Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area
This chapter begins the exploration of indigenous ecological concepts and practices in Porgera. There is no word for nature or ecology in Porgera, so this chapter and the following two argue that any deep understanding of ecological ideas must necessarily incorporate ideas about land and land tenure, social organization and kinship, and the role of spirits. The specific focus of this chapter is the three-part division of the landscape in Porgera into a high-altitude zone of moss forest, a middle-altitude zone of houses and gardens, and a low-altitude zone of montane forest. Each zone has a particular set of spirits associated with it that structures the kinds of resource use that can occur. One of the outcomes of modernization in Porgera is that the spirits of these zones are no longer localized, thereby threatening the underpinnings of cosmological order in Porgera.