Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area
Social Dislocations: Work, Antiwork, and Highway Life
This chapter describes social vulnerabilities in the high-altitude zone. Due to the vagaries of colonial road building, the road to the mine was built through the high-altitude zone, where previously Porgerans did not live. However, to access the development benefits associated with mining, people migrated higher in elevation. Life along the highway centers on the need to work in order to make a living in this area due to the inability of crops to produce as they do in lower altitude zones. At the same time, though, there is a counterdiscourse of antiwork whereby young men who are unable to obtain wage-paying jobs turn to tribal fighting in order to extort money from groups who receive mining benefits. Porgerans refer to tribal fighting as “working in the life market,” as people with no possibility of wage labor sell the only thing the market demands: their very lives.