COMPATRIOT SOCIALITY

 

Dr Adam Reed

British Academy, Small Grant, SG132310

Compatriot Sociality: Papua New Guineans outside Papua New Guinea and the Relations that Matter in Melanesian Anthropology

In Papua New Guinea, the most widely recognized and deployed relational category is wantok. This compatriot relation, literally translated from the Tok Pisin as ‘one-talk’, is elastically defined, at varying times referring to those who speak the same local language or come from the same ancestral place, the same province or region. It can also be used as an alternative term for friendship. Scholars have highlighted the crucial role wantokplays in institutional and urban life. This includes the ways in which the compatriot relation is commonly attached to moral critiques (in negative fashion, wantokis often held responsible for administrative corruption). However, there is still very little concentrated study of how the relation works in practice. This project aims to expand our knowledge of wantok through an initial study of ‘wantok clubs’: an emergent form of expatriate association in Australia and beyond. What is interesting about this example is that it posits wantokas a form of national compatriotism; expatriates present wantokas the relation that defines them as Papua New Guinean.