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Just TalkGossip, Meetings, and Power in a Papua New Guinea Village$
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Karen Brison

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780520077003

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520077003.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 26 July 2021

Leaders as Bad Men and Victims

Leaders as Bad Men and Victims

(p.207) Chapter Ten Leaders as Bad Men and Victims
Just Talk

Karen J. Brison

University of California Press

This chapter explores the conditions that create an ambivalent attitude toward leaders and cause them to do things such as haranguing the audience in meetings but then mysteriously “forgetting” their own injunctions afterwards, or spreading rumors which they publicly deny. It then looks at cases from other areas and suggests that the social conditions in small isolated communities make it difficult for anyone to be a strong leader, arguing that gossip, rumor, and innuendo constrain leaders in Melanesia in many ways. First, the atmosphere of suspicion that goes along with rumor and innuendo helps foster the much-noted “ambivalence about power” of Melanesian communities. Suspicions about leaders are part of a pervasive distrust of everyone that, in turn, stems from a real preference for devious and hidden strategies. Second, distrust of leaders leads to backbiting and slander.

Keywords:   leaders, social conditions, communities, gossip, rumor, innuendo, Melanesia, suspicion, ambivalence, power

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