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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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Village Courts and the Art of Bluffing

Village Courts and the Art of Bluffing

(p.78) Chapter Four Village Courts and the Art of Bluffing
Just Talk

Karen J. Brison

University of California Press

Examining court hearings revealed that initiated men were not the only ones who dropped hints and spread rumors, but that almost everyone in the community preferred to avoid open confrontation and criticism and to cast their complaints about their neighbors and kin in veiled, ambiguous language. In this way, people could mobilize public opinion against those they did not like, or could try to get people to behave better. Court hearings frequently failed when plaintiffs could only offer rumor and veiled remarks as proof of their charges, and witnesses either denied the statements attributed to them or said their words had been misconstrued. Thus, in court hearings and in everyday life, as in inquests, people tried to influence others by dropping hints, spreading rumors, and making public strong recommendations that they later refused to act on.

Keywords:   court hearings, hints, rumors, community, confrontation, criticism, public opinion, plaintiffs, witnesses

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