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Changing Contexts, Shifting MeaningsTransformations of Cultural Traditions in Oceania$
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Elfriede Hermann

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824833664

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824833664.001.0001

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Inventing Traditions and Remembering the Past in Manus

Inventing Traditions and Remembering the Past in Manus

(p.157) Inventing Traditions and Remembering the Past in Manus
Changing Contexts, Shifting Meanings

Ton Otto

University of Hawai'i Press

Traditions are forms of historical knowledge that elaborate on social practices and that are consciously orchestrated (e.g. as ceremonies or learning situations). A special kind of tradition puts weight on an assumed continuity with the past. In Melanesia these traditions are often referred to as kastam or kastamwok. This chapter focuses on Manus, Papua New Guinea, where kastam ceremonies have become an important arena for social action, during which historical memory is negotiated. It argues that kastam as an indigenous field of action with reference to the past first originated in the 1960s as a result of “inventions” by a number of local leaders. This invention of tradition must be seen against the background of the massive abolishment of indigenous ceremonies by the Paliau Movement in the 1950s, which thereby introduced the concept of tradition (as a negative category). The reintroduction of “traditional” ceremonies raises questions about social agency and the use of various forms of historical memories in the context of colonial and postcolonial modernity.

Keywords:   tradition, Melanesia, kastam ceremonies, Manus, Papua New Guinea, social action, historical memory, Paliau Movement, social agency, modernity

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