Inventing traditions and remembering the past in Manus

Otto, Ton (2011) Inventing traditions and remembering the past in Manus. In: Hermann, Elfriede, (ed.) Changing Contexts, Shifting Meanings: transformations of cultural traditions in Oceania. University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, USA, pp. 157-173.

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[Extract] Societies remember the past in many different ways. There are historical narratives of various kinds, which keep track of past events that are relevant for the keepers of the histories (for example, descent groups, church groups, religious movements, political units). The past is also remembered in the passing on of ritual practices, social customs, practical knowledge, and material products. Traditions are forms of historical knowledge that elaborate on social practices and that are consciously orchestrated (e.g., as ceremonies or learning situations). A special kind of traditions put weight on an assumed continuity with the past. In Melanesia these traditions are often referred to as kastam or kastamwok.

The regional focus of my presentation is Manus, in Papua New Guinea, where kastam ceremonies have become an important arena for social action, during which historical memory is negotiated. I will argue that kastam as an indigenous field of action with reference to the past first originated in the 1960s as a result of "inventions" by a number of local leaders. This invention of tradition has to be seen against the background of the massive abolishment of indigenous ceremonies by the Paliau Movement in the 1950s, which thereby introduced the concept of tradition (as a negative category). The reintroduction of "traditional" ceremonies raises questions about social agency and the use of various forms of historical memories in the context of colonial and postcolonial modernity.

Item ID: 19157
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-8248-3366-4
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2012 02:30
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950306 Conserving Pacific Peoples Heritage @ 100%
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