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Sago Versus Rice and the Reorganisation of Ritual Spacetime: Competing Modes of Dependency in an Age of Decentralisation in Asmat, Indonesian Papua

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Powell Davies, Tom 


jats:titleABSTRACT</jats:title>jats:pAsmat social worlds are permeated with multiple forms of dependency. In this paper, I ask how different modalities of dependency inter‐relate within the space and time of Asmat life, and how this is being reshaped by Asmat's increasing incorporation within broader structural orders during a period of national decentralisation. First, I describe how relations of dependency shape everyday life, through a discussion of the time and space of quotidian food distribution and concomitant claim‐making. Then, I outline how forms of inter‐clan interdependency innovate on the above pattern during ritual feasting, which generates remarkable social co‐presence through ritualised interdependent work. Finally, I explore how feasting interdependence, and its organisation in space and time, is being warped by ‘The Allocation of Village Funds’ (‘jats:styled-contentAlokasi Dana Desa</jats:styled-content>’), a decentralised government grant. I do so via a case study of a ritual feast house construction project, in which Asmat villagers attempted to reckon with new forms of dependency typified, in indigenous discourse, by the distinction between ‘sago’ and ‘rice’ as local versus introduced staple foods associated with contrasting regimes of action. At stake here, in the collision between indigenous and newly emergent modes of dependency, is the viability of socially valuable modes of ritual life, which, in an age of decentralisation, are becoming shaped by and reliant on new types of forces outside of the community's own labour and control.</jats:p>



4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, 44 Human Society

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