The changing nature of witch trials in Papua New Guinea

In this talk, Dr Nicole Haley from ANU discusses the changing nature of witch trials in Lake Kopiago, Papua New Guinea.

Witchcraft and sorcery killings have been a feature of the social and cultural fabric of Kopiago sub-district through the colonial period to the present. The killings of today however are not the same as the killings of yesteryear. This paper explores changes in the context, agents and victims of sorcery accusations in this district from the pre- colonial and colonial times to the present nation state.

Drawing on the work of previous ethnographers and her own extensive fieldwork in the district, Haley argues the present killings do not reflect the “traditional” nor even “colonial” characteristics of witchcraft and sorcery killings, but reveal a change in group organisation in the region as well as a changed understanding of gender and power relations.

This podcast is from the landmark Sorcery and witchcraft-related killings conference hosted by the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific’s State, Society and Governance and Melanesia program and Regulatory Institutions Network on 5-7 June 2013. 


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