Michael Somare is a Snake: Ideas and Images of Occult Government in Papua New Guinea
Dr Thomas Strong (Maynooth University)
This talk considers the problem of witchcraft in relation to institutions of law and order. It is based on relatively recent fieldwork in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, a place that for decades has been struggling with witchcraft-related violence. The imagery and authority of 'government' and 'law' play an important role in how contemporary episodes of witchcraft violence unfold. Young men appropriate the symbolism of legal and state authority in conducting witch hunts. They may claim that such an appropriation is necessary because the state is under the sway of demonic forces, a claim most dramatically symbolised in ideas about Papua New Guinea's first Prime Minister, Michael Somare, and the nefarious sources of his power. Moreover, they claim that witches themselves comprise an invisible government concealed beneath conventional appearances. The ideas and images associated with witchcraft in the highlands simultaneously affirm the state as a source of contemporary power and call into question its legitimacy.
Open to all. No registration required.
An event organised by Risk and Renewal in the Pacific Network
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