Great ancestral women: sexuality, gendered mobility, and HIV among the Bamu and Gogodala of Papua New Guinea

Wood, Michael, and Dundon, Alison (2014) Great ancestral women: sexuality, gendered mobility, and HIV among the Bamu and Gogodala of Papua New Guinea. Oceania, 84 (2). pp. 185-201.

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Faced with a potentially devastating epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea (PNG), sexuality and mobility have become a focus of national research and prevention programs. In Gogodala and Bamu communities in the Western Province, gendered mobility and sexuality intersect with ancestral narratives that form part of a wider series of Hero Tales found in the southern regions of PNG and Irian Jaya. In this paper we highlight the way these stories detail the travels and activities of female ancestors – known as Sagalu among the Bamui and Sawiya among the Gogodala. We outline the way such ancestral figures are now linked to understandings of contemporary STIs such HIV/AIDS as well as gendered mobility and sexuality more generally. Among the Bamu such links are sometimes directly asserted, with Sagalu represented as the origin if not cause of a uniquely defined variant of HIV/AIDS. Among the Gogodala, however, HIV/AIDS is predominantly understood as something external to the Gogodala and unrelated to ancestors like Sawiya. To explain this difference we note that, historically, Gogodala women have been less mobile and less transactable than their Bamu counterparts who have continued to enact unique understandings of the intersection of heterosexual marriage, gendered mobility, and illness. We argue that the mobility and sexuality of gendered ancestors is salient to understanding these contemporary enactments and their potential implications in light of the HIV epidemic in PNG.

Item ID: 37174
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1834-4461
Keywords: ancestral women, gendered mobility, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, Papua New Guinea
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), James Cook University
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Grant: local responses to the threat of HIV/AIDS in the logging concessions in the Western Province, PNG
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2015 03:46
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160101 Anthropology of Development @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9299 Other Health > 929999 Health not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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