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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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(p.239) Chapter Eleven Conclusions
Just Talk

Karen J. Brison

University of California Press

Examining Kwanga politics has revealed something else about the political implications of gossip. In Inakor and Asanakor, initiated men bolster their position in society by spreading rumors of sorcery, but gossip can also defeat leaders. Perhaps gossip, instead of being associated with any particular group in society, is primarily a leveling force: in small communities, where gossip matters, backbiting and rumor prevent anyone from consolidating power and foster a consensual system in which it is difficult for any individual to lead effectively. Gossip, then, is a weapon used by all, which has the effect of distributing power throughout the community. In Inakor and Asanakor, the concern with gossip and rumor is part of a more pervasive fear of the power of words, and there are indications that this is true in many Pacific Islands societies.

Keywords:   Kwanga, politics, gossip, Inakor, Asanakor, rumors, sorcery, leaders, communities, power

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