The spirit and the gifts: Dako, Benjamin Morrell and cargo in the Vitiaz trading area, New Guinea

Blythe, Jennifer and Fairhead, James (2016) The spirit and the gifts: Dako, Benjamin Morrell and cargo in the Vitiaz trading area, New Guinea. Oceania. ISSN 0029-8077

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Abstract

In 1830 an American trader, Benjamin Morrell, abducted Dako, the son of a prominent leader from Uneapa Island in the Bismarck Sea, took him to New York and, four years later, returned him to Uneapa. Dako's encounter with America and his return provides insight into the region half a century before colonization, and in particular into local mytho-practical knowledge at that time. This enables us to discern subsequent transformations. Myths concerning an origin spirit and guardian of the dead, Pango, which then dominated Uneapa cosmology have since ‘disappeared’. This, we argue, is not because Pango has been superseded or suppressed, but because the parallel ‘white’ world over which the mytho-practical Pango presided has become ever more manifest as Uneapa has been drawn into a colonial, post-colonial and globalised world. Today, Pango refers predominantly to white people. Islander's experience of American ‘Pango’ was a shocking event at the time, but we show how trading with Pango established transformatory possibilities for reciprocal trading relations with the dead which remain the concern of today's Cult movement on the island.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Depositing User: Sharon Krummel
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2016 12:29
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2017 11:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/63324

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