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Papua New Guinea's Last Place

Papua New Guinea's Last Place: Experiences of Constraint in a Postcolonial Prison

Adam Reed
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Papua New Guinea's Last Place
    Book Description:

    What kind of experience is incarceration? How should one define its constraints? The author, who conducted extensive fieldwork in a maximum-security jail in Papua New Guinea, seeks to address these questions through a vivid and sympathetic account of inmates' lives.

    Prison Studies is a growing field of interest for social scientists. As one of the first ethnographic studies of a prison outside western societies and Japan, this book contributes to a reinterpretation of the field's scope and assumptions. It challenges notions of what is punitive about imprisonment by exploring the creative as well as negative outcomes of detention, separation and loss. Instead of just coping, the prisoners in Papua New Guinea's Last Place find themselves drawing fresh critiques and new approaches to contemporary living.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-181-5
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-20)

    Talk drifted once more, our attention diverted by the sight of new inmates entering Bomana. Bewildered, these men ran, stumbled and hurried again, propelled forward by the weight of warders’ shouts and insults. They ran bare-chested, sweating, with civilian shirts and shoes – earlier removed for inspection — clasped awkwardly in their arms. On their heads they seemed to carry too much hair. The men passed on, out of sight, to the reception office and we returned our attention to the interview. This time the convict before me wore a different, more puzzling expression; the face of his round and shaven head...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Dark Place
    (pp. 21-58)

    Bomana Major Central Area Correctional Institution (Figure 4) is the largest prison in Papua New Guinea (it usually holds between 600 and 700 inmates, supervised by nearly 200 warders). Contained within its extensive grounds are not just prison compounds, but also housing for staff and a national training centre for new recruits. The prison complex is divided into general sections, including A Compound for male national prisoners (550 to 600 inmates), E Division for expatriate male prisoners (one to five inmates) and a juvenile compound for boys (twenty to thirty inmates).¹ These sections are each surrounded by their own cyclone...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Bus Stop
    (pp. 59-86)

    Incarceration imposes an obvious constraint upon movement. Prisoners at Bomana often complain that they are confined in one place, forced to remain still and view the same landscape day after day. Winnie, a convict from Wapenamanda in the Highlands, equated this experience with the effects of personal injury. He explained that the prisoner is like someone shot and wounded during tribal fighting. The arrow lodged in the injured man’s body is said to cause him pain and compel his retreat back to his house. There, alone and immobile, he is restricted like a prisoner, unable to go outside, to visit...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Jeffrey’s Flight
    (pp. 87-108)

    Despite the sense of mobility produced by the constant arrival and release of prisoners, men and women often complain that at Bomana they ‘die slowly’ (dai isi isi). The song above, written and performed by a convict from Bereina in Central province, evokes the despair that accompanies those feelings – not just the pain caused by issues of separation from kin outside the gaol (the song’s narrator calls out to his mother), but also the experience of being made to accommodate oneself to the pace and rhythm of a prison routine, marked out by the chimes of a bell. The song...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Place of Men
    (pp. 109-136)

    Foucault (1977: 297) suggests that the rise of the penitentiary and other disciplined institutions caused what he terms a ‘carceral archipelago’ to emerge across late eighteenth-century Western Europe and North America. This geographic idiom, which presents disciplined institutions as a chain of islands dotted across a nondisciplinary landscape, is adopted in order to explain his postulated shift from a society of spectacle to one of surveillance (1977: 217). According to Foucault, the modern technologies of selfhood first developed in these isolated ‘discipline-blockades’ (1977: 209), before detaching themselves and spreading their now subtle mechanisms across the social body. A similar geography...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Place of God
    (pp. 137-154)

    Prisoners commonly perceive Bomana as a hellish place. Antony, a steal man from the Papuan coast, described it in his song as a site of worry, where inmates are cut off from the love and mercy shown by people outside the gaol. Distinguished by the pain of separation, Bomana is said to make its detainees suffer. The difference between life outside the gaol and life inside is compared to the difference between heaven and hell. While heaven is said to be a place of joy and happiness, hell is its opposite, a place of misery and regret. Antony observed the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Following White Men
    (pp. 155-174)

    One day, I was told, a ‘primitive’ (buskanaka) arrived at Bomana. He could speak neither English nor Tok Pisin; no one understood his language. The policeman who arrested this man and escorted him to prison reported that he came from a remote hamlet, somewhere in the interior of Western province. Since the registration clerk could not question him, it was decided to name the stranger after his arresting officer. Officially recorded as ‘Ivan’, the man was handed prison clothes and directed to A Compound. There, male inmates crowded round him and attempted to communicate. Using hand signals and exaggerated facial...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-182)

    It might be expected that when colonial officers diagnosed ‘homesickness’ as the cause of unexplained prison deaths (see Prologue), they were drawing attention to a feeling of exile from which they too suffered. Themselves far away from familiar faces and land marks, it was perhaps easy, even comforting, to imagine that in equivalent circumstances the less travelled and innocent ‘native’ might pine, sicken and die. And not just colonial officers and missionaries, but also early anthropologists working in the region. In his fieldwork diary, Malinowski describes his own ongoing struggle to combat a longing for home.

    ‘Homesickness’. I summoned up...

  13. Glossary
    (pp. 183-184)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-194)
  15. Index
    (pp. 195-198)