Cargo Cult as Theater

Cargo Cult as Theater : Political Performance in the Pacific

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Why did half the people on New Hanover, a small island north of New Guinea, vote for Lyndon Baines Johnson to be their ruler in 1964? Dorothy K. Billings believes that this sort of action-seen in New Guinea and other parts of Melanesia-is part of the "cargo cult" phenomenon, or micronationalist movements which are principally regarded as responses to European colonialism. Based on thirty-five years of fieldwork and observation, Cargo Cult as Theater demonstrates how the 'Johnson Cult,' originally mocked and ridiculed by the outside world, should be seen as an ongoing political performance meant to consolidate local power and advance economic development. This fascinating study follows the changes in this community ritual, from the time of the white 'master' to post-colonial self-determination, and reveals the history of this people's attempt to gain intellectual, moral, economic, and political control over their own lives.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 157.5 x 228.6 x 20.3mm | 498.96g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739102389
  • 9780739102381
  • 1,813,932

About Dorothy K. Billings

Dorothy K. Billings is Professor of Anthropology at Wichita State University.
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Table of contents

Part 1 Part One: Introduction Chapter 2 The Research So Far Chapter 3 Field Work Part 4 Part Two: Interviews and Documents Chapter 5 The Johnson Cult Part 6 Part Three: Analysis, Interpretation, and Conclusion Chapter 7 Analysis and Interpretation Chapter 8 Theories: Cults, Movements, Ceremonies, Culture Chapter 9 Cargo Cult as Political Theatre
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Review quote

Overviews of Melanesian cargo cults have commonly featured the Johnson cult, but this is the first comprehensive description of the movement... Alongside the trials and tribulations of anthropological fieldwork, this blow-by-blow chronicle offers insight into colonial culture and the often eccentric administrative and mission personalities who inhabited the Papua New Guinea hinterlands in the final decade of Australian rule. The Contemporary Pacific Anthropologists have long been intrigued by 'cargo cults,' Melanesian religious revitalization movements that sometimes hold that Western goods are produced by supernatural forces. In a movement often called the 'Johnson cult,' half of the Lavongai people of New Hanover Island in Papua New Guinea voted in 1964 for U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to represent them in their newly formed parliament. The present volume analyzes this movement as political performance... The result is a splendid monograph with stimulating analysis. CHOICE This is a concise and highly readable description of the origins and development of the so-called Johnson Cult based on nearly forty years of field research in New Hanover and New Ireland, Papua New Guinea...the book stands as a work of authority on the Johnson Cult and should be read by anyone who is interested in political and religious movements in the Pacific, or in the history and ethnography of Papua New Guinea. Oceana A book that is not afraid to be old fashioned by going back and reworking the grid and group axes of Mary Douglas and radical Marxist analyses of culture, colonialism, hegemony and aesthetics... Billings is onto something... This is a complex book that, in the end, I enjoyed and learnt a great deal from. The Australian Journal Of Anthropology ... a solid and thoughtful study. The Journal Of The Polynesian Society
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