This paper is a report on millennial rumors that were circulating in 1998 in the Arapesh-speaking region of East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. Given New Guinea's anthropological reputation as the land of millennial movements,we might expect the turning of the millennium to generate extravagant expectations and drama. But most year 2000 stories circulating in the region are actually variants of stories being diffused worldwide through evangelical networks and regular mass media. Papua New Guineans are intensely interested in millennial predictions because they perceive the millennium as a potentially momentous phenomenon of the wider world of Christianity and development of which they believe strongly that they are and must be a part. But the colorful stories people tell and retell about the year 2000 should not be taken as transparent statements of their “beliefs.” The paper suggests (1) that questioning and confusion is the dominant tone of current millennial thinking in the area; (2) that confusion stems from the fact that millennial beliefs are authorized primarily through foreign sources and media that do not satisfy indigenous notions of evidence and truth, and are not substantiated for individuals in their locally lived experience; and (3) that people are beginning to resolve this conflict by taking the meaning of the“year 2000” into their own hands in specifically local millennial projects that are aligned with their basic cultural values, especially unity and development.
Confusion, Native Skepticism, and Recurring Questions about the Year 2000: “Soft” Beliefs and Preparations for the Millennium in the Arapesh Region, Papua New Guinea
Ira Bashkow; Confusion, Native Skepticism, and Recurring Questions about the Year 2000: “Soft” Beliefs and Preparations for the Millennium in the Arapesh Region, Papua New Guinea. Ethnohistory 1 January 2000; 47 (1): 133–169. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-47-1-133
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