Abstract: This paper considers the assumption that the long-term success of the Christian Churches in some parts of Papua New Guinea (PNG) will eliminate or even regulate the magical practices that are nowadays commonly described as ‘sorcery’. Among the Vula’a of PNG men seeking prestige and influence turn to the Church, and some of them are said to be sorcerers who ‘hide behind it’. Most deaths continue to be attributed to sorcery, and fear of sorcery and the need to counter it with other sorcery eclipses Christian proscriptions. It is power – rather than the introduced concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ brought by Christian colonizers that dominates current discourse – that contributes to the persistence of sorcery albeit in a variety of new and introduced forms. Sorcery is effective because it creates a culture of fear. I conclude, then, by applying Heidegger’s analysis of fear to Vula’a sorcery to suggest that an anthropology of fear will contribute to a better understanding of sorcery in contemporary PNG.
Abstract: Melanesian people have recently become highly occupied with history as an arena for moral scrutiny and causal explanations for contemporary failures. On the island of Ambrym in Vanuatu, this form of ontological worry goes back to the first missionaries on the island, the Murray brothers. This article takes us back to events in the 1880s when the missionaries were active on Ambrym, and searches into their social position. Drawing on the diary of Charles Murray, the main argument unfolds around his involvement in the realm of men’s ritual powers, how he himself played his part as a highly knowledgeable magician and how his downfall came about by challenging a manly realm of knowledge and power and his wider inclusion of women and lesser men in his church.