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Sleights of Hand and the Construction of Desire in a Papua New Guinea Modernity

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dc.contributor.author Gewertz, Deborah
dc.contributor.author Errington, Frederick
dc.date.accessioned 2009-10-30T00:21:24Z
dc.date.available 2009-10-30T00:21:24Z
dc.date.issued 1998
dc.identifier.citation Gewertz, D. and F. Errington. 1998. Sleights of Hand and the Construction of Desire in a Papua New Guinea Modernity. The Contemporary Pacific 10 (2): 345-68.
dc.identifier.issn 1043-898X
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10125/13232
dc.description.abstract This paper is a case study of processes at work to deflect the anger and jealousy many grassroots Papua New Guineans felt toward an indigenous urban middle class that had increasingly monopolized positions of influence and affluence. We focus on the activities of Sepik Women in Trade, a private organization begun by middle-class women whose explicit objective was to assist poor women living primarily in Wewak’s squatter settlements to market their handicrafts. Through this organization’s activities, individual accumulation came to appear not only practically feasible but also morally justified. These processes, reflecting middleclass expectations, were based on a modernist claim that almost everyone could gain access to a certain quality of life. Almost everyone had the potential opportunity and capacity—indeed the right and virtual obligation—to work and save to consume self-evidently desirable goods and services. Correspondingly, those unable or unwilling to accumulate and thereby acquire these goods and services would have primarily themselves to blame. Any ensuing—and persisting—inequality would be understood as less the product of unfair exclusion or repudiation of kin obligations than of personal failure to fulfill reasonable expectations. Such a perspective, focusing on personal responsibility for failure in (what was being defined as) an open and just system, undercut the idea that categorical exclusion was even a systemic possibility. Through virtual sleights of hand, what were the slights of class exclusion were being presented as reflecting less social injustice than individual failure.
dc.language.iso en-US
dc.publisher University of Hawai'i Press
dc.publisher Center for Pacific Islands Studies
dc.subject capitalism
dc.subject class
dc.subject individualism
dc.subject inequality
dc.subject modernity
dc.subject Papua New Guinea
dc.subject women
dc.subject.lcsh Oceania -- Periodicals.
dc.title Sleights of Hand and the Construction of Desire in a Papua New Guinea Modernity
dc.type Article
dc.type.dcmi Text
Appears in Collections: TCP [The Contemporary Pacific], 1998 - Volume 10, Number 2


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