publisher colophon



Erik G. Schwimmer


How should anthropologists study a nonrecurring event? It is ob­viously of interest only if it is paradigmatic of some social law. But what kind of law? The question has often been faced and, most of the time, one of two answers has been given. The literature on this question has recently been surveyed by J. Kingsley Garbett in an essay, “The Analysis of Social Situations” (1970).

Garbett defines a social situation as “a temporally and spatially bounded series of events abstracted by the observer from the ongo­ing flow of social life” (1970:215). He summarizes the two types of analysis that have been made as (1) depending on some concept of a typical actor as performer of roles and (2) depending on a con­cept of the typical actor as a manipulator, the limits of whose ra­tionality are specified.

Neither of these methods accounts for the “social situation” discussed in this chapter—the eruption of Mount Lamington in the Northern District of Papua (map 14). I therefore turned to a semiotic approach based on methods developed by Lévi-Strauss (1960) and Barthes (1964b). Semiology, as defined by Saussure, is “a general science of signs.” This science studies systems of signs according to methods which will be indicated in the course of this chapter. The term “semiotics” was introduced by Margaret Mead. If this method is to be applied to the study of nonrecurring events, 297the assumption is that such events are read by a social group as constituting a sign or system of signs.1

Such an assumption is legitimate in the case of the eruption of Mount Lamington. In the view of the great majority of my Oro­kaiva informants, the cataclysmic explosions in the mountain and related volcanic activity were utterances communicating a mes­sage. With unimportant exceptions to which I shall refer later, in­formants took what may be called a religious view of the eruption (Lévi-Strauss 1962:292). They invested with personal will what we would call forces of nature (van der Leeuw 1938:chap. 9). And not only did some Being cause the eruption, but he used it as a means of communication.

Whether it is expedient to study a cataclysm such as the erup­tion of Mount Lamington as a system of signs emitted by the mountain depends entirely on the quality of the insights that emerge. In this case, field inquiry showed the existence of at least four systems of thought on the significance of the disaster. The adherents of these systems each expressed a different world view consistent with their view of the eruption. The existence of such ideological differences within a single society reflects conflicts which occur not only on the level of discourse but also on that of social transactions.

Such data raise several questions that merit close examination. If all Orokaiva had placed the eruption within one logically con­sistent framework of meaning, we might believe that we had thus discovered the cognitive system of the Orokaiva. In the present case we find four ideologies and explanatory frameworks all gen­erated by the same cognitive system, in the same way that dif­ferent players may use a variety of strategies while competing with one another in the same game. It then becomes our task to re­construct this cognitive system and account for a system of inter­related ideologies generated by a sequence of events as interpreted by the cognitive system.

Another question is whether ideological discourse about the cause of the eruption deals with all or some or any of the basic conflicts identified in the society by ethnographic study and anal­ysis. My data, dealing with the period 1951–1966, suggest that Orokaiva ideological discourse was rather selective in the con­flicts with which it concerned itself. The conflicts between tribal­ism and regionalism and between denial and acceptance of the 298partnership with European power are fully canvassed, but con­flicts arising out of the relocation of refugees after the eruption and conflicts concerning land tenure are not reflected in ideologi­cal discourse related to the disaster. How can we explain this selec­tiveness?

We may finally ask: To what extent have signs communicated by the eruption become an integral part of the Orokaiva system of thought in 1966? To what extent do they appear in the rhetoric expressing current ideologies? To what extent has the eruption generated these ideologies? How do cognitive systems adapt them­selves to far-reaching events (such as the establishment of Austra­lian authority) which call into question the traditional rationale for behavior? In short, the Orokaiva data lead us to an exploration of the dynamics of non-Western thought.

The factual material presented here corresponds closely to the preoccupations agreed on by the contributors to this volume. I commence with the presentation of some background data, em­phasizing institutional, transactional, and ecological factors. The semiotic analysis that follows is focused on crisis behavior. The analysis will bring to light conflicts in two areas which are of spe­cial concern in comparative study of exile and migration in Oceania: the macrosystem/microsystem relationship and the maintenance of ethnic boundaries.

My discussion of land tenure conflicts, ignored in the ideologi­cal discourse under examination, will deal with the cultural mean­ing of spatial movement and the significance of land at various levels of culture. It will be demonstrated that although land tenure does not figure in ideological discourse about the eruption direct­ly, it is integrated into ideological discourse indirectly.

The use of semiotics in anthropological analysis is at an early stage of development. Among the well-known pioneers in America are Bateson (1935, 1951), Mead (1964), Sebeok (1970), and sources such as E. T. Hall, Alfred Hayes, and Weston LaBarre. In this chapter, I have relied a great deal on the work of Lévi-Strauss (especially 1958, 1960, 1962), whose semiotics forms an integral part of his structural comparative method.

Semiotics has inevitably drawn extensively on linguistic con­cepts, since linguists have traditionally engaged in sophisticated analyses of symbols. The present chapter owes a debt to Saussure, to Hjelmslev, and especially to Barthes (1964a, 1964b). I would 299agree, nonetheless, with Sebeok’s contention (1970) that semiotics is not merely concerned with a “secondary language” but is an in­dependent discipline for decoding sign systems which are often not at all linguistic.

Among the concepts drawn from linguistics is the notion of a “sign” composed of a signifier and a signified. While many lin­guists do not concern themselves with the signified (which they tend to relegate to the realm of psychology), in semiotics the rela­tionship between signifier and signified is the chief object of study. We may put this differently (with Hjelmslev and Barthes) by say­ing that a sign has a level of expression and a level of content. Fur­thermore we may distinguish, at each of these levels, between form and substance. Semiotics differs from linguistics in that the signifiers often do a great deal more than just signify something. For instance: the eruption of Mount Lamington did a great deal more than emit an utterance; it emitted enough substance to change the landscape of the entire district.

Semioticians argue that whatever object we use to serve our needs and whatever object affects our destiny obtains a semantic value, becomes a sign. Wearing a raincoat not only protects; it also signifies some fact about the weather. In Papua, wearing a banana leaf signifies that it is actually raining; wearing a raincoat may mean no more than that it is likely to rain. Barthes speaks, in this connection, of “functional signs”: on the level of expression, the form has semantic value but the substance is utilitarian, going beyond signification.

Our concern in this chapter is to describe the frameworks of meaning attached to the eruption of Mount Lamington. Therefore we are dealing with what Barthes has termed complex semiotic systems. To show why this is so, let us first consider the primary sign system. Hjelmslev (1963) represents a sign by the formula ERC, where E is the level of expression, C the level of content, and R the relation between the two. To give a semiotic example, in the Road Code the level of expression (E) is made up of the colored signals and the level of content (C) is a set of orders given to drivers of motor vehicles. The relationship (R) between the lights and the orders arises out of a system of legally sanctioned conventions. The total sign is ERC.2 Here the level of expression (E) is made up of volcanic phenomena and the devastation they caused. At the level of content (C), informants explain that the anger of the 300mountain or of God is demonstrated by geophysical phenomena. But several other questions at once present themselves: Why was the mountain or why was God angry? To discuss this question we need a metalanguage in which we can define terms such as “an­ger,” “Sumbiripa (the mythical master of Mt Lamington)” and “God.” Hjelmslev and Barthes call this a “denotative system”: the level of content (C) is made up of a second system of signification (ERC).

There is another system of signification, called a “connotative system,” which has been studied far less than metalanguages but is of great importance in semiotics. For instance, wearing a rain­coat and wearing a banana leaf do not, for a Papuan, have the same connotation. Wearing a banana leaf connotes that one is a simple villager; when a Papuan wears a raincoat, it connotes that he is going to town or for some other reason wishes to emphasize his familiarity with European custom. A connotative system is a system (ERC) whose level of expression (E) is itself made up of a full system of signification.3

Differences in the signifier which are insignificant in the primary system (a raincoat and a banana leaf both protect against rain; there is no difference on the level of content) become signifi­cant in the connotative system as signaling differences in social position. Connotative systems are frequently used in the art of per­suasion. If one wishes to persuade another person to choose one alternative over another, a frequent technique is to invoke an ap­pealing ideology by the use of appropriate rhetoric. Thus an advertiser may evoke in the reader’s mind an image of a desirable way of life and then persuade him, by a clever use of analogies, that a product he wishes to sell opens a way to this mode of life.

The difference between systems of connotation and denotation is not always easy to mark in the material analysed in this essay. For instance, discourse about the eruption not infrequently served the purpose of proving that one tribe was better than another, that white power will disappear, that white man’s science is the road to Papuan salvation. Could one seriously maintain that the meaning of the eruption lay in propositions of this kind? One may rightly say that those who put forward such propositions, while ostensibly explaining the eruption, were in actual fact using a rhetorical device to promote their own ideology. On the other hand it is im­possible to go far in the analysis of Orokaiva or Yega metalan­guages 301 without ending up with a construction of the type just quoted.

What Lévi-Strauss demonstrated for primitive thought in gen­eral applies in large measure to the thought of the Orokaiva: meta­languages are constructed in such a manner that associations be­tween signs provide causal explanations. Hence, in a purely formal sense, there may actually be no “level of content” in Oro­kaiva discourse, but only an endless chain linking different signi­fiers together by principles of association.4 Thus every metalan­guage among the Orokaiva is reducible to systems of connotation.

In the circumstances it may be argued that the distinction made by Hjelmslev and Barthes between systems of connotation and de­notation ought to be abandoned. I think, however, that it has some utility in distinguishing phases of the Orokaiva thought system—that is, a phase where the main concern seems to be explanation and a phase where the main concern is rhetorical and ideological.

In this chapter, I have applied semiotics in the context of the an­thropology of development. I shall deal with several hierarchically ordered systems. The largest is the regional colonial macrosystem, comprising on the one hand the Papuans of the Northern District and on the other the colonial power foci, administration and mis­sion.5 Below this is the tribal level, consisting of an Orokaiva and a Yega cognitive system. In the Orokaiva system, several subtribal systems exist in opposition to one another. Two of these, the Wase­ta-Isivita and the Sangara system, are considered in this chapter. As each person is at the same time a member of a subtribe, a tribe, and the regional communication system, each person has access to, and potentially draws upon, a plurality of systems of thought, so that contradictions normally exist between the various views held by the same person within the context of different systems.

Environmental circumstances act on these various semiotic sys­tems not by creating them but rather by changing the emphases placed on some of the available systems at the expense of others. Thus cultural changes become apparent as changes in the em­phases placed on alternatives present in semiotic systems. This raises a problem of obscurantism. Since the evidence for a semiot­ic system is made up, in the first instance, of informants’ state­ments, it may reflect no more than a “conscious model” of the system while highly important aspects may be suppressed for ideo­logical reasons. For instance, if the evacuees desired a “new age,” 302why were they so anxious to return home where they could no longer be instructed in its practices? The answer seems to lie in the land tenure problem, discussed later, which was reflecting fun­damental structural changes in the society. But why was this prob­lem passed over in silence in all the statements about the “new age” recorded for the period immediately after the eruption? The answer to this question may be mere speculation, but it is clear that by excluding land tenure from our analysis, we shall become the victims of our informants’ own mystifications, which is all the more regrettable since, by 1966, Orokaiva ideologists had recog­nized the importance of the land tenure problem for the setting up of the “new age.” Our final analysis is therefore based on an un­conscious model which includes this factor.


On 21 January 1951, Mount Lamington, a mountain situated in the Northern District of Papua, was torn apart by what is techni­cally known as a Pelean eruption. A paroxysmal explosion burst from the crater and produced a nuée ardente which completely devastated a surrounding area of 68 square miles (Taylor 1958:7).6 Almost 4,000 people, mostly belonging to the Orokaiva-speaking group of tribes of the Northern District, were killed. The word “Orokaiva” is used here to designate speakers of the Oro­kaiva language, resident in an area roughly coinciding with the Popondetta, Sohe Popondetta, and Saiho census divisions (see map 14).7 This area comprises the foothills of Mount Lamington and the alluvial plains to the north and east. The area is rather homo­genous in culture, and dialect differences are minor. Destruction in this inner zone of devastation was almost complete. A further 22 square miles were partially devastated, and it was from this area that some 3,000 inhabitants were able to save themselves by running away from the nuée ardente. The population of the Mount Lamington foothills, within a radius of at least 10 miles from the crater, fled from their villages as the explosion threw stones over all the area, destroyed the administrative center at Higaturu, and blotted out the light of the sun. 303

Map 14. Mount Lamington, Papua.

It was at this point that the administration of the Territory of Papua intervened. Australian authorities sent in supplies for the survivors, established camps to house them, and set up a volcano­logical observation post. Acting on technical advice that further explosions were to be expected, the administration at once restricted access to a fairly wide area surrounding the crater, thus forbidding most of the fugitives to return to their homes. It was at this stage also that the administration called in two anthropolo­gists, Felix Keesing and Cyril Belshaw, for advice on what should be done with the now homeless population.7 Shortly after the two anthropologists left the scene in May 1951, volcanological studies indicated that the active, paroxysmal stage of activity of Mount Lamington had ceased and hence that a large part of the restricted area could be resettled. In March 1953, it was possible to reduce the restricted area still further, to a circle of 2 miles surrounding the crater. As a result of these events, virtually all arable land in the district was in use when I visited in 1966–1967. There were no displaced communities in the proper sense of the word. There had been movements of villages from the crater area to consolidated settlements in the vicinity of paved roads, but here convenience 304rather than security was the main motive. Villagers were able to use the land they had occupied before the eruption.

The Orokaiva case was therefore anomalous in a comparative study of community displacement. There was no new physical or social environment to which the Orokaiva had to adapt. There was, however, a very traumatic experience and a temporary dis­placement. Moreover, the eruption did permanently change some significant geographic features of the district: the network of roads, village sizes, village locations in relation to paved roads, the location of the administrative center and institutions like the hos­pital and mission. As these facts have been fully covered in my earlier report, in this chapter I treat them briefly and then turn to a somewhat broader but related question: How does a cataclysmic event such as this eruption (and the temporary relocations that fol­lowed) affect the structure of Orokaiva society?8

My research included three intensive studies of single villages. The relocated village on which the fullest data were collected was Sivepe, situated 7 miles from the crater, on fertile, well-watered, well-drained volcanic loam, with a population density of 180 per­sons per square mile. Like all the villages west of the crater, Sivepe suffered hardly any casualties but the people fled in panic and were accommodated in the evacuation camp at Ilimo, a few miles west of Kumusi River near the road to Kokoda. They stayed at the camp until May, after which two of the local clan groups returned home while the third was relocated in one of the large villages es­tablished along the main Buna-Kokoda road after the eruption.9 This third clan group returned to Sivepe early in 1952. Sivepe was rebuilt less than 1 mile from the old site. The most important im­mediate consequence of the eruption, as far as Sivepe was con­cerned, was the establishment of a large mission complex at Sa­sembata, 1 mile away. With the assistance of surrounding villages, the mission built a large school, a large church, and a hospital. One reason for this development was the establishment, by the government, of a large village for victims of the eruption. This was built at Kongohambo (maximum population 900), a quarter mile from the mission station. The mission services remained after the Kongohambo evacuees had returned to their own areas shortly after 1953.

For Sivepe, therefore, the eruption led directly to two highly im­portant event sequences: first at the evacuation camp; later in rela­tion 305 to the mission station. The government had demonstrated in the most tangible way that it accepted broad responsibility for the people’s welfare in a time of crisis and would act with great gen­erosity in such circumstances. The mission, which likewise had es­tablished close relations with the people of Ilimo, had subsequent­ly remained to develop those relations.

As a control group for the study, I used the small village of In­onda, 12 miles from the crater and outside the restricted zone. In­onda differed from Sivepe in that its population was never evacuated or relocated. It continued to use its own land. The com­parison of Sivepe and Inonda thus provides a measure of the ef­fects of actual relocation as distinct from other experiences the two villages had in common. In Inonda only one-fifth of the land is arable; none of it is as fertile as the volcanic loam of the Mount Lamington foothills; rainfall is lower than in Sivepe and so dis­tributed that lengthy droughts are not uncommon. Drainage is in­ferior while population density is only ten persons per square mile.

Inonda acted as host for the population of Sewa village who fled their homes on the morning of the eruption. Among the fugitives was a mission teacher who set up a school in Inonda. When he was later transferred to another district, Inonda pleaded fervently and successfully to get him back. Today Sunday services are given by a lay preacher and children attend a mission school several miles away which teaches up to grade two.10 Interaction with govern­ment and mission authorities was far less intensive at Inonda than at Sasembata.

The third village I studied was Hohorita (population 348), 7 miles from the volcano, with soil largely similar to Sivepe’s, good rainfall, good drainage, and a population density of 135 persons per square mile. Hohorita is made up of the survivors of the San­gara tribe, once 4,000 strong, which was almost entirely wiped out by the eruption. The survivors were evacuated to camps along the coast and then allowed to return to the boundary of the re­stricted area, where they built a village called Irihambo. They were ordered to leave this village some years later (as it was situ­ated on crown land intended for the settlement of Australian ex­servicemen) and then established Hohorita in 1957–1959. The Hohorita people, like other relocated groups, had had intensive contact with government and mission personnel. An unusually large number entered skilled occupations, partly because the San­gara 306 lived close to a large mission station which offered educa­tional facilities until it was wiped out by the disaster. Afterward, the mission took a special interest in their welfare.

What distinguished the relocated villages from the others was not greater contact with European-dominated institutions. On the contrary, it would seem that contact with such institutions was probably most frequent among the male residents of Inonda, who were much engaged in wage labor; such contact was least fre­quent in Sivepe, with Hohorita holding an intermediate position. Nor could it be said that economic prosperity, in the sense of money income, was correlated with relocation. On the contrary, the average income was higher in Inonda than in Sivepe or Hohorita.

In summary, the major outcomes of the eruption and relocation have been the following: first, the administrative center Higaturu, situated on the mountain, was destroyed and replaced by Popon­detta, which lies on the alluvial plain to the north, thus shifting the center of Australian influence away from the relocated villages. This detracted from rather than contributed to development of the relocation areas and placed the administrative center at some distance from the areas of greatest population density. However, the relocated villages were provided with subsidiary centers of Australian influence such as the hospital in Saiho and the mission stations at Sasembata, Isivita, Agenahambo, and Hohorita. In ad­dition, a number of large villages (with populations of 250 to 500) came into being along the main road between Popondetta and Kokoda at a distance of 6 miles or more from the crater; these vil­lages were made up of groups previously domiciled in small bush villages.

The government prefers these large villages because they make it possible to introduce such Western social institutions as school­ing, water supplies, road construction, and health clinics more conveniently. The eruption offered the government a good oppor­tunity to establish large villages. The population of the bush settle­ment had abandoned the area, and by the time the population was allowed to return, the villages were no longer habitable because of eruption damage and subsequent neglect. In this sense the erup­tion offered an opportunity for speeding up development pro­grams. One might also argue that social development among the Sangara survivors was accelerated when the entire older genera­tion 307 perished in the eruption and the survivors were therefore not fully instructed in traditional religious knowledge. Innovation proceeded without the resistance an older generation might have offered had it survived. I have argued elsewhere that this absence of the elders led to striking changes in the Sangara perception of the world (Schwimmer 1969:70–71).

If we compare relocated villages such as Hohorita and Sivepe with villages touched less by the disaster, such as Inonda on the alluvial plains, we notice that the former villages are larger, dis­play more of the innovations advocated by the government, have a higher level of school education, and have responded more to gov­ernment-sponsored schemes such as coffee growing. In my de­tailed report (Schwimmer 1969), I was inclined to ascribe such differences to the effect of close contact and guidance during the period immediately following the eruption, but such an explana­tion should be treated with caution.

The differences are probably due largely to ecological factors described in the report. Inonda land provides more animal foods; it is slightly closer to wage employment and markets; the climate is less suitable for cash crops than in Sivepe. The population, due to its sparseness, is relatively deficient in health and educational services. Hence the conditions for cooperation with government programs were less favorable than at Sivepe. Furthermore, the ob­served differences may also be due to historical factors. While coastal and foothill areas had been missionized and in contact with the administration for many years, the intervening Sauaha groups including Inonda were defeated and sustained heavy losses in the warfare of the early postcontact period. They subsequently remained aloof from white contacts. After the Japanese occupa­tion, some of their men were hanged by the Australians for having acted as collaborators.11 Hostile feelings are still an impediment to the acceptance of government and mission programs.

Such social consequences of the Mount Lamington eruption do not in themselves lead readily to illuminating anthropological generalizations. The actions of government and mission im­mediately after the eruption greatly relieved the distress of the population, but we cannot establish that these actions, directly and specifically, led to major social changes. One might therefore be inclined to view the eruption of Mount Lamington as lacking serious anthropological interest, yet such a view would greatly 308limit the relevance and power of anthropological study. A cata­clysm of such awesome proportions must obviously have had psy­chological as well as social effects on Orokaiva individuals since the same cataclysm was, after all, experienced in one form or an­other by everybody. If a culturally homogeneous group has any in­tellectual facility in the development of common symbols and the transformation of its symbol system, then it is reasonable to sup­pose that the eruption would have social effects of this less tangible kind.

The Mount Lamington eruption, viewed in this way, offers a case history of theoretical importance. Where the immediate cause of relocation is a natural disaster, we are dealing with con­tingency in its purest form: an event no sociological (or psycholog­ical) theory could possibly predict. Can such an event change the structure of a people’s symbolic thought? If it can, then this would cast doubt on any claim that cultural systems are determinate, as they could be changed at any time by unpredictable contingen­cies. The question whether the content of the symbol systems and social systems of specific cultures is determinate has been raised throughout the work of Lévi-Strauss. Determinacy may be found, however, in the processes of human thought as we seek to compre­hend an event, however unpredictable. If our method of under­standing humans is the analysis of symbolic thought, then the study of unpredictable contingencies is important in revealing the genesis of symbolic thought.


I showed in an earlier work that Mount Lamington has long had a central position in the Orokaiva world order (Schwimmer 1969: 5–6). In fact, the Orokaiva regard Mount Lamington as the center of the cosmos. It is the place where, in Orokaiva myth, death, war­fare, and fire originated. Many of the transforming deities who are said to have established the rituals and social customs of the Orokaiva came from the crater of this mountain. The division of the populations of the Northern District into tribes or language groups supposedly occurred at the same place. The mountain is called Sumbiripa Kanekari, ‘the separation of Sumbiripa’, after the myth in which the mountain opened up and split into several unscalable crags. Sumbiripa was hunting on the mountain with 309his wife; the two were separated and found themselves on different crags. Sumbiripa became the first man to die, the master of the mountain within which he has since dwelt together with all Oro­kaiva who died subsequently.12

The myth explained the shape of the mountain as it was before the eruption. The crags are not there today because they were blown apart by the eruption. The myth also explained the rum­bling of the mountain and the smoke that issued from it long be­fore the eruption of 1951. Such phenomena were regarded as signs sent by Sumbiripa. Ritual prohibitions limited access to the area close to the crater as there was a belief that Sumbiripa, if dis­turbed, would be angry. There was also a great fear of the dead who were supposedly dwelling in the mountain. It is believed that the dead wander about the countryside, where they may attack humans. Sumbiripa is dangerous, even if he does not erupt, be­cause he can send out his ghosts to cause misfortune among men. The myth about Sumbiripa Kanekari hints at the possibility of an earlier eruption by the account it gives of the origin of the crags existing before 1951.

The sociological importance of the eruption lies largely in the explanations of the event developed afterward by the survivors. These explanations are related to the situation of Orokaiva society in 1951. Here we must distinguish between the situation as it ap­peared to the Orokaiva individual or to small refugee groups and the collective situation of the Orokaiva tribes as they collectively perceived it, in terms of the basic forces shaping their social life at that period. We may follow Burridge (1960) in identifying these basic forces with the colonial government, planters and traders, the mission, and relations within and between tribal groups.

Immediately after the eruption, the situation for individuals and small groups was dominated by fear of the mountain, grief for dead relatives, and anguish at separation from the land. The situa­tion was influenced, moreover, by abrupt changes in social orga­nization. The Sangara fugitives mostly fled alone or in very small groups, leaving behind their numerous dead; the Sasembata fugi­tives mostly fled in village groups led by their village constables. While the disaster made the Sangara leaderless, in Sasembata it merely reduced dependence on traditional leaders at the gain of the village constables whose responsibility was greatly increased. Village constables were members of village communities ap­pointed 310 by the administration to enforce regulations concerning law and order, works and amenities. They were not necessarily ‘big men’, customary feast-givers or, military commanders.13 At Ilimo they at once became the leaders of all operations (food dis­tribution, house building, visits to the home village), as these in­volved dealings with the Europeans in control of the rescue and supplies.

These organizational changes, individual fears, grief, anguish, and the increased dependence on village constables and white authorities were certainly reflected in the explanations given of the eruptions. But these explanations took account also of far broader cultural issues, in fact of the total postcontact experience common to the population of the Northern District.

The Orokaiva explanations of the disaster to be considered here certainly cannot be understood except in the context of the total Orokaiva cognitive system. Any Orokaiva explanation places the eruption within a logically consistent framework of meaning, but it is only one of several possible frameworks that might, suc­cessively or even simultaneously, be constructed out of the Oro­kaiva cognitive system. I propose, in the present section, to con­struct a model of the various systems of connotation and the relations between them. Systems of denotation are briefly referred to here but explored in more detail in the following section.

One obvious line of explanation of the eruption was to ascribe it to the anger of Sumbiripa. Many Orokaiva actually explained the disaster in this way at the time it happened, as may be seen from the evidence of Tomlin (1951), Benson (1955a, 1955b), and Schwimmer (1969:69ff.). The anger of Sumbiripa, as supposedly expressed in the eruption of Mount Lamington, was explained by Orokaiva by various disrespectful acts against the mountain. Gre­nades had been thrown near the crater during the war. Afterward, the Orokaiva began to acquire guns for hunting on the mountain. Such were the acts quoted to me in Hohorita and Sivepe as arous­ing Sumbiripa’s anger. The eruption was regarded by informants as an unprecedented event. The question arose in the Orokaiva mind why such an event should occur just then, when it had never happened before. The anger of Sumbiripa had always been feared, but no sinister meaning had been attached to the rumblings and smoke signals, and, moreover, revenge had always been mediated through ‘ghosts’. The new form of punishment could be explained 311only with reference to a quite novel form of infringement of the taboo—a far more offensive infringement than had ever happened before. Just what made grenades and guns so offensive?

This question may be answered on several levels. The first of these is a purely ritual level. Of all the novel activities in which the Orokaiva engaged near the mountain, the ones that were singled out as significant stood out by making a sharp, loud, and danger­ous noise. Now there are many ritual contexts where the Orokaiva use silence as a sign of respect and noise as a sign of disrespect. Hence the Orokaiva were ritually consistent when they told me it was the noise of the hunters’ guns that angered Sumbiripa. But hunting rifles have a further symbolic significance that should be taken into account. I was told that game on the mountain was plentiful until the guns were introduced but that today hardly any game is left because the guns killed it all. In this instance the Oro­kaiva were giving a very reasonable explanation of a drop in game population which was probably real enough. In fact everybody uses guns today or wants to use them, as they are effective for hunting. But they are also sinister—that is, their effectiveness is known to be too great to allow the game population to survive.

The young men who took up the use of hunting rifles between the end of World War II and the time of the eruption were bold in­novators and at the same time they were considered slightly wicked in abandoning traditional hunting methods. This is im­plied by informants who account for the eruption by the anger of Sumbiripa. They are thinking of the breakdown of the old order by the adoption of European innovations, Sumbiripa representing the potency of the old order. They argue that if only the young men had not started to use hunting rifles, the disaster would not have happened. The young men would never have dared to make such a din close to the crater if their respect for the spirits had not been undermined by newfangled doctrines.

The explanation of the disaster considered here resembles all other recorded explanations in one fundamental respect: it is not merely the application of a traditional rule to a new event but it generates a new rule, justifies the rule in the light of empirical evidence, and can be comprehended only in the framework of an ideology which in turn was generated by contemporary events. The starting point of all the explanations is the activity of white officials, missionaries, and traders among the Orokaiva and the 312innovations they have brought. Those who blame the eruption on the anger of Sumbiripa regard these innovations as potentially disastrous. They argue that the eruption has proved their point; it has fortified them in their ideology. Furthermore, they have estab­lished the rule that people should not shoot on the mountain. Before the eruption this was not, to my knowledge, clearly formu­lated as a ritual prohibition. Today it is clearly stated though gen­erally disregarded for reasons we shall soon learn. In justification of the rule, it should be noted that it is supported by some very cogent evidence from Sivepe villagers. It is a fact that while the eruption killed nearly all the Sangara it killed very few people of Isivita and the Sasembata districts, even though they live equally close to the crater. It is also a fact that while the Sangara had many hunting rifles in the late 1940s, the Isivita and the Sasem­bata districts then had few or none. I was told that Sumbiripa gave two signs just before the eruption. To the Isivita people and those of Sasembata district he made a sign of blue fire, which meant they would be saved. To the Sangara people he gave a sign of red fire, which meant they would all die.

We note that this way of explaining the disaster is concerned with a precontact social macrosystem comprising two allied groups, the Sasembata and Isivita, and their traditional enemies, the Sangara. It is not concerned with the contemporary macrosys­tem which is the system of relations holding between Papuans, the government, and the mission. Neither the government nor the mis­sion enters into the explanation. Furthermore, the explanation em­phasizes the tribal boundary between the Sangara people and those designated as the Waseta tribe by Williams (1940).14 It is, in fact, the opposition between Sangara and Waseta that is stressed by this explanation.

It is precisely this opposition that makes clear the strategic and manipulative nature of the argument. Waseta are using the occa­sion of the eruption to score a point against their old rivals and enemies the Sangara, who deserved to be punished as retribution for earlier acts of war. The explanation ignores the fact that nine­ty-two Waseta also were killed in the disaster.

At this point we recognize the explanation as part of a connota­tive system. Any reasonable explanation of the disaster would ac­count for all the deaths. The division of the dead into tribal or ethnic groups is logically insignificant. In a connotative system, 313significance is assigned to this distinction for the purpose of stat­ing some ideology.

Barthes (1964a) points out that in a connotative system the level of expression is “rhetoric” and the level of content is “ideology.” This seems to describe the pattern accurately enough. The present explanation may be reduced to a rhetoric or moralistic vilification expressing a tribalist Waseta ideology. The rhetorical aspect is clear because in actual fact both tribes hunted on the mountain though only one was hit seriously by the disaster.

I now turn to a second explanation which deals with Orokaiva, though we have very few data on its currency among them. The explanation is contained in a report (undated but probably written shortly after the eruption) from Fred Kleekham, district agricul­tural officer, Popondetta, in which he describes a mission-sponsored “Christian Cooperative.” This cooperative flourished among the Yega at that time where, in Kleekham’s opinion, it “did indeed become a cult.” Kleekham reports that members of the cult refused to have their rice hulled or bought by the government and that this was due to “some mystical element … involved in rice marketing.” He continues:

I think that more influential than the thought that Europeans would leave Papua as a result of cooperatives was the belief that the forma­tion of and participation in cooperatives would—magically or mysti­cally—in short time raise the native to the status of the European in all respects…. I am sure that this movement owed much to hanging of Orokaivas judged responsible for the murder of missionaries and the former officer in charge of the coffee project.

It is interesting to recall that one group was prepared to do any­thing under European guidance to get money. Their message was “show us how to get the money to buy the guns.” Later the Lamington eruption which obliterated the government station at Higaturu was regarded by many as payback for the hangings.

There is no evidence that this explanation of the disaster was ever held by any Orokaiva. It is more than probable that this ex­planation is that of the Yega, who are traditional exchange part­ners of the Orokaiva and enemies of the Sangara. It is among the Yega that Kleekham worked, and I am inclined to believe that the Yega widely accepted the views he reported. This would fit the facts as we know them. Certainly we should not expect the Oro­kaiva to explain the disaster by a theory which accounts only for 314the death of the 45 Europeans on the mountain but not at all for the death of 4,000 Orokaiva and the destruction of hundreds of villages. It is far easier to understand such an explanation coming from the Yega, traditional enemies of the Sangara tribe, whose own losses through the disaster were very small. There is indeed no reason why the Yega should have been grief-stricken by the eruption at all. They were involved in an anti-European cult ac­cording to which the death of the administration personnel at Hi­gaturu was thought nothing less than a divine blessing, while the misfortunes of the Sangara may well have been a further source of satisfaction. The Sangara survivors, who were quartered in an evacuation camp in Yega territory from February to April 1951, felt most uncomfortable there and very frightened that they too would be killed off by their old enemies through poisoning, sor­cery, or other mischief.

The data do not enable us to say with certainty whether or not, in the Yega explanation, the eruption was actually caused by the anger of Sumbiripa. Benson (1955a, 1955b) describes the general atmosphere among the Yega immediately after the eruption, and from his account one gathers that the Yega, like the Orokaiva tra­ditionalists, believed Sumbiripa was responsible, though he was credited with somewhat different motives. Kleekham is undoubt­edly right that the public execution of the so-called collaborators, conducted by the Australian army in a spectacular and rather gruesome manner, caused much resentment among the various tribes of the Northern District. The Yega cooperatives of the late 1940s, described in some detail by Dakeyne (1966) and discussed in Schwimmer (1969:86–89), were led by two Anglican clergy­men, Benson and Clint. They must therefore have believed that power would come to them through the intervention of the Chris­tian God. Though the precise significance they attached to the eruption is not known, the context suggests that they must have regarded it as a sign that supernatural forces were working in their favor or at any rate against their enemies.

The metalanguage used in the Yega explanation is that of a mil­lenarian cooperative cult, arising in response to what was regard­ed as oppression and commercial exploitation. The eruption estab­lished a rule that supernatural agencies punish white people who hang Papuans. In justification of the rule, there was again cogent empirical evidence. Most of the forty-five Australian victims of the 315eruption met their fate on the very same spot (Higaturu) where the executions took place some years earlier.

I include the Yega explanation in this study because it influ­enced the total regional communication system from which the Orokaiva derive their basic concepts. What is this regional sys­tem? It is certainly not a postcontact introduction, yet it has a very different significance now as compared to the last century.

Williams (1940, n.d.) shows that the external boundaries of the human race, as defined in Orokaiva myths, take in most of the population of the Northern District of Papua but do not extend be­yond the Northern District. Internal boundaries drawn in the myths separate this population into a number of mutually hostile language groups, each specializing in the production or supply of certain distinctive products. It was an integral part of Orokaiva social thought to hold that permanent peace was impossible be­tween the groups thus separated, although a truce was occasional­ly established and trade and intermarriage were regular occur­rences. In this respect, the Cargo Cults of the early postcontact period (the Baigona Cult in 1912 and the Taro Cult in 1914) marked a radical innovation. The chief social message, especially of the Taro Cult, was that villages and tribes hitherto divided by strife should be united in brotherhood. The cult taught that the traditional tribal boundaries should be disregarded and all Pa­puans of the region were one people. This idea started in the coastal region but soon spread from there to Orokaiva territory (see Chinnery and Haddon 1917; Williams 1928).

At the time of the eruption, the coastal people were again in­volved in a millennial movement, the Christian Cooperative, which was spreading throughout the Orokaiva tribes. While tribal boundaries were a source of anxiety in all the evacuation camps (though the anxiety was more acute among Sangara relocated on the coast than among Orokaiva relocated at Ilimo), the possibility of a further development of the Christian Cooperative was still open, and this would have involved general acceptance of the Yega explanation of the disaster.

Comparing the Orokaiva and Yega explanations, we note that the cause of the eruption in both cases is the anger of Sumbiripa, although the Yega explanation is not entirely explicit on this point. Furthermore, both explanations take a rather negative view of Eu­ropean power—one by ignoring it, the other by making it the ob­ject 316 of the wrath of the mountain. There are, however, two inter­esting differences. The first is that in the Orokaiva explanation we find an opposition between two tribes (Waseta innocent; Sangara guilty). In the Yega explanation we find an opposition between ethnic groups (Papuans of the Northern District innocent; Euro­peans guilty). This classing together of the Papuans of an entire region is a departure from traditional tribalism. It reflects an ideology aimed at maximizing indigenous power by the establish­ment of an intertribal regional coalition.

The second difference lies in the role of Sumbiripa (or whoever the angry deity was) in the two explanations. In the Orokaiva ver­sion, the transgression was against the sacred domain of Sum­biripa and thus of a familiar traditional type. In the Yega version, the punishing God assumes a strangely political role in taking the side of the Papuans against their enemies, the whites. The crime of the whites admittedly took place near the mountain, though not in the sacred domain. Sumbiripa was never, in any other context, de­scribed as a general defender or avenger in support of “his” peo­ple. Indeed he seems to be playing a somewhat Jehovah-like role in this tale. We are here in the sphere of the Cargo Cults or millennial movements rather than in that of traditional Melanesian religion.

Meanwhile no mention is made of the 3,500 Sangara who died in the disaster. This would have weakened the argument, for any reference to the Sangara victims might have suggested that they too were worthy of punishment. Though the Yega probably do think so, it would not have been expedient to say so when an inter­tribal alliance was contemplated. Here we are obviously closer to ideological rhetoric than to philosophical speculation.

The third explanation of the disaster is the one that has at­tracted the most attention by previous writers. Belshaw, who met Orokaiva survivors a few weeks after the eruption, records the fol­lowing observations (1951:242):

Some people said that this was God’s visitation because they had disobeyed the Bishop’s instructions to build new churches. Others said that God had punished them because they had not helped the Allies sufficiently during the war and because some of them betrayed mis­sionaries to the Japanese. [Others again mentioned] lack of coopera­tion in Mission and Government plans for development…. This sense of guilt is a most important factor in resettlement attitudes. 317

Keesing (1952:18) agrees with this summary, adding that the eruption resulted in “strong feelings of insecurity and even of guilt in their retrospective look at the pre-eruption way of life.”

A great deal of evidence supports Belshaw and Keesing in their suggestion that in 1951 the Orokaiva ascribed the eruption to the anger of the Christian God and thought they had brought this anger on themselves by various transgressions. Orokaiva in­formants reported that this view of the eruption was widely cur­rent at Ilimo evacuation camp. It is reflected in a song about the eruption which is still sung by Sivepe youth. This song declares the omnipotence of God and man’s absolute dependence on him. It also attests to a wholly Christian eschatology: the abode of the dead is Heaven, where the living will later meet their brothers who died in the eruption. The song admits the guilt of the dead (‘our brothers on earth had many temptations’), but the strongest em­phasis is on the suffering of the living through the loss of their ‘brothers’. Unlike Job, the singer is far too polite to contend with God and criticize his actions. He does not openly and clearly iden­tify God as the author of his sufferings, but God’s responsibility is subtly implied.

The rationale of this explanation is not obvious. Quite clearly those who believe that God and not Sumbiripa was responsible for the disaster have some belief in Christianity. In response to con­tact with the white man they have developed an ideology sup­porting the work of the missions. But how do they explain the eruption? It seems very clear that in 1951 many explained it as retribution for their lack of respect for the Christian God. But Orokaiva Christians interviewed in 1966 and 1967 rejected this explanation as resting on a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Father Albert, who composed the song referred to above, was one of those questioned. He said that many of those who died in the eruption were little children. He did not think God would punish the innocent along with the guilty. On the other hand, he did ascribe a divine purpose to the eruption. Father Albert said the Orokaiva used to have no idea of the end of the world; this notion was taught by Christianity. After the disaster the people discussed it a great deal: when they saw the sky darken and people dying from the blast, they thought the end of the world had come. God had shown them what the end would be like. In other words, 318Father Albert thought that God sent the eruption as a sign. Oro­kaiva Christians would generally agree with this view, though none of those interviewed formulated it so clearly.

From the viewpoint of this study, the question whether the Orokaiva considered the eruption as a punishment or as a sign is perhaps not a crucial one. In either case, whoever believes that God was responsible must also believe that a dire fate awaits anyone who fails in his obligations to the mission.

Comparing the three explanations surveyed so far, we note that the Christian explanation, like the Yega one and unlike the Waseta version, attached no significance to tribal divisions. God (like the Sumbiripa of the Yega) makes no distinction between tribes, but he does distinguish between the disobedient Papuans of the region and the administrators and missionaries these Papuans failed to obey. The former are guilty but not the latter.

Christian and Yega theories are opposed as to who is the guilty party. Indeed, the Christian explanation omits all reference to Eu­ropean deaths on the mountain, just as the Yega version sup­pressed the fact of the Sangara victims. The reason is no doubt the same: rhetoric demands that one should not in the same breath ad­vocate a coalition with the white power bearers and admit that the latter suffered many deaths in circumstances implying their guilt.

With regard to connotations, all three systems differentiate be­tween either tribes or ethnic groups that fell victim to the disaster, even though such differentiation is insignificant for explanatory purposes. If we use a minus sign to designate the social groups classed as guilty and a plus sign for the groups classed as innocent (though in fact the latter, too, suffered serious losses), we find:

      Explanation Waseta Sangara European          
  Waseta + omitted  
  Yega + +  
  Christian +  

I shall briefly mention a fourth system, though the explanation it contained was put forward by a small minority and was but feebly believed. Several Orokaiva close to the mission maintain nowa­days that the eruption was due solely to geophysical causes. The mission authorites put forward this explanation to counter criti­cism 319 from white planters and public servants that the church, by preaching that the eruption was due to God’s wrath, is pursuing obscurantist and reprehensible power politics. Orokaiva infor­mants who adopted the geophysical explanation said that before the eruption they did not know about volcanoes but have now learned from the white man that a volcano operates according to certain natural laws.15

There is no magico-religious Orokaiva metalanguage in which this explanation can be expressed. On the other hand, its conno­tation is clear. The explanation marks an informant as highly educated, free of superstition, and a good friend of the whites (including the anthropologist). The explanation connotes that magico-religious theories are old-fashioned and geophysical theo­ries are modern. It divides the social universe into old-fashioned people (whose views have become irrelevant) and modern people (who include the Europeans and a Papuan elite who befriend them). Such a division vitiates the regional unity envisaged by the Yega and Christian explanations.

The connotations of the four explanations I have presented can thus be expressed in a simple model based on two highly signifi­cant oppositions which arise in the macrosystem of the Northern District and in the changing system of ethnic boundary mainte­nance.16 The first opposition is between refusal and acceptance of a relation of positive reciprocity with Europeans. The second op­position is between tribalism and ideologies envisaging the unity of the Papuan tribes of the region.

Connotation Waseta Yega Christian Geophysical

Rejection (–)/acceptance (+) of Europeans

+ +

Absence (–)/presence (+) of regionalism

+ +


Our next task is to analyze the evidence for Orokaiva systems of thought in which notions like ‘the anger of Sumbiripa’ and ‘the anger of God’ become fully comprehensible. We shall soon find 320that instead of timeless constructs of primitive philosophers we are occupied with a series of historical events both before and after the eruption, all of which became signs much in the same way as the eruption; the explanation will take the form of the tracing of asso­ciations between these signs. There are, however, some stable prin­ciples governing these connections. We turn to these first.

I have argued elsewhere that the social structure of the Oro­kaiva is characterized by a weak patrilineality with small corpo­rate groups but that exchange transactions between these groups are, in many respects, highly structured (Schwimmer 1970a, n.d.). These exchanges follow rules which are justified by an elaborate system of thought arising out of the principle that gift making is the source of social potency and exchange is the measure of that potency. Such a system, by its very nature, makes no assumptions about the permanency of social associations, as it is only the suc­cess of exchange transactions that allows associations (outside the small corporate groups) to endure. Decisions about the upkeep of particular associations are of necessity determined by criteria of allocation. According to Orokaiva ideas, associations go through alternating periods of positive reciprocity (friendship) and nega­tive reciprocity (war). Whereas in Western thought permanence is considered normal and quarrels a deviation from the norm, the Orokaiva do not envisage either friendship or enmity as perma­nent states but rather as alternating temporary states.

The implication of this philosophy for social relations (and this includes Orokaiva-white relations) is that they never are what a Westerner would call “friendly” or “hostile.” It would be more correct to say that at any given time they may be going through a positive (friendly) or negative (hostile) cycle. Movements from positive to negative cycles tend to be gradual, since in the Oro­kaiva view social relations tend to deteriorate constantly, little by little, until they become hostile. On the other hand, movements from negative to positive cycles tend to be highly dramatic and ritualized—usually through reconciliation feasts and gifts. In rela­tions with Europeans, reconciliations are harder to effect since there is no commensality between the ethnic groups.

If it is natural for social relations to deteriorate constantly and gradually, it is still possible to decide that one will allow an association to deteriorate before one takes active steps to restore it. Such a choice is determined by many factors: intrinsic attraction 321felt toward the exchange partner, fear of the trouble he might cause, instrumental benefits he has to offer, the importance of the partner in the total exchange network, and so on.

Anger, in this Orokaiva philosophy, is a normal attitude toward a partner with whom one stands, for the time being, in a relation of negative reciprocity. An exchange of injuries takes place until peace is made by the offer of an appropriate gift and feast. The anger of Sumbiripa does not completely fall into this pattern be­cause here the exchange relationship is somewhat limited in scope. Sumbiripa’s gift to man is the safe confinement of the dead, whereas man’s gift is merely the avoidance of any disturbance of Sumbiripa’s mountain. Man mediates the relationship by sending his dead to Sumbiripa; Sumbiripa mediates it by emitting his usually innocuous rumbling. Before 1951, Sumbiripa was not known by Orokaiva to have ever erupted. Hunting on the moun­tain and similar infractions were believed to have broken the ex­change relationship and thus aroused Sumbiripa to a just reprisal.

Sumbiripa’s anger was righteous not only because he was a god. In the framework of Orokaiva thought, serious anger is normally regarded as righteous, at least among persons standing in a regu­lar exchange relationship. If anger expresses itself in verbal abuse or physical violence it is not serious, but it becomes so if mis­fortunes occur because of sorcery imputed to the person who is wronged. The successful magical expression of anger proves that anger to be well founded. A man may of course decide to use coun­termagic, and if that works the anger is no longer serious. If coun­termagic does not work, a man must be ready to acknowledge his fault and make reparations.

In such a dispute it is of course relevant which side has broken a rule, but the rules are most often debatable. In the end nothing is considered worse than to have made another person seriously an­gry. Prudence demands that seriously angry persons should be mollified, unless their kinship and physical distance is such that they can be defined as enemies. But even between enemies, a time comes when anger is shown by magical and other misfortunes to become inexpedient.

Self-accusation and self-inflicted injury are a regular part of this system. In order to make peace a person must define himself as the transgressor (Schwimmer 1970a, n.d.), as the Papuans did in the ‘anger of God’ explanation. Self-injury is a regular strategic 322weapon, since the person who cuts down his own tree to injure himself shows anger about a hostile act perpetrated by some un­named person. He thus makes a claim for community sympathy and possible restitution (Williams 1940). Self-accusation is a form of self-injury and therefore at once places an obligation on the suf­ferer of the supposed original injury. In this sense an acknowledg­ment of guilt by Orokaiva would place some obligation on Sum­biripa or God to forgive them. Thus we can never ignore the transactional element in what is manifestly a sincere state of con­trition.

It is far more complicated to explain the anger of the Christian God, and people’s belief in it, than to explain the anger of Sum­biripa. At the time of the eruption, few Orokaiva had been bap­tized, whereas it was precisely in Sangara territory that the mis­sion was well established and had many adherents. Most of the persons who thought they had been punished by God were actual­ly still pagan, which strictly should have put them out of reach of his wrath. We need to reconstruct as best we can what kind of ex­change relationship was deemed to exist in 1951.

We can appraise this only if we consider briefly the total system of relationships of the Orokaiva within the colonial macrosystem, namely the social unit comprising Orokaiva, mission, govern­ment, and traders. Theories about the punishment of God referred not only to Orokaiva neglect of the mission but also neglect of in­structions and advice given by the government. The traders were never mentioned.

One common characteristic of government and mission is that both institutions believe they are the Papuans’ benefactors and say so on many occasions. In particular, it is on these supposed bene­fits that they base any moral claims they make on the Orokaiva. When the eruption occurred it was therefore reasonable, from the Orokaiva viewpoint, to conclude that their slowness in satisfying the claims of government and mission had aroused in them great anger and that God, who manifestly was looking after the white authorities, acted as agent of the punishment.

In exchange relations it is a fixed policy to satisfy the claims of important partners first and be much slower about the others. The fact that the whites, in spite of their immense wealth, had a fairly low partnership ranking is not difficult to explain. If we glance at the kind of interaction typical of the years 1900 to 1950, we find 323that the European exchange partner did not have a great deal to offer the Orokaiva, because not even money was essential. Con­versely, the fear of the trouble the white man might cause was not so great as one might suppose. Certainly, there were horrifying stories about what the white man might do if angered, but the Orokaiva had since learned some simple rules telling them how such anger could be most conveniently evaded.

Until World War II, the relationship between the Orokaiva and the government followed this general pattern almost entirely. The government made the regulations and the Orokaiva did the un­avoidable minimum. World War II began to change the pattern of this partnership. Australian and American soldiers moved into the Northern District to drive out the Japanese. They camped in the bush, they shared their food with the Orokaiva, they accepted Orokaiva hospitality, they generously distributed what supplies they had to spare. The white soldier, unlike the civilian, lived in a style much closer to what the Orokaiva consider human. He laughed and joked in the presence of the Orokaiva; he put on no colonial pretense.

After the war, the Australian government changed its policy in the territory, suppressing corporal punishment of employees, em­phasizing economic development in the villages, improving schooling, introducing local self-government on a limited scale (and later political representation in the House of Assembly), offer­ing Papuans jobs of some responsibility, and discontinuing the type of village policing that made all reforms dependent on the en­forcement of regulations. The village constables, whose job was in practice confined to reporting infractions of the regulations, were replaced by elected officials (local government councillors) who are indoctrinators rather than policemen. They harangue the peo­ple with a diffuse message covering a wide area of social and eco­nomic development. They seek to secure acceptance for new ideas, so that people will genuinely believe in the usefulness of changes they are making.

When I visited the Orokaiva in 1966–1967, I found a great deal of ideological discussion, the key concept being iji eha (‘the new day, the new age’)—a new way of life based on the economics of coffee growing and wage earning, the social amenities of improv­ed villages, school education, Christianity, avoidance of violence, and, generally, cooperation with the mission and administration. I 324was amazed to see how closely the councillors’ harangues and other speechmaking in the villages corresponded to official poli­cies. Many of the advocated ideas were not being put into prac­tice, but generally the transition seemed rather smooth. There were conflicts between the Orokaiva and their mentors, in some instances irreconcilable ones, but it seemed that consideration of these conflicts was being deferred because there was evidence of steady improvement, as long as coffee prices would only keep rising.

Informants, when asked when the ‘new age’ had started, all re­plied that it was after the Japanese were driven out. The eruption was never mentioned as the beginning of the ‘new age’. It was after the war that the money economy became important and men began to take jobs outside the village for protracted periods. It was then that money became a necessary part of bridewealth so that, as an initiatory ritual, every young man had to have earned some. It was after the war that village improvement started seriously, as the history of individual Orokaiva villages shows.

The eruption of Mount Lamington in 1951 came a few years after these beginnings, at a time when the impact of money was not yet great, though the government and mission had had time to communicate the new order they sought to establish and to press for changes the Orokaiva were not too ready to accept. The erup­tion strengthened the message. On the transactional level, there was the large-scale help offered by the Europeans after the erup­tion. This was done in the most dramatic way possible, by planes dropping their riches in great abundance shortly after the disaster. Certainly such a massive display of concern in a moment of need did much to enhance the image of Europeans as desirable ex­change partners. This display was followed by the organization of the camps and by the widespread introduction, especially at Ilimo Camp, of activities that were symbolic of the ‘new age’.

Daily church services were conducted, all children were given regular schooling, adults were educated in a number of new agri­cultural and technical skills, good medical services were provided, and regular food and clothing distributions continued. New ideas on housing, village layouts, and women’s handicrafts, lectures on how trade goods are manufactured in Australia, the presence of a strong development-oriented and numerous European staff—all these elements must have amazed the Orokaiva villager of 1951, 325whose contact with this aspect of European culture heretofore had been rather slight. The impact of these intensive programs should not be overestimated, however. For people whose world had been shattered by disaster and relocation, adult education was, ac­cording to administrators involved in the program, hardly a major concern. Belshaw (1951) expressed the view that the villagers would agree to almost any reform in their villages, as long as they would be allowed to leave Ilimo quickly and return to their land.

Nonetheless, the terms of the exchange relationship between administration and mission on the one hand and the Orokaiva on the other had become a great deal clearer and more profound. The Australians had made gifts and had stated what they wanted from the Orokaiva in detailed, explicit terms. Furthermore, this had been done under the shadow of a calamity which was interpreted by the mission as a sign of God, if not God’s punishment, indicat­ing the dangers of not satisfying the Orokaiva’s new exchange partners.

The administration has leveled much criticism against the mis­sion for promulgating the theory that the eruption was a visitation of the wrath of God. Numerous instances are quoted of ecclesiasti­cal blackmail: the bishop allegedly threatened to blow up the mountain a second time unless he was obeyed. The bishop denies these allegations and claims to have discouraged the belief that the eruption was a divine punishment of the (largely unbaptized) Orokaiva. He said it was the Orokaiva themselves who had this idea of retribution.

To explain the Orokaiva idea of the anger of God found in the preceding pages, I have brought together a somewhat haphazard collection of signs which make no sense if arranged in a synchron­ic pattern. They are a sequence of transactions which took place within the colonial macrosystem and were selected on no other grounds than that they were commonly invoked by Orokaiva in discourse about the ‘new age’. Soldiers on punitive expeditions, physical punishment at the plantations, the warm exchange rela­tions with Allied troops, the local government councils viewed as a gift from the whites to the Papuans—all these are random selec­tions from history and owe their place in the analysis of the meta­language to the fact that the Orokaiva commonly used them to signify the opposition ‘old order/new age’.

Earlier in this section, I explained the idea of the ‘anger of Sum­biripa’ 326 in terms of a simple transactional sequence. The ‘anger of God’ can be similarly explained, though here the sequence is more complex. As a general device for constructing metalanguages, transactional sequences are of course wholly inadequate. I have, however, indicated that in the Orokaiva cognitive system God is classified as an exchange partner (though more powerful than all other possible partners).

The eruption thus becomes one of a sequence of signs which ex­press the development of the exchange partnership with God. Sim­ilarly, in other explanatory systems, the eruption becomes part of a sequence of exchanges with Sumbiripa. It follows from this argu­ment that the eruption changed the relationship with God or Sum­biripa, in the sense that a sign of such magnitude provoked a response. While the sign may have existed as such only in the minds of the Orokaiva, the response was on the level of real social, economic, political, and religious behavior. The general form of Orokaiva metalanguages, as exemplified in the case of the erup­tion, is sketched in figure 1.


We have now surveyed the four explanations given of the eruption of Mount Lamington. In my discussion of the denotative systems, I concentrated on two of them: the anger of Sumbiripa and the anger of God. I did not specifically discuss the geophysical expla­nation because it was too summary for analysis, nor did I analyze the Yega explanation further because of the uncertainty about the agent of vengeance. We have seen that the four explanations were, in each case, not only a psychological response to calamity and a philosophical exercise but also expressed ideologies essentially un­connected with the eruption and that, in this respect, discourse about the eruption was actually rhetoric used to express the ideology.

The coexistence of four such ideologies in the same society poses obvious questions about their interrelations. Were they held by separate groups who did not communicate? Did they reflect divi­sions within the society? Furthermore, a formal problem arises: as these four explanatory systems all arise in one, fairly homogeneous society, are they in a sense cognate and do they display features of homology? On the basis of Orokaiva data, it may be possible to 327construct a higher-level system which accounts for all the explana­tions taken together.

Let us first survey the relationships between the explanatory systems on the social level. They do not logically contradict one another: they can be and are held simultaneously by the same peo­ple. There is no need to believe that the eruption was caused either by God or by Sumbiripa nor that the intended victims were either Orokaiva or Europeans. My informants did not seem to view God and Sumbiripa as wholly distinct. Whether one ascribed the erup­tion to one or the other depended on the context of the discourse. Most Orokaiva do connect the death of European public servants and army personnel at Higaturu with the hangings that occurred after the war. They believe that these Europeans acted wrongly and that God punished them. But at the same time they believe that the eruption was a sign of God’s anger toward the Orokaiva who had not followed the laws of the Church of England.

One cannot, therefore, gauge the relative strength of the three ideologies by counting what proportion of a sample of Orokaiva informants subscribes to one or another of the three explanations. One can, however, evaluate the general effect of each of the three ideologies. The belief that Sumbiripa caused the eruption had only the mildest historical consequences—merely the reinforcement of a hunting taboo. The belief that the mountain erupted to punish Europeans might have become historically important if the mysti­cal Yega cooperative movement had grown to a major millennial cult, but this did not happen. In fact, the Yega cooperatives went into a decline after 1951, owing to crop failure, the departure of its advisors, and governmental opposition in the form of economic and legal obstacles.

None of these reasons would have sufficed to kill the movement had there been, in the 1950s, a strong opposition to the adminis­tration of the Northern District. There is, however, no evidence of this. On the contrary there was, between 1951 and 1967, steadily increasing support for the ideologies advocated by government and mission. In this context the theory blaming the eruption on previous noncooperation by Orokaiva obtains some historical sig­nificance. It would be absurd to suggest that the increased support can actually be explained by the existence of the Orokaiva theory about the eruption. On the other hand, this support is now un­doubtedly more powerfully motivated than if the eruption had never occurred. The vast increase in the number of baptisms in­dicates a significant development in the pattern of transactions in the exchange relations with the new god. 328

Figure 1 Example of Orokaiva Explanation of Anger of God


The effect should not, however, be overestimated, as the en­vironment and the socioeconomic situation did not change signifi­cantly immediately after the eruption. No socioeconomic trans­formation occurred because of the eruption or the belief that the eruption itself was divine retribution for noncooperation with the government. On the other hand, significant social, political, and economic changes did happen within ten years or so of the erup­tion; and when these changes occurred, they were interpreted in a manner consistent with the Christian explanation of the eruption.

Let us now consider the relationship between the various ex­planations on the religiophilosophical level. Perhaps the best starting point for our analysis is our apperception that the three religious explanations have to do with political strategies—that is, with the maximization of power. It may be enlightening to look at these strategies in terms of the Orokaiva’s own general ideas about power. The Orokaiva word for ‘power’ is ivo, a mana-like concept envisaging ‘power’ as derived from spirits and bringing success in difficult ventures by overcoming misfortune, obstacles, and ene­mies. Misfortunes are explained by ‘power’ coming from a hostile source—for instance, from one’s human or spirit exchange partner during a cycle of negative reciprocity.

The first of these three explanations postulates the existence of a negative exchange cycle with Sumbiripa, so that the people’s ‘power’ depends on placating Sumbiripa and avoiding his anger in the future. The second explanation postulates that, in fact, the disaster was a restoration of the ‘power’ of the Papuans, as it punished Europeans who hanged Orokaiva ambushers. The third explanation, however, raises some difficulties. The restoration of ‘power’ here seems to depend on obedience which must be shown to the mission and the government.

This question of obedience is perhaps more one of degree than of essence. Students of religion (such as van der Leeuw 1938) dis­tinguish between relations of “manipulation” and “obedience” which may exist between man and the gods. In this sense the rela­tions with Orokaiva deities, including Sumbiripa, would tend to be manipulative. On the other hand, the relationship with the Christian deity involves far greater and far more diffuse demands, 331so that the room for manipulation becomes greatly reduced. Fur­thermore, the church teaches a doctrine of obedience, which the Orokaiva nominally accept.

Taken at its face value, this would imply that the Orokaiva are satisfied to subordinate themselves to mission and government and do not consider themselves capable of serious competition with white authority. Such a notion of ‘power’—that is, that it depends on obedience to white foreigners—has no rational basis in Oro­kaiva thought, since the bearer of ‘power’ cannot be subordinate to human power but only to spirit power. There are thus only two reasonable possibilities: either the ideology which made the erup­tion into a punishment by the Christian God denies the possibility that the Orokaiva henceforth can have ‘power’, or that ideology must make some distinction between, on the one hand, God and the principle of rightful authority (which should be obeyed on the pain of dire penalties) and, on the other hand, the existing ec­clesiastical and political power bearers (who need not be regarded as having perpetual rightful authority). The position taken by Orokaiva informants on this question is not in the least ambig­uous.

The Orokaiva are willing to obey the present power bearers, but only on the ground that they feel unready at present to assume power themselves. They regard the existing relationship as tem­porary. They are able to state this openly, since the Australian ad­ministration claims to prepare the way for early autonomy and optional independence. On the surface, there appears to be no acute political conflict.

In fact, however, the ‘new age’ ideology is fiercely competitive. The activities it advocates are perceived by Orokaiva as leading to a balance of power between the Europeans and themselves. The strong interest in schooling, savings clubs, coffee production, vil­lage improvement, wage labor, and so forth was explained time and again by the argument that these activities would ultimately place Papuans on the same level as Europeans and would remove the power differential. It was explained that in the ‘new age’ one no longer kills and eats the enemy because victory must now be achieved by different means. The reforms advocated by mission and government are perceived as the first weapons in the armory needed for victory. Victory, however, should not be understood here in the European sense, where it implies a permanent defeat of 332the enemy, but rather in the Papuan sense, where one contends with exchange partners in an inconclusive tug-of-war and the strength of the opponents is approximately equal. Victory, in other words, is the establishment of an equal rather than an unequal relationship.

Given this view of the European-Orokaiva relationship, it is difficult to distinguish between millenarian and gradualist ideolo­gies among the Orokaiva. They are all, in a sense, millenarian, even though they advocate full collaboration with both mission and government. From the more objective view I have taken here, the three Orokaiva ideologies present at the time of the eruption all convey the same message. They are all concerned with the res­toration of what the Orokaiva call ‘power’, which always implies some form of power balance between themselves and their colo­nial masters.


As we have seen, all Orokaiva discourse about the eruption can be reduced to one basic theme: competition for power between Pa­puans and Europeans. I have not surveyed administration dis­course about the eruption in the same detail, but it is safe to say that, apart from the mechanics of relief, the administration was likewise concerned with one central ideological theme, namely so­cioeconomic development. Our structural analysis would hardly be adequate unless we considered the relation between these two ideologies, not only in abstract terms but also in the framework of concrete events.

During the period immediately after the disaster, the ad­ministration planned to make the evacuation camps the beginning of permanent relocation under conditions where socioeconomic development throughout the region could be accelerated (Belshaw 1951; Keesing 1952; Plant 1951). While this relocation was being planned, the evacuees were adamant that they wished to go home as soon as possible (Belshaw 1951; Kaad, personal communica­tion). That the administration gave in to the evacuees should not be regarded as a Papuan demonstration of their own power but rather as a necessary response to practical problems facing Oro­kaiva as swidden agriculturists lacking a secure system of individ­ual, unencumbered landholding. The circumstances of the closing 333of the evacuation camp provide an interesting case study in the relation between administration and Papuan ideologies.

Several frightening explosions and floods occurred in February and early March 1951. These vindicated the administration’s re­stricted area policy, which kept the mountain slopes out of bounds. But after the period of acute volcanic phenomena was over, Orokaiva pressure on Mr. Kaad, administrator of the Ilimo Camp, grew steadily. The opening up of restricted areas began as early as April 1951, so that the population of Ilimo began to decline sharply in that month—from 2,000 to about 1,000. It declined to 500 before the camp was closed in May. Although the speed of resettlement did not actually conflict with administration policy, Kaad freely admits that the pace was forced by Orokaiva pressure.

This speedy return to the land was prompted largely by fears which rapidly began to overshadow the Sasembata villagers’ fear of the mountain. In part, these fears were religious. Separation from the land meant separation from ancestral spirits who were left altogether untended when the whole community lost access to the land. Proper birth rites and ritual care for infants became im­possible, as was ritual care for the dead, for both must be per­formed on the taro field associated with certain deceased consan­guines. On the sociojural level, the migration of an entire agnatic group was dangerous since it could activate residual rights over land which were held by other agnatic groups.

It is likely that the same anguish about separation from the land would have been felt by most swidden agriculturists in the same circumstances. Such anguish cannot be fully explained by the reli­gious and jural system prevailing in one culture alone. My purpose in this chapter, however, is more limited. It is to relate Orokaiva ideas about the eruption to Orokaiva ideas about land and spatial movement.

These ideas are part of the structural patterns to which I re­ferred above: the weakness of corporate groups and the emphasis on the exchange system (see also Rimoldi 1966; Schwimmer 1970a, n.d.). At least half the land in Sivepe and nearly all the land in Inonda is occupied by persons other than the agnatic cor­poration acknowledged to be the “original” owners. Occupation of such land arises mainly out of use rights granted by these own­ers to nonagnates. In practice such use rights often become heredi­tary 334 within the user’s agnatic group. Although the use rights were, at first, mostly granted as an act of friendship, occupation may continue even when positive reciprocity is no longer well main­tained between owner and user and the owner would like to find pretexts for recovering the land.

It is a clear rule that land reverts to the owner as part of his residual rights as soon as the user ceases to occupy it. Hence departure, even by individuals, at once raises a problem of main­taining control over use-right land. An individual does not leave his land for more than a few days without appointing some person to look after it. This person may be an agnatic or uterine kinsman or an affine whose wife is consanguine to owner or user. Men tak­ing jobs outside the village regularly resort to the appointment of a caretaker for their land. This practice has not only ritual but also legal implications. The caretaker will fight other claims to the land, if only because he himself has become the occupier and the legal beneficiary of its products. If the original occupier stays away too long and his social position in the village is not strong, he may have trouble recovering his land from the caretaker upon his return. This is a risk arising in many cases of labor migration, ux­orilocal marriage, adoption, or departures prompted by personal conflicts.

Interviews I conducted in 1966 and 1967 showed that the evacuees at Ilimo were extremely fearful for the safety of their land. The danger they feared most was the activating of residual rights by persons whose agnatic group had at one time been asso­ciated with their land.17 Community relocation, by its very nature, leaves nobody behind to look after the land. It thus creates a legal vacuum that is ordinarily absent in migrations of individuals and small groups. Any individual who sneaked out of Ilimo and settled on a coveted piece of land to which he had some residual rights would be hard to dislodge under the conditions of Pax Australiana because the Australians, so far, have been able to maintain law and order without the benefit of land registration.

The fears about losing the land which explain much of the ten­sion at Ilimo Camp are a direct consequence of conflicts implicit in Orokaiva social structure. The institution of land borrowing, the retention of residual rights over several generations, and the consequent multiplicity of rights and claims over land parcels are directly related to the small size of corporate groups and the 335dependence on the exchange system for the creation of larger soli­darity networks. In a culture where warfare was endemic, these larger networks were indispensable in order for the traditional land tenure system, with its emphasis on multiple rights, to be so­cially adaptive under precontact conditions.

The ‘new age’ ideology, as expounded in 1966–1967, does not ignore these basic conflicts but incorporates them in the notion that multiple ownership belongs to the ‘past age’ whereas sole ten­ure is the modern ideal. There is strong support today for adminis­tration moves to establish a system of sole titles and to abolish the institution of multiple rights. Cash cropping has emphasized the need for such a change. In practice most Orokaiva today plant cash crops on patrimony land rather than on land on which there are invocable claims of residual rights.18

The movement toward individual landholding did not start in the Northern District until the mid-1950s, when there was a gov­ernment-inspired attempt to have landholding titles issued by the Higaturu Local Government Council (see Crocombe and Hogbin 1963). I am not aware of any organized attempt to reform the system of Orokaiva land titles at or before the time of the eruption of Mount Lamington. If such reform is being introduced into the ‘new age’ ideology today, this must be credited to indoctrination mediated through members of the local government council.

We have seen that, at Ilimo, the traditional land tenure system was the basic cause of a conflict which strongly affected the course of the administration’s resettlement policy. The officer in charge of the camp perceived two main purposes: to keep the peo­ple safe from the volcano and to rehabilitate them afterward in villages which would have a more modern life-style. As we have seen, the Orokaiva accepted both these objectives as desirable and benevolent. On the other hand, there was a difference in the im­portance that Orokaiva and administration attached to an early return to the home villages. The administration might have pre­ferred a longer period of evacuation for the sake of safety from the volcano and also for the sake of its program of community educa­tion. They met, however, with a restlessness which made them hasten the disbanding of the camp. The same restlessness induced the Orokaiva to agree quickly to some programs of resettlement, not because these programs appealed to them very much but be­cause agreement would hasten their return to the land. European 336administrators, accustomed to secure forms of land tenure in their own culture, could not fully share the Orokaiva anxiety about los­ing their land.

This conflict between people and administration was settled amicably. It did, however, emphasize the fundamental difference between Orokaiva and European perceptions of the crisis. For the Orokaiva, it was the relatives—the holders of residual rights to land—who were viewed as the greatest danger, whereas the volcano was soon considered less dangerous. For the European, the relatives were not perceived as dangerous, as it was imagined they could somehow be controlled by the legal weapons available to centralized government. On the other hand, the danger of the volcano was viewed far more gravely, for the Europeans knew of no way to control future eruptions.

Both sides had a strong case in this disagreement. The Orokaiva had a strong case because the Europeans had no institutions that could have protected them against encroachments on their land. There was (and is) no adequate registry. The administration’s case rested on its logical consistency with the development ideology it was trying to inculcate. The traditional Orokaiva land tenure system is incompatible with development because it impedes spatial movement and the traditional extended exchange network lacks the flexibility of a market system. Modernization depends on the creation of large corporate groups with well-defined systems of rights and obligations, instead of the subtle but essentially unstable web of warfare, diplomacy, affinity, and friendship. The ‘new age’ ideology of 1951, though fortified by the experience of the eruption, did not envisage modernization in this basic sense, while in 1966–1967 the implications of the ‘new age’ for land tenure and the kinship system were just being discovered.

This analysis of the ‘new age’ ideology indicates that it is related only loosely to social and economic development. It arises directly out of political competition between the Orokaiva, the mission, and the government. Whenever new techniques appear to the Orokaiva to serve this power struggle, their adoption is ad­vocated. We have seen that a traumatic event such as the eruption of Mount Lamington, when it became the subject of Orokaiva philosophizing, was at once put at the service of this competitive struggle. Even when obedience to ecclesiastical and administra­tive rules is advocated by the ideology—and when the dire conse­quences 337 of disobedience are stressed by the ideology—such an at­titude is viewed by Orokaiva not as part of a permanent new order but as a temporary expedient, a ploy in the power struggle.

Reform is advocated in terms of such strategy. Over the last fif­teen years we have seen that the Orokaiva have begun to accept the idea of converting land titles to sole tenure, as well as the in­evitable consequences of such conversion for kinship organiza­tion. Such changes are explained in ideological terms as a neces­sary part of the competitive struggle against Europeans. The fact that Europeans view the same move as serving the cause of social and economic development is almost a coincidence.

Perhaps the most important practical conclusion we can draw about the genesis of cognitive structures has to do with the nature of power competition between Orokaiva and the administration. It is often supposed that development and political competition are separate processes in conflict with one another. The case in question shows that the Orokaiva view both aspects as part of an ongoing exchange relationship. It will have been noticed that in political debate Papuans, especially those in the villages, are reluc­tant to seek immediate political independence from Australia, even though tensions clearly exist. The point here is that they like to see the exchange relationships with their Australian partners continue, even though they wish to improve greatly their own po­sition in that relationship. It may be, of course, that this attitude will change later. In the exchange relationship their own very con­siderable prestation is their subordination to foreign authority. In return they are receiving educational benefits which they value highly—not, fundamentally, because these benefits increase their private incomes but rather because they maximize Orokaiva pow­er in the exchange relationship.

In addition, the material presented here may have theoretical implications with regard to the genesis and dynamics of cognitive structures. We must distinguish here between macro- and micro­processes. For the purpose of the discussion, I have assumed that the Orokaiva world view, with its notions of exchange and power, remained unchanged between 1951 and 1966. This assumption was convenient for the analysis, but it must be qualified. In 1966 I was given geophysical explanations of the eruption as well as magico-religious ones, and the former (though feebly held by a small elite) do prefigure a basic structural change in the Orokaiva 338cognitive system. For the most part, however, I was concerned with microprocesses, such as the simultaneous development of ex­planatory systems based respectively on a tribal, Cargo Cult, and church-administration ideology. None of these ideologies was generated by the eruption, but the eruption was treated as a sign within the context of each of these ideologies, with a different in­terpretation in each case.

The eruption became a sign because it took its place in a series of ongoing transactions with supernatural beings. As such it had the effect of changing the relationships with these beings in regard to both duties and expectations. The eruption differed from other such signs mainly by its cataclysmic character and its unequivocal demonstration of power. The fact that different interpretations evolved is not an accident but mirrors an ongoing debate within the society. The evidence suggests that cognitive structures do not change by a process of unilineal development but by a process of internal differentiation opening up a dialectic between ideologies opposed to one another along the axes of basic social conflicts. In the Orokaiva case these axes were tribalism/regionalism and denial/acceptance of the partnership with European power. If op­position exists along these two axes, four systems are theoretically possible—namely, tribalism + denial, tribalism + acceptance, regionalism + denial, and regionalism + acceptance. As we have seen, each of these four combinations was found in actuality. The four Orokaiva theories thus form a well-structured whole, and together they express contemporary Orokaiva social reality. The structural changes that were taking place in the period 1951 to 1966 did not come out overtly in discourse but had been recog­nized and given meaning in terms of the ideologies in 1966.


I acknowledge with gratitude financial help received from the Displaced Com­munities Project, the Canada Council, and the Killam Foundation in the preparation of this chapter. I thank Michael Lieber for his valuable comments on the original draft, which stimulated me to clarify and expand my arguments, and Sandra Wallman for her comments and criticisms. My wife, Ziska Schwimmer, gave valuable assistance in the interviewing of female informants in the sample communities. This chapter was written before independence for New Guinea became a reality. 339

1. In the Mount Lamington case, the institutional approach would produce results somewhat similar to Lessa’s in his excellent paper “The Social Effects of Typhoon Ophelia (1960) on Ulithi” (1964). The major innovations over the last thirty years were due not to the eruption but to the Japanese invasion, the subsequent expulsion of the Japanese by Allied forces, the introduction of large-scale cash cropping, increased urban migration, and the development of officially supported indigenous political institutions.
    The exchange theory approach of Blau and Barth has been followed to some extent in the present essay, but as Garbett (170:225) remarks in the essay already referred to: “Unless one wants to treat situations as simply an­other kind of ‘small group’ in an extra-laboratory setting for the testing of propositions from exchange theory, one’s findings have to be related to, and set in, a wider context presumably studied by other methods.”

2. For semiological discussion on the Road Code, see Lévi-Strauss (1958:chap. 5) and Leach (1970:chap. 2).

3. As an illustration of connotative systems, Barthes (1964a) analyzes a full-color advertisement for grated cheese, spaghetti, and tomato paste and shows that the items in the picture are so displayed as to connote all the delights of a carefree life in sunny Italy where foods are sweet, fresh, unadul­terated, and perfect in appearance.

4. The relationship between signifier and signified suggested here may not be peculiar to “the savage mind” but universal, as is suggested by Lacan (1966: 493–528).

5. One of the first useful studies of regional colonial macrosystems known to me in New Guinea ethnography is Burridge (1960), which indicates clearly the modalities of conflict and alliance in the Papuan-administration-mission­ary triangle. Extremely important also is Fredrik Barth’s work on polyethnic systems (1969) and on forms of regional organization in New Guinea (1971).

6. The term “Pelean eruption” is applied to the type that occurred at Mount Pelée (St. Pierre, Martinique) in 1902. A large mass of ash is projected rapid­ly into the stratosphere to form an expanding mushroom-shaped cloud. The base of the column begins to expand rapidly as clouds of incandescent ash (the nuée ardente) avalanche down the slopes. The nuée ardente is lethal because of sudden damage to the respiratory system caused by inhaling hot (200°F) dust.

7. The reports written by these two scholars (Belshaw 1951; Keesing 1952) led to the inclusion of the case of the Mount Lamington Orokaiva in the project directed by H. G. Barnett and entitled “A Comparative Study of Cultural Change and Stability in Displaced Communities” (1961).

8. Here and throughout this essay I use the term “structure” in the sense of Lévi-Strauss (1958:chap. 15).

9. I have used British terminology in most of this essay as it seems hazardous to adopt American terms in a British-French conceptual framework. Where I use clan, American anthrolopologists would usually write “sib.” The term “local clan group” refers to a coresident segment of a dispersed clan (or sib). A full discussion may be found in Schwimmer (1970a). 340

10. Compare this with the school at Sasembata, which teaches to grade six.

11. A small band of Orokaiva captured European fugitives, including male and female missionaries, and handed them over to the Japanese. The members of this band came from the area east of Mount Lamington inhabited by what Williams called the Sauaha tribe.

12. Though the Sumbiripa cycle of myths was not noted by Williams, I feel con­fident it existed prior to 1951, partly on evidence given in Schwimmer (1969) and partly on the evidence of a myth recorded in Belshaw (1951).

13. For sources on Orokaiva leadership, see Reay (1953) and Schwimmer (1967).

14. The term “Waseta tribe” used by Williams is perhaps unfortunate, as I demonstrated elsewhere (Schwimmer 1969:49–53). It is used here for the sake of convenience to group together the people from the Waseta area, all of whom were quartered at Ilimo evacuation camp. The name “Waseta” is not used as a tribal name by Orokaiva; it denotes no more than the village where Williams happened to do his fieldwork.

15. See also Waddell and Krinks (1968:16, fn. 3). In the final section of this chapter, I argue that the geophysical explanation is important for anthropo­logical analysis, since it foreshadows structural change in the Orokaiva cognitive system.

16. These two oppositions are, as I understand it, singled out for detailed study in most of the chapters in this comparative volume. Unfortunately, a more detailed discussion is impossible in this chapter. Transactions between gov­ernment and people during the relocation process have been described fully in Schwimmer (1969), including the massive administration intervention in the evacuation camps, the changes of location of government and mission centers after the eruption, and the gradual widening of the scope of govern­ment and mission activities. In my earlier report, I also referred in detail to the manner in which the relation between whites and Papuans is mediated by Papuan mission teachers, village constables, and other functionaries. On an ideological level the entire ‘new age’ rhetoric discussed in this chapter may be regarded as a form of mediation between microsystem and macro­system.
    With regard to boundary maintenance, empirical evidence is available in my earlier report about the relations between the evacuees and the people among whom they lived. At Ilimo something akin to traditional friendly host-guest relations were established. I stress in the present essay the am­biguity of the boundary maintenance patterns. There is an ideology ad­vocating unity and there is increasing evidence of common action, especially in the context of formal organizations set up under the influence of ad­ministration and mission, while individual webs of intertribal relationships tend to become denser as a result of migration associated with schooling, employment, and so forth. At the same time, tribalism is still the underlying principle in most transactional contexts.

17. This does not contradict my earlier statement (1969:66) that there was a brief period when the evacuees feared the government would take their land. Kaad reported to me that this fear existed, and I do not doubt it. In 3411966–1967, however, this fear was not mentioned to me by informants, whereas I often heard of their worries about the danger that relatives from other villages might take their land, goods, and chattels.

18. On the average, an Orokaiva derives approximately half his land from patri­lineal inheritance. In accordance with British terminology, I have called this “patrimony land.” The other half comes from a variety of sources, mostly from uterine kin.

Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Creative Commons
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.