Ryan Schram's Anthrocyclopaedia

Anthropology presentations and learning resources

User Tools

Site Tools

View page as slide show


Ancestry and indigenous landownership in PNG

Ryan Schram

ANTH 2654: Forms of Families

15 October 2015

Available at: http://anthro.rschram.org/2654/11

Lecture outline

  • The politics of landownership in PNG
    • Everyone is a villager, everyone is a landowner.
    • Being a landowner means you have a right to participate in politics.
  • The colonial context of contemporary landownership
    • The colonization of New Guinea included protection of native land tenure.
    • Governing people of New Guinea meant indentifying who was there, and where they lived.
    • Patrol officers assumed they would find stable, clearly bounded groups, but few existed.
    • Anthropologists found “segmentary societies” in the New Guinea Highlands, and they assumed they would all be organized in terms of unilineal descent, just like in Africa (“African models in the New Guinea Highlands”).
      • Fasu people studied by Emma Gilberthorpe are a good example of a society based on place instead of descent.
      • Fasu people and others have had to document their ownership of their places in terms that make sense to the state.
  • Is registration of landownership “reification”?
    • Dialectic as a theory of change: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
      • A capitalist system is one in which capital is used to produce wealth. It is also a divided system, consisting one class which owns capital, and one class which does not, and who works.
      • Colonialism is both the expansion of one society into new places, and it is the meeting of two cultures.
    • Becoming a “landowner” in PNG is not natural. It is the outcome of a dialectic of recognition.
    • Indigenous recognition often involves the reification of culture.
    • An alternative view: PNG groups can perform multiple identities for different audiences.


Garnaut, John. 2015. “PNG Chiefs Talk of Civil Unrest over Unpopular Australian Bank Deal.” The Sydney Morning Herald, October 11, sec. Business Day. http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/well-turn-off-the-taps-png-chiefs-challenge-australian-bank-deal-20151009-gk58dq.html.

Schram, Ryan. 2013. “Frontier, Colony, Pre-Border: PNG’s Latest Role in Australian Sovereignty.” Ryan Schram: Notes on anthropology, Melanesia and cultural change, December 3. http://rschram.org/2013/12/31/manus/.

2654/11.txt · Last modified: 2021/06/29 02:27 by