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Wayward Women

Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in a New Guinea Society

Holly Wardlow
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Wayward Women
    Book Description:

    Written with uncommon grace and clarity, this extremely engaging ethnography analyzes female agency, gendered violence, and transactional sex in contemporary Papua New Guinea. Focusing on Huli "passenger women," (women who accept money for sex)Wayward Womenexplores the socio-economic factors that push women into the practice of transactional sex, and asks how these transactions might be an expression of resistance, or even revenge. Challenging conventional understandings of "prostitution" and "sex work," Holly Wardlow contextualizes the actions and intentions of passenger women in a rich analysis of kinship, bridewealth, marriage, and exchange, revealing the ways in which these robust social institutions are transformed by an encompassing capitalist economy. Many passenger women assert that they have been treated"olsem maket"(like market goods) by their husbands and natal kin, and they respond by fleeing home and defiantly appropriating their sexuality for their own purposes. Experiences of rape, violence, and the failure of kin to redress such wrongs figure prominently in their own stories about becoming "wayward." Drawing on village court cases, hospital records, and women's own raw, caustic , and darkly funny narratives,Wayward Womenprovides a riveting portrait of the way modernity engages with gender to produce new and contested subjectivities.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93897-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    Pugume Mangobe’s grave was an obvious thing to ask about when I settled into my first rural field site north of Tari town.¹ I walked past it almost every day on the way from the house where I was staying to the trade store that had been converted into an office for me. The sky blue concrete marker drew one’s attention, and yet care for it seemed desultory; the paint was starting to chip and fade, spiky grass grew high around it. Pugume had been the third of five sisters, I was told, the middle child of Mangobe’s third and...

  6. CHAPTER 1 “Tari is a jelas place”: The Fieldwork Setting
    (pp. 30-62)

    We were sitting high up on a craggy ledge from where we could just see Tari town in the distance—the sudden bare stretch of land that was the airstrip, corrugated metal roofs glinting in the sun. Tai Bayabe was telling me—somewhat boastfully, somewhat matter-of-factly—of how he had orchestrated the armed holdups of a convoy of politicians’ trucks, and, on a separate occasion, of the local luxury hotel. He himself had not actually participated, but he had given the young men in his clan tacit permission to carry out these thefts. When I asked him why he had...

  7. CHAPTER 2 “To finish my anger”: Body and Agency among Huli Women
    (pp. 63-98)

    In this well-known Huli myth, had First Woman responded to being called “Mother of Life,” First Man would have fed their child the water that would have endowed it with an ever-renewable body. By answering instead to the name “Mother of Death,” she named her child “Death,” and since we are all descended from this child, she fated humanity to mortal embodiment.² Much like the story of Adam and Eve—which many Huli understand as a kind of structural variation of the above myth—this narrative is interpreted as a portrait of female “nature” and the tragic way in which...

  8. CHAPTER 3 “I am not the daughter of a pig!”: The Changing Dynamics of Bridewealth
    (pp. 99-133)

    One December late afternoon, as I rounded the Tari airstrip on my way to the hospital compound, some young men, who must have been home for the holidays and who probably thought I was a tourist, yelled out to me,“Misses, kam likim mipela”(White lady, come lick us). It had been a long day, and my first impulse was just to ignore them and walk on. There were many people sitting in groups talking and playing cards by the side of the road, and I was embarrassed by this sudden, very public eroticization of my racial identity. I wanted...

  9. CHAPTER 4 “You, I don’t even count you”: Becoming a Pasinja Meri
    (pp. 134-165)

    Megeme said that she made up her mind after she was raped for the second time. Her kin condemned the assailant’s behavior and belligerently demandednogo tauwa(literally, pigs for genitals; compensation for “stealing” the sexuality of a woman), but later seemed to forget about her. She recalled the heady atmosphere of righteous indignation as dozens of relatives gathered for the village court case—the women vehement and quarrelsome; the men somber, letting their loosely held bows and homemade guns speak their intentions. At the time, Megeme was proud that her kin had threatened tribal war if the assailant’s family...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “Eating her own vagina”: Passenger Women and Sexuality
    (pp. 166-190)

    Barbara de Zalduondo has criticized studies of prostitution that examine in clinical, quantitative detail the sexual behaviors that people engage in, arguing that “the interpersonal dynamics in sexual relationships are not being captured by studies of sexual ‘behavior’ in which acts are privileged over the identities and feelings of the actors . . . There is scarcely a mention of the affective dimensions of sexual behavior in the literature on AIDS, especially in the world regions where heterosexual transmission predominates” (1991:238–39). Informed by a somewhat different literature, but in many ways recommending a similar prescription, Margaret Jolly has critiqued...

  11. CHAPTER 6 “When the pig and the bamboo knife are ready”: The HuliDawe Anda
    (pp. 191-220)

    The firstdawesong I heard was performed by Lirime Mangobe only a few weeks into my fieldwork. I had my tape recorder out and was trying to elicit genres of song or storytelling other than the Christian hymns— “Jisas i namba wan . . .” (Jesus is number one)—women were so eager to sing for me. I didn’t know whatdawesongs were at that time, and when I asked Lirime to translate, she became embarrassed and refused. It turned out to be a poignant chant of loss in which she mused that when she saw Air Niugini...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 221-238)

    In light of the foregoing discussion, many readers may be wondering about the status of HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea. At the end of 2004, almost 10,000 HIV+ cases had been reported. This number may seem small in comparison to the millions of cases in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, but it likely does not reflect the epidemiological reality in Papua New Guinea. At the time of my research in the mid-1990s very little research on HIV incidence had been done, and even in the early 2000s most epidemiological research was being conducted in the capital city, with the reporting of...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 239-254)
  14. References
    (pp. 255-272)
  15. Index
    (pp. 273-284)