriers, and although it was a factor in the
spread of ideas and customs between cultures, the raising and firming of barriers between new
groupings of neighboring societies has been an equally important consequence.
Résumé
La partie du monde qui comprend la Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée est réputée pour sa diversité
linguistique. On peut supposer que la période précédant la pénétration européenne a connu une
diversité culturelle au même degré. Celle-ci a été grandement réduite pendant les dernières décennies
par une politique délibérée des missionnaires et des administrations éliminant des coutumes jugées
choquantes, ainsi que par l'adoption volontaire d'objets et de pratiques d'origine étrangère que l'on
plaça au-dessus de sa propre tradition. En même temps, pourtant, des sociétés voisines se sont
amalgamées en groupements qui sont perçus comme partageant des traits qui distinguent leurs
membres des gens appartenant à d'autres «entités ethniques». Cette unification résulta pour partie de
l'établissement de frontières souvent artificielles par l'Administration coloniale et par les missions qui
poussa les gens vivant à l'intérieur à se reconnaître une certaine identité en commun. Mais il semble
qu'un facteur plus puissant en fut l'expérience de la plantation.
Les recruteurs de main-d'œuvre et les gérants de plantations contribuèrent largement à ces
regroupements inédits. Ils eurent tendance à élaborer des stéréotypes sur les gens de régions
déterminées et leur décision de les recruter ou de les refuser en fut affectée. Les régions en question
furent baptisées de noms qui s'étaient peut-être appliqués initialement à un lieu beaucoup plus petit. La
pratique générale de faire cohabiter les hommes d'une même région et de les affecter à des tâches
similaires renforça cette identité collective. Les oppositions traditionnelles entre villages disparurent
souvent lorsque les recrues furent confrontées à des gens qui étaient très différents d'elles sur le plan
culturel ou physique. L'équivalent du mot pidgin wantok (dérivé de « même langue »), désignant d'abord
ceux qui avaient langue et culture en commun, fut étendu à tous ceux qui se ressemblaient davantage
que les autres que ces situations nouvelles obligeaient à côtoyer. Les similitudes culturelles furent
mises en relief et parfois supposées exister quand bien même elles étaient sans fondement. De mêmeque les travailleurs en vinrent à éprouver un sens nouveau d'unité avec leurs anciens ennemis, de
même ils reconnurent l'unité des groupes différant d'eux-mêmes et se trouvant sur la même plantation
ou dans son voisinage. Les stéréotypes sur tels ou tels gens comprenaient non seulement des idées
sur leurs pratiques culturelles mais aussi sur leur nature (salaces, agressifs ou impitoyables). Tous
n'étaient pas négatifs, mais les plus usités l'étaient, et ils jouèrent ultérieurement un rôle dans l'histoire
des relations inter-ethniques. Bien que l'expérience de la plantation fût la source d'amitiés durables par-
dessus les barrières ethniques et contribuât à répandre idées et coutumes d'une culture à l'autre,
l'apparition et le renforcement de barrières entre nouveaux regroupements de sociétés voisines furent
des conséquences également importantes.The development of ethnic identity
and ethnic stereotypes
on Papua New Guinea plantations
by
Ann CHOWNING *
The region that includes Papua New Guinea cation with some of one's co-workers was
(along with Irian Jaya and Eastern Melanesia) associated with the development of stereotypes
is famous for linguistic diversity far surpassing about various foreigners encountered. For many
that found in any other part of the world. In men ', the most common form of labor that
the period preceding European control, it is produced these results took place on plantat
probably safe to assume that this linguistic ions.
diversity was accompanied by an equivalent Of course, the processes to be described here
degree of cultural diversity. Much of this latter are in no way peculiar to the plantation
has been greatly reduced in recent decades, situation in Papua New Guinea. First, they are
partly because of deliberate policies on the part commonly found not only wherever laborers
of missionaries and government officials, who are recruited to work away from home, but
suppressed customs they found offensive, and wherever two or more previously separate
also because of the voluntary adoption of societies come into prolonged but superficial
foreign customs and institutions, of both Pac contact with each other. Second, they reflect
wide-spread — perhaps universal — human ific and European origin, considered superior
to local ones. At the same time, however, tendencies to over-generalize about outsiders
neighboring societies have amalgamated into on the basis of acquaintance with only a few ;
groupings of people who see themselves and to lump together as identical people who may
are seen by others as sharing features that have little more in common than residence in
distinguish their members from people belong contiguous geographical regions ; and to con
ing to other " ethnic units ". These new groupi struct stereotypes about foreigners. Because of
ngs have become increasingly important as publications, all of this behavior is even more
new political institutions were introduced (see fully attested among so-called Europeans, people
Epstein 1978 : 41). Some of this amalgamation of of European ancestry, than among indigenes.
previously separate groups resulted simply from Since it seems pertinent, I shall be discussing
policies employed, often for administrative some data that relate only peripherally to work
convenience, by the colonial government and on plantations but that seem to be part of the
by missionaries ; those treated alike by officials same general process. Most of what is said
came to recognize a measure of common about the indigenous point of view derives
from my fieldwork in four lowland Papua New identity. It seems, however, that for many
regions an equally powerful factor was the Guinea societies — Molima of Milne Bay
experience of working outside one's home Province ; Lakalai, Sengseng, and Kove of
West New Britain — with particular emphasis region. Often the perception of a new
♦ Department of Anthropology, Victoria University, Wellington.
1. In the areas I know best, women almost never accompanied their husbands except where the work was of a sort
very different from that being considered here, such as domestic service. 154 SOCIÉTÉ DES OCÉANISTES
on material collected in the 1950s and 1960s 2, New Ireland, the Sengseng in New Britain, and
when men more often engaged in unskilled the Molima within the Milne Bay region. Even
labor than they do today. so, they were often far from home (many
That plantation labor led to the develop Sengseng not even realizing that the Gazelle
ment of ethnic stereotypes is not a new obser Peninsula was on the same island as their natal
vation. I mentioned this development briefly in villages). The Sengseng and Kove both worked
an earlier paper (Chowning 1969 : 29-30), and on at least one plantation, Volupai, on the
Nelson also referred to it (1972 : 75). With Willaumez Peninsula, and so formed impres
specific reference to the Gazelle Peninsula of sions of each other. Kove and Lakalai were
New Britain, Panoff (1969a : 122-124) has administered from the same government sta
described the generalizations made by Maenge tion, Talasea, until the 1960s, and contacts
laborers about the local residents, Baining and there led to trade and other interaction, but
Tolai, while Epstein (1978 : 48) mentioned the they did not develop their main ideas about
stereotyping of all foreign laborers by the Tolai each other on plantations.
themselves. In none of these sources is there In considering the effects of recruitment for
discussion of the plantation as the source of a labor on Melanesian societies, it must be
new kind of ethnic identity resulting from the remembered that traditionally it was extremely
perception, both by others and by themselves, rare for people who shared a language and
of certain groups of workers as more closely culture to be politically unified. Typically they
akin to each other than to those with whom were divided into local segments whose rela
they were contrasted. (Panoff 1969a : 121-122, tions with other segments were chronically
seems to be dealing with a somewhat different hostile. Often, too, as was common in other
phenomenon, which will be considered below.) parts of the world, the people had no name for
Traditionally, all of the four societies in themselves or their language ; this was the case
which I have worked were typically Melanesian with the Lakalai4. Particularly in the coastal
in lack of political unity (see below). Recruit areas, the population sharing a language and a
ment for plantation labor began before any of culture was small, comprising a few thousand
the people were pacified, much less converted people at most. The first contacts with labor
to Christianity ; indeed, the Molima tell of recruiters tended to establish a pattern that
having killed and eaten two unwary recruiters. persisted when mission stations and govern
Both the Lakalai and the Kove were first ment administrative posts were set up. People
employed on German plantations outside Mel who lived in adjacent regions tended to be
anesia in Samoa and Ponape. Here, however, I regarded and treated by outsiders as if they
were identical. Even when missionaries and shall only be discussing the period following
World War I, when Australia was administer government officers became aware of local
ing what is now Papua New Guinea. Not only diversity, efficiency (and lack of funds) made it
did many men go away to work in other parts impossible for the diversity to receive much
of the country, but plantations were estab- official recognition. Those who lived outside
lishmed near where they lived, as well as at the the regions rarely showed much awareness of
government arid mission stations they so fr the diversity. They tended to designate people
equently visited. These afforded an opportunity by names such as geographical ones — those of
for those not actually working there to form rivers, mountain ranges, government stations,
or mission stations — which might be extended impressions of foreign laborers. Particularly
for women, but also for older men who never far beyond the locality to which they initially
went away to work themselves, such observa applied, or which, as with the river names,
tions were often a major source of the stereo grouped together many different people who
lived along or near them. Examples are Sepik typing to be described. It should be noted that
in the period I am describing, members of these and Markham, from rivers ; Madang and
societies did not travel far outside their own Kavieng (for all New Irelanders), from towns ;
Buka (for all residents of Bougainville and areas to work on plantations, although they
adjacent islands), and Arawe (for all residents did so while holding other sorts of jobs 3. The
Kove and Lakalai worked in New Britain and of southwest New Britain), both from names of
2. In 1962, when I first visited Sengseng, plantation labor was still the principal means of earning cash even for young
men. In the other societies, most of the older men had spent some time in plantation labor, and frequently talked of it.
3. The Kove in particular served in the police force before World War II, and now often work on ships that travel as
far as Australia and Japan. Many Sengseng worked for the Navy in Manus, an attractive site because it was a source of the
goldlip pearl shells that were their principal form of wealth.
4. Lakalai is the version of Nakanai used by speakers of a dialect that contains no /n/ phoneme. See note 5. IDENTITY AND STEREOTYPES 155 ETHNIC
" Sepik boys " small islands ; and Nakanai, for all the people writes of selecting from among
sent him by another miner ones who spoke the living along a considerable stretch of the
central north coast of New Britain as well as same language and had a single leader they
the inhabitants of the Nakanai mountains of would obey (O'Neill 1979 : 103). The same
the interior. (Lakalai was a local variant of this man, however, did not hesitate to generalize
about " Markham people " (O'Neill 1979 : 56). name, originally derived from a Tolai word for
a coastal region with whose inhabitants the That this habit of lumping people together
Tolai traded.) Chimbu is an exception in that under a single regional name could lead to real
it originally designated the speakers of one blindness to cultural differences is shown by
Highlands language, but it eventually came to the case of J. K. McCarthy, a distinguished
designate all Highlanders, as perceived by government officer who eventually became
outsiders (see Brown 1972 : 24). Director of the Department of Native Affairs
Epstein has suggested that the reason for the but who was District Commissioner for New
use of these terms was that " in New Guinea Britain when I first met him. His first post had
'tribal' groups were often too small and fra been in the Nakanai Mountains, and from
gmented to provide the basis for meaningful what he wrote the people there seem to have
categories, and instead 'territory' came to serve resembled those of the south coast of New
this end ".He notes that " at the time of the Britain ; for example, they deformed their
heads like all the " Arawe ". At that time, and Rabaul Strike of 1929, category terms such as
Sepiks, Finschhafens, and the like, seem to for ten more years, McCarthy's personal ser
have become part of current usage " (1978 : vant was a Lakalai from a village directly on
49). His suggestion does not fully explain the the north coast, and later he had much to do
extension of " Chimbu " ; Highlands populat with a Lakalai cargo cult leader. Yet in in his
ions were extremely large. It is necessary at memoirs, he generalizes about the appearance
this point to distinguish three sources of nami and culture of the " Nakanai " as if these
ng and usage : recruiters and employers ; people were identical (McCarthy 1963 : 1, 31-
Papua New Guineans other than those being 32, 180). I heard him do the same thing in
designated ; and people accepting categories conversation. If someone so experienced failed
devised by others. In the first case, the reason to discriminate, it is no wonder that planta
often seems to have been the simple assumpt tion managers behaved in a similar way. The
ion that people who looked alike and came consequences could be far-reaching because as
from the same region really were alike ; once a Panoff has noted, they housed and worked
name had been found to designate them, there together in a single labor " line " men who
was no reason to discriminate further. When were -thought to be of the same " ethnic
one plantation manager writes of his pref origin" (Panoff 1969a : 112).
erence for " Port Moresby boys " to crew his This treatment was one, but only one, of the
launch (Hope 1979 : 149), we have no reason reasons why indigenous people also failed to
to think that all of them shared the same native discriminate among foreigners. The extreme
language. A plantation manager of my ac case, reported for the Tolai, seems to reflect a " " boss boy quaintance who had a satisfactory combination of prejudice against laborers from
from the interior of southwest New Britain other parts of the country, and lack of interest
repeatedly sent recruiters to the same general in them. They called all the foreigners by a
area, ignoring cultural and linguistic differ derogatory term derived from the Pidgin term
ences and simply taking it for granted that for "work " ; " it evokes the image of a menial
interior " Arawe " were all alike in the ways poorly and untidily attired " (Epstein 1978 :
that concerned him. Indeed, they may have 48). Ploeg reports a similar situation in which,
been. Other employers, however, seem to contrary to what happened among the Tolai, it
employed what Epstein calls " category terms " was the intruders, here settlers on oil palm
simply for convenience, and possibly because " blocks ", who looked down and lumped
of the absence or ignorance of others, while together all the local people, calling them all
not actually ignoring local differences that Nakanai 5 and considering them culturally ho
might affect the success of a labor line. An mogeneous.
employer of labor on the New Guinea mines In at least some cases, the people being
5. Nakanai is the name of a language, consisting of a chain of dialects spoken within the census divisions labeled East,
Central, and West Nakanai, all of which also contain non-Nakanai languages. In West Nakanai, the location of the oil
palm settlements discussed by Ploeg, there live speakers of two dialects of Nakanai, Lakalai (spoken by the bulk of the
population) and Ubae, along with speakers of other languages, some of which are not closely related to Nakanai. Some of
the languages of Eastern and Central Nakanai are not Austronesian. 156 SOCIÉTÉ DES OCÉANISTES
grouped together seem to have accepted the Young 1983), probably because it was pecul
designation, though not necessarily the a iarly subject to bad droughts that destroyed
crops. Some writers came to use " Gosiago " ssumptions about their characteristics that often
and " Goodenough Islander " as synonyms. went with the use of the term. An interesting
" thirty-one Gosiaexample is that of residents of the D'Entrecas- One man tells of recruiting
teaux Islands, in the Milne Bay Province off gos from Island " (in 1937), and
the eastern tip of New Guinea. There are three thereafter refers to them only as Gosiagos
large islands — Goodenough, Fergusson, and (Hides 1939 : 34-35, 37). In writing of the
Misima mines, Nelson says : " Most of the Normanby — and several small ones, of which
the best known is Dobu. Dialects of the labourers were from the D'Entrecasteaux Is
Dobuan language are spoken on adjacent parts lands, particularly from Goodenough. [They
of Fergusson and Normanby^ and the first were] 'Gosiagos' known (Nelson to recruiters 1976 : 42-43). and overseers I first heard as mission station in the islands was established in
Dobuan territory, to be followed soon by one the term used by the Molima in 1957-8, and
on Goodenough. Both of these date from the when I visited a barrack in 1958 I found that
end of the 19th Century, and recruiting became indeed laborers from all over the D'Entrecas
common in parts of the D'Entrecasteaux when teaux were housed together. The Molima also
many of the residents were still unpacified as introduced their co-residents to me as friends ;
well as pagan. Much of the first recruitment apparently the shared category really did break
was for work in gold mines, especially but not down old boundaries. Nevertheless, men from
solely those on other islands in Milne Bay. different parts of the D'Entrecasteaux had
With the decline in mining, recruitment shifted impressions of themselves as laborers,
particularly to work on plantations, although though employers did not necessarily distin
alternatives existed, such as pearl-fishing in the guish one group from another. Young has
Trobriands. written that " Gosiagos were frequently extol
Early in the period of recruitment, D'Entre led as the best workers [in Papua], most in
casteaux residents, specifically when considered demand for mining and labour on the planta
as laborers, were all designated as Gosiagos. tions " (1983 : 83). He quotes a patrol officer as
The term seems clearly to be derived from saying : " The Gosiago is ... easy to recruit and
friend/associate' (Grant easy to handle " (1983 : 84). Young's paper Dobuan gosia-gu, 'my
1953 : 79). Cognate terms exist in some does not always make it clear when he is
D'Entrecasteaux languages related to Dobuan 6. referring to Gosiagos in general and when only
All of the languages of the D'Entrecasteaux are to Goodenough Islanders. He does, however,
Austronesian, and they share a considerable eventually attribute the high reputation of the
amount of cultural vocabulary, but they be Gosiagos as workers to culture traits some of
long to several different subgroups. Equally, which are peculiar to Goodenough. Although
the cultures are superficially very much alike, he does not discuss the apparent docility of the
with a common technology and snared art style Gosiagos, he does not disagree with that
(which, however, does not distinguish them characterization. The Molima, however, repre
from other cultures of the so-called Massim), sent themselves as singularly obstreperous work
but they differ considerably in fundamental ers, likely to strike anyone, including an
values and in important institutions (see Young overseer, who caused offense. (Indeed, a sur
1971 : 6). Furthermore, in the period prior to prising number of my male informants had
European contact, trade systems united some served jail sentences for assault.) They thought
societies, and warfare separated others, in European employers also found them hard to
alignments that cut across the linguistic groupi handle. If the Gosiagos in general had a
ngs. In the eyes of the indigenous people, the different reputation, some employers seem to
D'Entrecasteaux did not form any sort of have generalized from their experience with
unity, but to Europeans, influenced by their only a sample of Gosiagos.
geographical isolation, they constituted a natur Nevertheless, as was indicated above, the
al category, and so did their residents. tendency of outsiders to treat people from one
The etymology of the term makes it clear region as a unit, to recruit, house, and work
that the recruit fist called Gosiago must have them together, did indeed affect inter-group
been from the Dobuan-speaking region rather relations. In the D'Entrecasteaux, the labor
than Goodenough, but Goodenough came experience was particularly influential in pro
to furnish the largest number of recruits (see ducing unity, since the islands were served by
6. See maps in Lithgow 1976 : 442-443. ETHNIC IDENTITY AND STEREOTYPES 157
separate mission stations. The same phenome the Lakalai hospitable also despised them as
non is found among the so-called Arawe ; old-fashioned, foolish, non-achievers, and were
those living on the coast were served by quick to come to erroneous conclusions about
different missions and sometimes by different them : for example, that they were sorcery-
government stations, while those in the interior ridden (see discussion in Ploeg 1972 : 93). The
were of little interest to anyone except recruit prejudices involved are similar to those that
ers. When they live at home, they still express Rew found among New Guineans working in
fears of each other, as when having to travel in Port Moresby towards Papuans (Rew 1974 :
areas with a reputation for sorcery, and the 80) ; people were blamed for not making better
sophisticated coastal people look down on the use of land that is in fact not suitable for the
recently contacted illiterates of the bush. All of purpose envisaged.
these people are, however, likely to work Some negative stereotypes reflect a reaction
together. There are several plantations within to appearance that is considered ugly ; Mali-
the area, and when local men work on them, nowski (1929 : 306) reports the adverse reac
it is usually for short periods. These may tion of Trobriand Islanders to plantation labo
lead to special friendships (see below) but are rers from the Papuan mainland, and young
not so likely to produce broader ethnic identif Sengseng men often use steel wool to remove
ication as work in a foreign area such as the the blackening from their teeth because of the
Gazelle and Willaumez Peninsulas. In these, mockery of co-workers, while the Kove tell of
the " Arawes ", especially those from the inte gagging on the smell on pig grease rubbed on
the bodies of " Chimbu " workers. Foreigners rior7, are visibly set apart because of their
deformed heads. Outsiders may take it for may also be despised for conservatism, po
granted that their physical distinctiveness and verty, lack of sophistication, and ignorance of
similarity are naturally correlated with cultural particular arts valued by the observers. The
similarities. Of the comments I have heard highly maritime Kove tend to mock all inland
from Kove about " Arawe ", at least one, in people who cannot swim and sail canoes ; if
my experience, is accurate : that they speak they fear sea travel, so much the worse.
Highlands laborers are derided for these reavery quickly. Another, however, is an example
of inaccurate conclusions typical of stereoty sons.
ping. This is the comment that " Arawe " are Sometimes a single trait serves as a marker
not sorry when people die because some of of what is thought to be a preoccupation. All
them were seen to " dance " with the corpse of over New Britain the Tolai are characterized as
a kinsman killed on a plantation. It seems obsessed with financial gain because they sell
probable that Kove misinterpreted a type of betelnut ; in many other societies, small quantit
mourning, but in any case the observers as ies of it fall into the category of goods to be
sumed, inaccurately, that all " Arawe " both " given " or shared without strict accounts
behave like that at deaths and also feel no being kept (see Panoff 1969b : 124). The
grief. Sengseng and Kove, both of whom struck me
As the example of rapid speech indicates, as exceptionally devoted to accumulating wealth,
stereotyping may include accurate perceptions ; even at the expense of their nearest kin, agree
it may also be favorable. Both qualities appear in condemning the " greed " of the Tolai. An
in the common impression by other Papua extreme example of reasoning largely from one
New Guineans that the " Nakanai ", including piece of behavior, refusal to participate in a
the Lakalai, are exceptionally hospitable to semi-religious, semi-political movement, led to
outsiders. I have heard this said by a number characterization of the Chimbu as unrelated '.o
of non-Nakanai, including the Kove ; Ploeg the people of New Britain (Panoff 1969b : 55).
had the same impression as regards their Maenge attitudes, described in detail by
interaction with settlers (1972 : 92) ; and the Panoff, are of particular interest because they
" outsiLakalai frequently talk of " illustrate so clearly certain peculiarities of adopting
ders working in their midst. Nevertheless, it intertribal relations resulting from labor migrat
seems to be much more common for sterotypes ion. Laborers who spend a long period in an
to be both unfavorable and inaccurate. It is not alien environment are well placed to learn
so much the amount of contact as the precise about the local people if the latter permit them
nature of it that produces these differences. to do so. Whether approaches are possible
The same settlers who in some respects found depends on several factors, not least local
7. These include the Sengseng. Head deformation was abandoned in most coastal regions several decades ago, but still
(as of 1 98 1) persists in the more recently contacted interior, though with decreasing frequency. 158 SOCIÉTÉ DES OCÉANISTES
perceptions of the relative inferiority or supe tions. The Kove, who consider themselves
riority of the intruders. The Maenge were able superior to all other human beings, are not
to learn a considerable amount about the given to analyzing differences between planta
Baining, who have low prestige in New Britain, tion workers, despite being fascinated by the
and while liking them, expressed shock and kinds of cultural they encountered
in remote areas visited in the course of other disapproval at some of their customs, ranging
from housing to disposal of the dead. By jobs. Although they claim to know that High
contrast, the Tolai, who as noted consider lands laborers come from different areas, they
still call them all " Chimbu " and generalize themselves superior to plantation laborers, did
about their behavior (see below). not permit close contact ; they were perceived
as inhospitable, as well as avaricious and I have argued elsewhere that people who
dangerous (Panoff 1969a : 122-124). Not sur work together do not necessarily understand
prisingly, the Maenge did not talk about the each other as well as they think they do. In
same kinds of Tolai customs that had inte speaking Pidgin, those from different societies
use terms in ways that reflect indigenous rested them among the Baining ; presumably
categories, but often do not realize that others they had little opportunity to observe, for
are not using terms that designate say spirits or example, Tolai mortuary ceremonies. Precisely
because they could observe the Bainings in types of magic in exactly the same way (Chown-
some detail, the Maenge came to perceive them ing 1983). People of different backgrounds do
as very unlike themselves. The contrast was not usually discuss these matters in enough
drawn with fellow laborers from other parts of detail to detect the difference of range of
New Britain : Panoff reports that the Maenge reference. This is particularly likely to be the
considered the " Arawe, Siassi, Barriai, and case if many people from one area work on the
Nakanai " to be " similar to their own eth same plantation, so that their social contact
" except for small differences in nic group with those from other areas is superficial, but
technology and " some 'strange customs' of misunderstandings can persist even when wor
which head-elongating is the most consp kers buy magical spells from each other, as
icuous" (1969a : 121-122). What this percep they so often do. As with the Maenge, many
tion of similarity indicates is profound igno laborers assume that co-workers, especially if
rance of these other societies, who in some they are from roughly the same part of Papua
ways (e.g., house styles and indifference to New Guinea and not physically very different
bathing among the interior " Arawe ") are from themselves, are essentially like them.
more like the Baining than the Maenge. A Noteworthy physical differences, as in skin
distinctive " Arawe " institution was the stran color, seem more likely to lead to assumptions
gulation of widows, who were buried with their about cultural differences as well.
husbands. Many migrant laborers in the 1960s The contrary assumption, one familiar to all
would have taken part in killing their own students of stereotyping, is that which ascribes
mothers when their fathers died, but presu to aliens behavior which is feared or despised.
mably they did not tell their co-workers of In Papua New Guinea, the common accusa
such customs. Examples of such distinctive tions are that members of other societies are
customs could be multiplied. Certainly the particularly dangerous sorcerers or prone to
Lakalai and Kove8 consider each other very physical violence. Less often, they may be
different, and the Arawe even more so. (The considered sexually threatening. Sorcery accu
Sengseng who worked on the Willaumez with sations, like unwarranted suspicion of canniba
the Kove tended to be overawed by them, to lism 9, were common in the past when people
such an extent that some men underwent penile discussed members of other societies with
superincision rather than be labelled " whom they interacted only to a limited degree. stinking
penis ", a Kove insult.) The situation on the When it became necessary to live and work
Willaumez plantations is peculiar, however, in among alien people, sorcery fears often became
that although the Kove do not live there, they exacerbated for several reasons, including ob
have a permanent canoe anchorage beside the serving behavior on the part of others that
plantation that employs most of the Sengseng, seemed mysterious and therefore suspicious. In
and so opportunities for interaction are not many cases, a more important factor was
restricted to the Kove working on the increase in disease, especially in the early days
8. The Kove are culturally and linguistically closely related to the Barriai.
9. Undoubtedly some people in Papua New Guinea, including the Molima and the Tolai, traditionally practiced
cannibalism. Here I refer to the sort of accusation that seems to have no basis in fact. See, for example, McCarthy 1963 :
34-35. ETHNIC IDENTITY AND STEREOTYPES 159
of plantation work when dysentery and malnut fighting people", even though they lack the
rition were serious threats to life (Mair 1978 : Highlanders' excuse of recent pacification (Rew
194-195). Sometimes, of course, the local popul 1974 : 129-30). Perhaps with the exception of
ace was suspected rather than co-workers. the Goilala, it is not obvious why some ethnic
Another factor arousing suspicion has been, to groups have acquired such reputations, but
this day, the willingness of foreign workers to once the stereotype is established, it is con
sell what purported to be powerful new forms stantly reinforced by the attribution of attacks
of magic (for sexual attraction as well as for to certain people whose members may in fact
harming others) 10. In the 1970s several Kove be of multiple origins. Strathern (1975 : 279)
notes that in Port Moresby " returned laborers were so widely believed to be every unknown
advertising their possession of a new form of attack is attributed to the Goilalas ".
powerful sorcery, supposedly originating in To my knowledge, the accusation of sexual
aggression is less common. " Sepik " laborers another part of New Britain, that government
officers were investigating the situation. Suspi have long had a reputation for making homos
cions that workers have acquired foreign sor exual advances, but not usually to the point of
cery, often considered particularly dangerous being feared by their co-workers. The only case
because local curers cannot deal with it (see I have recorded in which plantation laborers
Young 1971 : 129) are extremely widespread. (as opposed to migrants in towns) are feared
In West New Britain, for reasons unclear to by the local population is that of " Chimbus "
me, certain parts of East New Britain, in working on the Willaumez Peninsula, who are
cluding the Maenge region, are considered the said constantly to make threatening sexual
sources of the most -feared types of magic. advances to passing women. Again, as with the
Similarly, a reputation for violent behavior Goilalas, the accusation may be justified ; the
gets attached to certain groups. Sometimes it is European manager of one of these plantations
self-engendered, as with the Molima, and so told me that he only had complaints from the
metimes a particular episode will affect the local people of sexual misbehavior as regards
reputation of a whole society, as the killing of a his Highlands employees. Nevertheless, this is
now part of the " Chimbu " stereotype in West District Commissioner in 1971 did for the
Tolai. I have no evidence that the Tolai are New Britain. We may compare this with the
positive attitude towards women in the Tro- more violent than, for example, the Kove,
among whom brawls are frequent, but such is briand Islands ; men from other parts of Papua
New Guinea who work there agree that Tro- their reputation (see Panoff 1969a : 123).
Hageners living in Port Moresby, who are briand women are particularly ready to engage
themselves classed by others as " Chimbus ", in affairs, but certainly do not condemn them
on that account. " also on think their own of the ground Tolai " as (Strathern " fierce ", 1975 especially : 278). This is a particular example of the way in
Although the Kove regularly visit Rabaul, and which work away from home can lead to
maintain a settlement there, some of them pleasant relationss between groups which may
believe that the Tolai still practice cannibalism, be independent of stereotyping. It is common
and horrific tales of murders attributed to the for both Lakalai and Kove to marry women
Tolai circulate in Kove villages. Outside New from the areas in which they have been worki
Britain, other categories of people have similar ng, and often to remain there in uxorilocal
reputations. Residents of Port Moresby regard residence (partly because the women often
the " Goilalas " of the Papuan Highlands, and come from societies with matrilineal descent) n.
the " Chimbu " of the New Guinea Intertribal marriage may also result from friend
" fierce " (Levine and Levine ships between workers, which do occur on as particularly
1979 : 100). Rew suggests that the Goilala plantations. The Pidgin term wanwok " one
reputation may be based on fact (recorded work " applied to men who have worked
incidence of attacks on others, at least within together is one indicator of the existence of this
towns), but he also points out that the so- bond. The term may of course be used between
called " Kerema " of the Gulf region have men from the same society. Indeed, the Seng-
equally bad reputations as " very rough and seng deny that there is any other basis for
10. Although it was common for foreigners to claim payment for curing disease, they seem less often to have sold this
kind of knowledge to outsiders.
1 1 . Panoff, however, says of the Maenge that " every love affair with a Tolai woman inevitably resulted in serious
quarrels with her relations or neighbours " (1969a : 123). It may have been that these were casual affairs not intended to
lead to marriage, in which case such a reaction is expectable.