Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area
The Making of a Resource Frontier
This chapter discusses the major theoretical emphases of the book: political ecology, resilience, place, and ontology. It also explores the ecological context of PNG, one of five high-biodiversity wilderness areas designated by Conservation International, which is experiencing a massive resource development boom that threatens the very biodiversity that the country is renowned for. This is largely due to the low levels of human development in PNG, which are on par with most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The chapter concludes with an ethnographic and ecological description of Porgera.
This chapter focuses on the historical encounters between Porgerans and outsiders. First contact occurred in 1938, when colonial patrol officers entered Porgera in search of mineral wealth. Misunderstandings on both sides led to the killing of several Porgerans by armed colonial officers in the initial period of contact and resulted in a series of so-called cargo cults by Porgerans as they sought ritual means to place these encounters in local logics. After World War II gold prospectors and Christian missionaries entered the valley, initiating Porgeran involvement with the outside world. This chapter also traces the buildup to large-scale development of the Porgera Gold Mine that opened in 1990 and highlights that gold, guns, and the Bible remain essential elements of Porgeran identity today.
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