Emerging Class in Papua New Guinea: The Telling of Difference

Emerging Class in Papua New Guinea: The Telling of Difference

Emerging Class in Papua New Guinea: The Telling of Difference

Emerging Class in Papua New Guinea: The Telling of Difference

Synopsis

Class has become a feature of life in Papua New Guinea, evident in both "traditional" and "modern" settings. This book examines the emergence of class differences and its social and cultural ramifications in Wewak, capital of the East Sepik Province. It movingly conveys the injuries of class inequalities, and reveals how class has worked in similar and different ways, and how it has become possible and plausible for relatively affluent "nationals," even those living in modest urban centers, to present themselves as fundamentally superior to other Papua New Guineans.

Excerpt

In the last two chapters, we showed that the consumption-oriented sociality through which relatively affluent Papua New Guineans were defining their identities and interests was importantly realized in contexts of mostly imported activities and organizations. Rotary provided one such context. SWIT, substantially through its affiliation with OPT, provided another. In particular, we saw that membership in both Rotary and SWIT furnished those of the middle class with their justification for seeking a good life in which they could, with equanimity, attend to their own affairs without being continually wrenched by the claims of grass-roots kin for financial help. Golf provided a third such context of sociality. It was at the Wewak Resort and Country Club where we found clearly instantiated and recognized a key constellation of the processes constituting middle-class life worldwide: commodity consumption by individuals within nuclear (or, at the broadest, nucleated) families. And it was around the margins of this context of sociality provided by Wewak's golf club that we found this constellation to be especially clearly, if unsuccessfully, challenged.

Preliminaries: on golf and the good life

An active, almost evangelical, promotion of these worldwide processes constituting middle-class life (those that were coming Wewak's way at the margins of the “developing” world) came our way (at the center of “development”) in a recent New York Times article (Sandomir, 1997: D1 and 8). This was about Tiger Woods, 21-year-old golfer extraordinaire. Not only was Woods a thoroughly multicultural . . .

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