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The Asaro Mudmen: Local Property, Public Culture?

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Title: The Asaro Mudmen: Local Property, Public Culture?
Authors: Otto, Ton
Verloop, Robert J.
Keywords: Asaro Mudmen
Papua New Guinea
cultural copyright
invention of tradition
show 2 more[ethno]-tourism

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LC Subject Headings: Oceania -- Periodicals.
Issue Date: 1996
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
Citation: Otto, T. and R. J. Verloop. 1996. The Asaro Mudmen: Local Property, Public Culture? The Contemporary Pacific 8 (2): 349-86.
Abstract: The mudmen tradition of the Asaro people in the Eastern Highlands Province of
Papua New Guinea has become an internationally recognized symbol of that
country and also an evocative image of “primitive man” in general. This symbol
has been appropriated in various international advertisements for products ranging
from music to perfume. It is also used in campaigns to promote tourism in
Papua New Guinea and has entered almost every popular book and travel guide
as an appealing symbol of the area.
As a local sign of identity the history of the mudmen is relatively short. Based
on transformations of some older—and of course contested—traditions, the phenomenon
of the mudmen began its existence during the first Goroka agricultural
show in 1957. In this paper we trace the history of the mudmen to show how it
developed in continuous interaction between local and foreign (tourist) needs
and expectations. Appearing in diverse and only partly interacting discourses, the
mudmen function as a local commodity-cum-marker-of-identity, as a symbol of
Papua New Guinea national culture, and as a sign of primitiveness in western
(commercial) discourses on self and other.
ISSN: 1043-898X
Appears in Collections:TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1996 - Volume 8, Number 2

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