Trickery or Secrecy?

On Andrew Lattas's Interpretation of "Bush Kaliai Cargo Cults"*(1)

Holger Jebens

Research Fellow Frobenius-institut an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main,

Full citation Jebens, Holger 2002. Trickery or Secrecy? On Andrew Lattas's Interpretation of "Bush Kaliai Cargo Cults." Anthropos 97:181-199. Posted here with permission of Prof. Dr. Othmar Gachter, Editor-in-Chief Anthropos.

There are minor differences between this version and the published version. Those wishing to cite this work should consult the version in Anthropos for accuracy and correct page numbers and should cite the version in Anthropos. Interested readers are also directed to the website of Anthropos:


Ever since the 'invention' of the term 'cargo cult' in 1945 (Lindstrom 1993: 15), the phenomena designated by it have continued to spark the fascination of the western public in general and of western anthropologists in particular. Seen as symptoms of mental confusion caused by externally induced stress (a view going back to Williams 1923), as religiously formulated "Forerunners of Melanesian Nationalism" (Guiart 1961) attempting to resist colonial oppression (cf. Bodrogi 1951, Worsley 1957, Mühlmann 1961), and as specific Melanesian expressions of either indigenous orientation and value systems (cf. Burridge 1960, Lawrence 1964) or a supposedly universal "Search for Salvation" (Strelan 1977), over the years and at times quite rapidly, these phenomena have become the object of an increasingly large body of literature. While contributing to this 'cargo archive', however, some authors have questioned the very existence of cargo cults as distinctive social and cultural entities, arguing that the term is being applied to ideas and activities that were too heterogeneous to warrant their inclusion within a single analytical category (cf. Read 1958, McDowell 1988). Others pointed to the negative connotations of the term, which was first used by agents of colonisation and missionisation to denote all those movements which were regarded as obstacles to pacification, Christianisation and their concomitant 'progress' (cf. Hempenstall and Rutherford 1984; Kaplan 1990, 1995).

It might be argued that these criticisms have proved the deficiency of the western perception of the Other. This deficiency in its turn has led to a revision of the perception of the Self (cf. Jebens and Kohl 1999). Thus, following the self-reflexive turn in anthropology, the cargo archive was scrutinised using the hypothesis that it might, in fact, reveal less about Melanesian than about our own conceptions and motivations (cf. Lindstrom 1993). For Gerrit Huizer "the obsessive pursuit of material accumulation" that was particularly observable during the Reagan years in the USA constitutes a "cargo cult unleashed by the bourgeoisie and its charismatic leaders" (Huizer 1992: 126). Michael Rutschky detects 'cargoistic' aspirations in the history of so-called German 're-unification' (1992), while a recent paper by Roy Wagner, in which he refers to contemporary beliefs about UFOs, is entitled "Our Very Own Cargo Cult" (Wagner 2000).

While the thorough deconstruction of this contested label has been taken as demonstrating a "need to reconsider the advisability of its use at all" (Hermann 1992: 69), to do away with the term would not means the disappearance of its referents from an ethnographic reality that now increasingly includes its usage by Melanesians themselves (Lindstrom 1993: 5, 149-163; Jebens and Kohl 1999: 15). In my view, a more useful consequence of revising the perception of the Self would be to take the cargo archive as a starting point for comparisons between Melanesia and the west, viewing such comparisons as being at the heart of anthropology itself as an academic discipline (cf. McDowell 2000: 373-374). This approach has been anticipated by Wagner's often cited suggestion that

If we call such phenomena 'cargo cults', then anthropology should perhaps be called a 'culture cult', for the Melanesian 'kago' is very much the interpretative counterpart of our world 'culture'. The words are to some extent 'mirror images' of each other, in the sense that we look at the natives' cargo, their techniques and artefacts, and call it 'culture', whereas they look at our culture and call it 'cargo' (Wagner 1981: 31).

Any intercultural comparison along these lines would require a thorough analysis of Melanesian cargo cults as attempts to cope with cultural otherness. Here, the work of Andrew Lattas appears to be most interesting: seeing such phenomena as expressions of the interrelationship between indigenous and introduced ideas, in a number of articles leading up to his recently published monograph "Cultures of Secrecy. Reinventing Race in Bush Kaliai Cargo Cults" (1998), based on fieldwork in the north-western part of the West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Lattas has mostly examined a cargo movement which was active in the area during the first half of the 1970s and which, through the writings of the missionary H. Janssen and the anthropologists Dorothy and David Counts, became well-known as the "Stori".(2) This movement was led by a man who, according to Janssen and the Counts, was called Napasisio, but whom Lattas refers to as "Censure", so that he also speaks of "Censure's cult".(3)

However, Lattas's recent monograph has rather been disapproved of by his predecessors in the field, the Counts. They find their own work to be "virtually invisible in this book" and they claim that, all in all, Lattas "ignores" their "presence in Kaliai" and their analyses of cult activities. They also state that these activities had long been abandoned when Lattas began his research, so that his interpretations are based "on patrol reports and hearsay", interviews with a former cult leader who had been "deserted by virtually all his followers", and the "memory and interpretation of others" (Dorothy and David Counts 2000: 325). Apart from criticising the quality of Lattas's data and methods the Counts also question the way these data are presented by suggesting that Lattas's writing style is unclear and hardly understandable and that his translations from the Neo-Melanesian Tok Pisin, Papua New Guinea's lingua franca, are "untenable" and "inadequate": "Rather than clarifying the contributions of his informants, his translation makes them more obscure" (Dorothy and David Counts 2000: 327). - In general, the Counts' assessment presents a striking contrast to those of other reviewers. Certainly these are critical of Lattas underrating the heterogeneity of Melanesian cultures (Harple 2000: 143) and treating "Bush Kaliai talk about cargo and cargo ritual without for the most part situating that talk in relation to action" (Robbins 2000: 542): also "a bit of contextualization of Bush Kaliai beliefs in relation both to the world of their day-to-day social lives and to the role of the colonial and postcolonial orders [...] would have been welcome" (Robbins 2000: 542). Nonetheless, "Cultures of Secrecy" has received unanimous praise not only as "a work of great depth, sophistication, and authority" (Worsley 1999: 196) and "an intriguing, profound, and important contemporary analysis of cargo cults" (Harple 2000: 143), but also as "the most important full-scale study of a regional tradition of cargo cults to have appeared in many years" (Robbins 2000: 540).

Thus Lattas's recent monograph appears to have had a rather polarising effect on its reviewers. My own aim in this paper is to present a more balanced and differentiated view based on an examination of the methodological and theoretical problems presented by the book, and to show that the various criticisms, in so far as they have already been expressed, are actually interdependent. From there one can not only determine the data presented by Lattas about the Kaliai's way of coping with cultural otherness, but also assess the usefulness of Lattas's findings for further comparative purposes. - This analysis of "Cultures of Secrecy" will be pursued by relating the book to Lattas's earlier publications, to which I shall turn first.


Lattas began writing about the Kaliai almost a decade prior to "Cultures of Secrecy", but during these years he also published book reviews and - without any reference to his fieldwork - interpretations of contemporary discourses in both Australian nationalism and anthropology.(4) This interest in 'Australian issues' dates back to Lattas's PhD thesis - completed in 1985,(5) that is before having visited the Kaliai for the first time - and to two subsequent articles (1986, 1987), in which he apparently analyses much the same material, namely books and newspapers authored between 1788 and 1830 by representatives of the "dominant class" (1986: 3) in what was then the penal colony of New South Wales.

These publications are all based on an understanding of the process of civilisation as one of subjugating individuals by alienating them from themselves. Referring to Foucault, Lattas states in an endnote that "Techniques for producing alienated selves", connected first with Christianity and then with "other institutions like state penitentiaries and psychoanalysis", came to Australia "originally through the convict system" and are now being "reproduced" in the media (1990a: 68, endnote 2). However, a part of the white upper-class appears not to have been fully exposed to this process, and, according to Lattas, it is this 'uncivilised' part with which the other is being identified. In its turn, this identification is internalised by the other, thus adding even more to the latter's alienation and subjugation. - But whom does Lattas actually see as 'the other'?

In the first of the two articles that Lattas published shortly after his PhD thesis, he states that the texts he has analysed show "the psychological ordering of the self" being used "as a cultural metaphor for conceptualising class relations and class conflicts". In this way the upper classes are equated with "the God-given qualities of Reason and Sensibility" and the lower ones with "the undisciplined habits of the body" (1986: 3), while for convicted criminals "the class struggle came to be interiorized" through being "presented in the psychological form of a struggle between the prisoner's conscience and a previous criminal life of sensuous excesses" (1986: 17). In the second article Lattas turns from class struggle to the struggle between colonisers and colonised: still examining the same texts, he claims that they represent Aborigines as "part of material reality, approaching the undiscriminating, non-rational, non-moral level of inert nature" (1987: 46). By instilling within them "notions of their moral inferiority" and "separating and alienating individuals from themselves", Aborigines are, according to Lattas, made to "seek moral wholeness through [...] the adoption of White dominant class culture" (1987: 52).

One might argue that, 'in the role of the other', the lower classes and convicted criminals are thus replaced by Aborigines, while the diagnosis of identification, internalisation, and alienation remains basically unchanged. A similar continuity can be observed in Lattas's subsequent move from historical to contemporary discourses.(6) Here, Aborigines are transformed "into the spiritual side of the Western self" (1991e: 323) or "become the unconscious of the West" (1990a: 58) in order to overcome a "self-alienation" which, according to Lattas, is being constructed within Australian nationalism (1991e: 313).

In Lattas's view, however, Aborigines are far from unequivocally accepting the imported process of civilisation. This becomes apparent when Lattas reproaches contemporary Australian anthropologists for ignoring the political relevance of indigenous conceptions like Aboriginal notions of the body, which for Lattas "is already cultural and indeed a site of resistance" (1992f: 162).(7) The criticism that the author has not paid sufficient attention to culturally-specific conceptions and their meanings is also a prevalent topic in some of Lattas's book reviews. For example, Nicholas Thomas "does little to reveal [...] indigenous conceptual frameworks" (1993a: 102; cf. 1993b: 94), and he fails to explore indigenous images of otherness and alienation (1993a: 105, 115), while Tony Swain does not fully explain "the space-time framework of Aboriginal ontology" (1996b: 25). In the context of thus examining the work of other anthropologists - more often than not rather harshly - Lattas appears to align himself with what he calls "cultural and phenomenological approaches", while claiming that in Australian anthropology such approaches "continue to be marginalized by an alliance of both left-wing materialists and right-wing pragmatists" (1993a: 108).(8) At the same time the criticism of neglect of culturally-specific conceptions and their meanings even turns into an accusation of being patronizing and domineering, when Lattas claims that the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari "silences the discourses of others in order to read its own discourse ontop of them" (1991b: 111).


In view of Lattas's repeated requests to give careful attention to culturally-specific conceptions and their meanings, one might feel tempted to ask how far Lattas manages to fulfil his own demands in his articles on the Kaliai that were published prior to "Cultures of Secrecy". Here these conceptions largely take the form of ideas that had been exhibited in the context of - or, to be exact, in the Kaliai's contemporary representations of "Censure's cult".(9) Since Lattas regards such 'cargo conceptions' to be the result of an interplay between indigenous and exogenous influences, he obviously treats the relationship between Kaliai and Western culture primarily as one between indigenous and exogenous ideas. He also understands cargo cults in general and cargo conceptions in particular - albeit without using these words - as indigenous attempts to cope with cultural otherness.

These articles on 'cargo' are predated by reconstructions of aspects of 'traditional' Kaliai culture (1989, 1990b) and succeeded by attempts to analyse the effects of the New Tribes Mission which had been active in the Kaliai area since 1986 (1996c, d). - With two further articles, and in, so to speak, transcending the Kaliai area, Lattas attempts to examine the role of Western science in the process of the colonisation of what is now PNG.(10) Here, just as in Australia, Lattas sees "the language and technologies of pastoral power which were being experimented with in Western prisons, mental asylums, schools and other institutions [...] to be deployed and reformulated on the colonial frontier" (1996e: 147). Just as representatives of the upper classes in the penal colony of New South Wales did before, the "government anthropologist" of Papua, F.E. Williams, also uses "the psychological relationship of the unconscious to the conscious" as a model "for thinking about the social relationship of the uncivilised to the civilised", this time, however, referring not to the lower and upper classes but to "natives and Europeans".(11) Not unlike the Aborigines earlier, the Papuans, who live on the south coast of mainland PNG, are being constructed as lacking "individuality", the "ability to think in terms of abstractions" and "sufficient volition in their lives" (1996e: 155-156). Just as the Aborigines have done before too, the Papuans are also internalising the Western view, even though this internalisation simultaneously leads to and perpetuates their self-alienation and colonial subjugation. Thus they are expected "to reproduce and become bearers of the conditions of their own domination" (1996e: 162). By classifying cargo cults not as indigenous forms of resistance against this process of colonization but as "madness", Lattas argues, westerners attempt to regain control through the "incorporation of psychology into the field of colonial ideology". For Lattas this constitutes "a process of scientising race and scientising colonial domination" and forms "part of the rationalisation of colonial power" (1992a: 5). In a similar vein, Lattas sees in the writings of the Lieutenant Governor of Papua, Hubert Murray a "scientisation of nationalism and of race" (1996e: 151).

Lattas published his first two articles about the Kaliai at the same time, when, in his 'Australianist' writings, he moved from historical to contemporary discourses. In "Trickery and Sacrifice" (1989) he analyses the 'traditional' gender relationship as constituted through and expressed by creation myths and initiation ceremonies. With these myths and ceremonies, Lattas argues, Kaliai men symbolically appropriate female reproductive powers, thereby subjugating Kaliai women. However, since, according to Lattas, Kaliai men themselves regard these myths and ceremonies as based on fictions or lies that they expect women to believe,(12) the women are "forced to enact and validate the ideology through which they are dominated" (1989: 458). Lattas not only claims that male "deceptions and trickery against women are central to nearly all major Kaliai rituals", he also sees the lie as "the primordial ordering act" (1989: 461), "deception" as a "pervasive feature of everyday life" and "trickery" as being "celebrated" and readily directed at younger men, children, "people from other villages and government officials (1989: 452). Accordingly Lattas even speaks of a "pervasive culture of trickery" (1989: 467, endnote 5).

In his second article about the Kaliai, Lattas also examines gender, this time, however, as a "metaphor for thinking about differences" (1990b: 75) and in relation to 'traditional' ceremonial exchanges. Here, according to Lattas, the giving party is rendered male, the receiving one female. Giving a gift is "a poetic act of insemination" so that "the power relationships articulated through ceremonial exchange are figured metaphorically through the imagery of male-female procreative relations" (1990b: 88). Moreover, Lattas sees gift exchanges as an additional way of symbolically appropriating female reproductive powers. In referring back to initiation ceremonies, he states that they are not only concerned with subjugation but also with identity: "Male identity is here constituted through the detour of women, through subsuming the transfiguring powers of female otherness" (1990b: 98).

Whereas in his first two articles Lattas attempts to reconstruct aspects of 'traditional' Kaliai culture at the price of almost completely excluding external and contemporary influences, in his next article, "Sexuality and Cargo Cults" (1991a), he turns to the relationship between the Kaliai and westerners.(13) This parallels his earlier move from class struggle to the struggle between colonisers and colonised that Lattas made in his writings on the penal colony of New South Wales. - Lattas also focuses on gender in "Sexuality and Cargo Cults". He sees gender as a "metaphor", now as "a metaphor for figuring colonialism" that "provides an ideology of difference through which the inequalities of colonialism can be understood" (1991a: 243). According to Lattas Kaliai men believe that just as they lie to women in their creation myths and initiation ceremonies in order to subjugate them, they themselves are deceived by westerners in the same way and with the same aim: "Here the traditional asymmetries between men and women, which are mediated by a culture of monstrous trickery, are used to conceptualise the monstrous asymmetries of colonialism".(14) Thus, one might argue, Lattas replaces Kaliai men with westerners and Kaliai women with the Kaliai in general. Kaliai women, however, remain subjugated, since for Lattas cargo cults are the successors of the old myths and ceremonies, and share with them much the same functions: "Kaliai cargo cults", Lattas claims, "represent a new symbolic means of men appropriating women's reproductive powers so as to authorise their domination of women (1991a: 248, endnote omitted).

From "Sexuality and Cargo Cults" on, Lattas's writings about the Kaliai continue to assert that, just like the Papuans, the Kaliai are experiencing a "profound self-alienation that colonialism produces as a condition of its hegemony" (1991a: 251). This formulation already prefigures Lattas's view - expressed in a later article - of self-alienation as "both a product of colonial domination and an intimate part of the reproduction of colonial power structures" (1992c: 38). Through having "adopted, internalised and narrativised the moral evaluations of their culture made by missionaries, kiaps and whites" (1992c: 74), the Kaliai not only look at themselves through the eyes of westerners, they wish to take their place and to 'become like them':

Through the detour of the external other, a self objectifies itself, relates back to itself as Other. It is within this phenomenological structure of self-constitution that the power of colonialism becomes a structure of self-alienation where the black man desires the body of the white man in place of his own body.(15)

Lattas qualifies this experience of self-alienation when, in the course of his argumentation, he rather abruptly starts to speak of "the continuing pain of colonial inequalities" (1991a: 239), and when, on the last page of "Sexuality and Cargo Cults" - and not without a considerable amount of pathos - he writes: "Censure often screams at night with pain and mourning for an end to present existence, for an end to that dark smoke which is said to have covered and stained the skins of his ancestors and created the binary logic of white and black races".(16)

However, for Lattas the adoption of western discourses also includes strategic "misunderstandings" (1991a: 240) that make use of these discourses in order to "authorise an autonomy to the hegemony of white culture" (1991a: 239). When, for example, whites are viewed as "having emerged from the sexual intercourse of a snake with the virgin Mary", Lattas takes this as "an appropriation and reconstitution of biblical theology, which turns the language of one's colonisers against them" (1991a: 240).(17) Indigenous resistance does in fact appear to be of central importance in Lattas's interpretations. Thus the view that in the mythical past a black woman created the material wealth of westerners becomes "part of a counterhegemonic strategy" (1991a: 249; see also 1992c: 40-41), and later stories about a mythical trickster hero (1992c: 41-46) or bush spirits (1992c: 49-50) as well as "sorcery narratives" (1993) are attributed a similar meaning.(18)

Shortly after his first article on Kaliai cargo cults, Lattas published two more papers on the same topic. In one of them, "The Punishment of Masks" (1992), he claims that the internalisation of western views leads the Kaliai to represent their own culture vis-à-vis that of westerners as being characterised by deception and trickery.(19) Whereas in Lattas's reconstruction of 'traditional' culture, trickery had allegedly been "celebrated", that is, valued positively, Lattas now asserts that exactly the opposite is true: in their cargo myths the Kaliai detest trickery as something negative, as a punishment which had been given to them by a malevolent mythical being, and accordingly they feel that they are "being burdened with a false culture".(20)

The Kaliai's way of coping with cultural otherness is examined more explicitly in "Skin, Personhood and Redemption" (1992c). According to Lattas, the Kaliai as it were 'appropriate' the Other, that is their colonisers, by identifying them with a part of their own self. In this sense they are, for Lattas, merely repeating what the upper classes of the penal colony of New South Wales and westerners have done or are doing with the lower classes, Aborigines (in past and present discourses) and Papuans respectively. The Kaliai, as represented by Lattas, believe that people have a "second skin", which is conceived of as "an invisible body" which lives in the world of the dead after a person has died. This "second-skinned self" is allegedly regarded as white by cargo cultists so that the "boundary between the living and the dead becomes the boundary which separates the life-style of whites from Papuan [sic!] New Guineans" (1992c: 47). For Lattas this "rendering of the white man into a double of the black man is a process of empowerment, a process of seeking to become one with the powerful Other", but at the same time it is also "a way of disempowering the mimed (i.e. white men) by making their difference and otherness a version of oneself" (1992c: 37). By being identified with a part of one's own Self, the Other is endowed with central importance in the construction of one's own identity. In Lattas's view this was already true in the pre-colonial past, when Kaliai men used initiation ceremonies to constitute themselves "through the detour of women". It is also true for "the white man", who, as Lattas states in another article, "required the otherness of the black man to constitute his own sense of self" (1996e: 162). Referring to these similarities in the way the Kaliai and westerners conceptualise each other, in "Skin, Personhood and Redemption" Lattas states that "Colonialism becomes a hall of mirrors where white and black are made into unstable reflections of each other and even of their own identities" (1992c: 37).

Continuing his 'cargo articles' from the beginning of the 1990s, Lattas's 1996 paper, "Memory, Forgetting and the New Tribes Mission",(21) focuses on a denomination which, although active in the area since 1986, had not received much attention from him before, with the exception of a few scattered references in which he attributed to the New Tribes Mission (NTM) the effect of "reviving bush Kaliai cargo cults" (1991a: 230), and in which he states that, since the arrival of the NTM, "masked ceremonies in many parts of the Kaliai interior have been abandoned and denounced as satanic".(22)

Lattas now presents an argument in which these references are linked to each other: For Lattas the NTM's rejection of 'traditional' practices, including their 'tabooing' of betel nuts and tobacco,(23) constitutes an attempt to "transform and eradicate not only the collective memory of the traditional past but also the more recent collective memories created by cargo cults" (1996d: 286). However, in Lattas's view "the moral requirement to forget can keep alive a memory of what needs to be expelled and repressed from memory" (1996d: 295-296). Accordingly, while representing an "intensification of the civilising project" (1996d: 295), the NTM's attempt to transform and eradicate the remembered past does not remain uncontested, and old men and "some cargo cult leaders" want to reclaim what had been appropriated by Westerners (1996d: 303). Thus the pursuit of resistance and autonomy again causes Western discourses to be strategically 'misunderstood'. This leads to NTM-rituals being re-interpreted in the light of cargo cult stories (1996d: 292-293), as well as to the emergence of "a clandestine cargo cult" developing around a white NTM-missionary whom Lattas chooses to call "Sign".(24) Here Lattas appears to share what he describes as "the belief of rival Catholic followers", namely that "the new missionaries are exploiting local cargo cults, if not working a cargo cult of their own" (1996d: 301). All in all it is obvious that Lattas perceives the relationship between NTM-adherents and cargo cultists primarily as a struggle over the control of the past. The outcome of this struggle, however, produces opposite views: while Lattas himself claims that the autonomy that cargo cultists aim for "has been significantly reduced and [that] the hegemony of the New Tribes Mission is growing" (1996c: 261), he also states that "People believe that the New Tribes cult is in decline [...]" (1996d: 304, endnote 11).(25


Whether in his pre-"Cultures of Secrecy" writings on Australia or West New Britain, in both cases Lattas presupposes a dichotomy between two antagonistic parties, one subjugating the other, which in turn, by internalising its oppressor's view, contributes to its own self-alienation and domination. While this binary structure itself largely remains unaltered, different groups replace each other in each of the two positions presented by this structure: as the subjugating party members of the nineteenth century upper classes are followed by past and present westerners in general, then by Kaliai men, and finally by westerners again. In the role of the subjugated one finds first nineteenth century convicted criminals, then past and present Aborigines, then Kaliai women and finally the Kaliai as a whole. With respect to both Australia and West New Britain, this succession of different groups constitutes a move from intra- to inter-cultural relations. Interestingly enough, in both cases it is only after this move that Lattas begins to see subjugation as leading to pain and suffering and as evoking the pursuit of resistance and autonomy. References to such emotions and objectives do characterise the position of Aborigines and the Kaliai vis-à-vis Westerners, but they are notably absent in Lattas's earlier descriptions of the internal oppositions among the white inhabitants of New South Wales or among the Kaliai themselves.

Lattas's dichotomy between oppressor and oppressed appears to be linked to a strong moral dualism in which, to put it bluntly, the subjugating party is wrong and the subjugated right.(26) Largely untroubled by any uncertainties, contradictions or ambivalences, Lattas thus tacitly assumes a moral superiority which allows him not only to condemn representatives of colonisation and missionisation unequivocally, but also to turn himself into a champion of - indeed even into a spokesman for - the alleged victims of internalisation and self-alienation.(27)

As Lattas is simply using the Kaliai to replace the Aborigines within his preconceived dichotomy, this involves a change in the data on which his interpretations are based: while in his 'Australianist' publications and his reviews he examines direct or indirect quotations from newspapers or books, here he is relying mainly on reproducing what his Kaliai informants have said, certainly more than on reporting his own observations.

In both cases, however, Lattas's data remain poorly contextualized. Thus quotations from newspapers or books often appear to be quite isolated from the text from which they have been taken. Accordingly it becomes quite difficult to obtain a coherent view of the subject of the original text or of its aim or main theses. Similarly Lattas's reproductions of particular Kaliai statements usually do not include any information on the relationship between these statements to the whole conversation they were a part of or on the position of particular informants in Kaliai society. This makes it almost impossible to assess adequately how far ideas expressed by some are shared by others, or to judge the importance these ideas acquire by being put into action.

Reflecting upon issues of representation and 'indigenous relevance' might have caused Lattas to consider a set of rather basic questions: if the influences of colonisation and missionisation lead towards internalisation, self-alienation and subjugation, what form did or do these influences actually take 'on the ground'? Indeed it appears to be at least potentially contradictory that, for example, in the very first paragraph of "Sexuality and Cargo Cults", Lattas stresses the 'remoteness' of the Kaliai and the concomitant absence of government and church officials, while, as stated above, later in the same article he starts to speak of "the monstrous asymmetries of colonialism" (1991a 247) and "the continuing pain of colonial inequalities" (1991a: 239). If some Kaliai took part in "Censure's cult", who were they and what did they actually do? Indeed, a coherent description of the history of this cargo movement would have been more informative that the compulsion to make deductions from Lattas's reproductions of particular statements. If the NTM has established itself in an area that had been Catholic before, who has been or is actually converting, and what are the differences and similarities between both denominations in terms of membership structure, basic beliefs and ritual life? Indeed, according to Lattas, saying that the NTM is exerting pressure on the Catholics and that the Catholics in their turn are using the term 'cargo cult' against the NTM, inter-denominational opposition appears to be a serious concern for many of the Kaliai themselves. Similar conflicts between mainline churches and 'newly arrived' representatives of Christian fundamentalism can increasingly be found in many parts of present-day PNG.(28)

Apart from poorly contextualising his ethnographic data, Lattas is also not very explicit about the conditions of their production, that is, about the methods he has used. When writing, for example, that Censure screams at night because he is suffering from colonialism, Lattas does not explain where this information comes from. Given the fact that Lattas mostly relies on reproducing indigenous statements rather than on reporting his own observations, it must be inferred that these nightly screams were reported to him. But by whom, with what intention and in what situation? In general, Lattas only mentions his fieldwork in his acknowledgements and endnotes, and even there does not say much more than that he had visited six or seven different Kaliai villages for twelve months in 1986 and for another nine months prior to 1992.(29) Accordingly one can only imagine Lattas travelling through these six or seven villages, staying for a comparatively short time in each of them, and mainly interviewing the inhabitants, speakers of at least two Austronesian dialects and one Papuan language (1990b: 100, endnote 2), about issues or under general conditions that Lattas's own accounts indicate to have been problematic in various ways. Lattas not only asked people about cargo cults, thus necessarily using a term which, in the course of the inter-denominational controversy, had been stigmatised at least by the Catholic part of the population, he also entered into a culture in which, according to his own words, "trickery" was "celebrated" and readily applied vis-à-vis, for example, government officials (1989: 452). That is, it was used against representatives of a supposedly hostile and subjugating outside force with whom, at least initially, and if only on the grounds of having the same skin colour, the Kaliai must have identified him. Despite these general conditions, however, Lattas does not say anything about the mutual perceptions, expectations and interactions between himself and his hosts, let alone about if or how he ever managed to develop a relationship of trust or even of friendship. Indeed, although he has written about the role of Western science in the colonial history of PNG, Lattas never extends such reflexivity to himself as a contemporary practitioner of this science.

All in all, the poor contextualization of the ethnographic data and the lack of methodological explicitness does nothing to render Lattas's data and interpretations verifiable. In this sense it appears to be fitting and thus significant that none of Lattas's articles contains a map showing the villages he visited, that his use of pseudonyms is insufficiently justified and inconsistent,(30) and that rather than giving verbatim quotations of his informants' statements, he only represents them in his own words, whether in the form of summaries, indirect speech or translations. Moreover, David and Dorothy Counts' description of the writing style of "Cultures of Secrecy" as unclear and barely understandable can be extended and applied to all of Lattas's pre-"Cultures of Secrecy" publications on West New Britain or Australia: Lattas's language as well as the way he mixes the presentation and interpretation of the data, can generally be seen as another factor that is detrimental to any possible verification.


From sketching a presentation and critique of Lattas's earlier publications, I now turn to an assessment of his recent monograph. What does Lattas have to say here about the way the Kaliai cope with cultural otherness? To what extent do his findings here differ from what he had before? - For Lattas himself such differences do seem to exist, since, in the preface of "Cultures of Secrecy" he claims to have "consolidate [d] and develop [ed] arguments with which" he "was experimenting in book reviews and journal articles" (1998: xix). Apparently this does not imply a change in his general approach. Thus the relationship between Kaliai and western culture continues to be understood primarily as a relationship between indigenous and introduced ideas that is taking the form of cargo cults and being expressed through the statements of the Kaliai people.

Compared to his earlier publications, however, Lattas apparently intends to be more explicit about his methods. Since any references to this issue had previously been confined to the acknowledgements and endnotes, it does come as a surprise now that on the very first page of his preface he declares:

During a ten-year period (December 1985 to February 1996) I returned to the field six times [...]. I have spent about thirty months in the field. In 1986 and 1990 I built houses out of bush materials in the villages of Aikon, Salke, Doko Sagra, and Molou (1998: xi).(31)

Taken together with what Lattas had said before this means that he had visited the Kaliai for twelve months in 1986, for nine months in 1990 and for another nine months during five additional trips between 1990 and 1996. While Lattas's self-proclaimed industry and ability to build four local-style houses within two years must certainly be admired, his general fieldwork pattern of travelling through several villages and staying for a comparatively short time in each of them thus appears hardly to have altered.

Unlike in his earlier publications, Lattas even goes on to provide information about what actually happened during his fieldwork and about the relationship between himself and his informants. According to Lattas they visited his house in the morning and were given "food and cups of tea", whereupon he "questioned" them "about their beliefs, rituals and customs"(1998: xi). During his first stay in 1986, however, "many villagers were initially too frightened" to talk about "the true traditional stories of their ancestors" (1998: xii). In Lattas's view, this changed only after he had shown a sympathetic attitude and proved his commitment by making return visits (1998: 319, endnote 2). Similarly some cargo cult adherents only started to tell him their "secret cult stories" after his second field trip, once it had become clear that he had not reported his earlier informants to the authorities. Lattas assumes that those who gave him their stories "often saw themselves as receiving tacit recognition from an outsider, a sympathetic white man" (1998: xii). From the opposition between cargo cult adherents and the authorities, including those relatives and neighbours who aligned themselves with the latter, Lattas moves in his preface to the New Tribes Mission and their "all embracing system of surveillance in the Kaliai bush" (1998: xiv). According to Lattas, NTM-missionaries told the villagers "to get rid" of him because he "was encouraging them not to convert" and because his interest in their stories was "pulling their thoughts back to the dark ways of the past" (1998: xiv). Lattas even speaks of "the New Tribes Mission's desire to demonize me" and takes the NTM's accusations as meaning that he "encouraged people not to abandon their traditional culture" and that he supported local big men in seeing the NTM's preaching "about Satan and hell" as "simply another white man's trick" (1998: xiv).

The fact that Lattas uses the preface of "Cultures of Secrecy" to write about his fieldwork might be interpreted as indicating an increase in self-reflexivity. However, Lattas's data are obviously intended mainly to persuade the reader that, by winning the trust of the Kaliai, he actually succeeded in overcoming the problems of interviewing them about rather sensitive matters despite having the same skin colour as the explicit white oppressors. When Lattas talks about the relationship between himself and his informants, he does so mainly in the context of, first, referring to the opposition between cargo cult adherents and representatives or supporters of colonisation and missionisation; and, secondly, by picturing himself as being persecuted by the NTM, as if it were the primary objective of this denomination to prevent him from taking sides with the alleged victims of hostile external influences. Thus for Lattas the NTM merely functions as a vehicle to re-define him as a champion of the subjugated. Moreover, the data that Lattas provides about his fieldwork appear not to have been fully thought through. If, for example, many villagers refused to talk about "traditional stories" during his first stay in 1986, then what is he interpreting in the articles which are based on this stay? If Lattas learnt "secret cult stories" only after his second field trip, what does this mean for the articles on Kaliai cargo cults in which only his first two field trips are mentioned? When Lattas writes about how he has entertained his informants with food and tea while he "questioned" them, he shows himself to be completely unaware of the danger that, in acting in this way, he might have prompted his informants to say what they believed he wanted to hear. This danger of the anthropologist himself evoking his own data appears to be particularly real in the case of the Kaliai, if Lattas is correct in attributing to them a "pervasive culture of trickery". Just as in his earlier publications, however, Lattas does not consider the impact that this "trickery" might have had on his fieldwork. Accordingly it is evident that if the preface to "Cultures of Secrecy" does present an increase in self-reflexivity, this can be seen at best as a gradual process, but not at all as a substantial one. In contrast to his own intentions, Lattas thus unwittingly creates the impression that he has continued to apply methods that are not sufficiently clarified and therefore remain questionable.

Following the preface, the introduction contains Lattas's "key arguments" (1998: xvii), which he briefly outlines with reference to authors who have contributed to the cargo archive before him, such as Peter Worsley, Kennelm Burridge and - referred to most extensively here - Peter Lawrence. Lattas then concludes his introduction by briefly summarising each of the following chapters. In chapter1, which is intended to function as an "introduction to the Kaliai bush" (1998: xi), Lattas presents rather basic data on the social organisation of the Kaliai, on the history of colonisation and missionisation, and finally on local perceptions of both the concomitant changes and of westerners themselves.

After the preface, introduction and first chapter, "Cultures of Secrecy" is, in a broad sense, structured chronologically. Thus in chapter 2 Lattas refers to "precontact cult ceremonies" (1998: 31), mentions a variety of cults which took place subsequent to World War II but prior to "Censure's movement", and sketches a "general introduction" to this movement (1998: 88). In the next four chapters, the major part of the book, as in his earlier 'cargoist articles' Lattas writes about ideas that are expressed in the context of contemporary representations of what Censure and his adherents had said and done. These ideas focus first on the relationship between the living and the dead, which according to Lattas is conceived primarily in spatial terms (chapter 3), and secondly on sexuality, on beliefs about the "symbolic positioning of women" (1998: 152) and changing gender relations (chapter 4), the role of female participants in cult activities (chapter 5), and the "androgynous imagery in the Censure cult" (1998: 208; chapter 6). As towards the end of chapter 6, which is intended to present a "switch to the contemporary context" (1998: xlii), Lattas uses chapter 7 to mention cult activities which took place after Censure's cult had begun to decline. Finally, in his last chapter, Lattas concludes by taking up his earlier examinations of the present-day impact of the New Tribes Mission.

It would be a mistake, however, to over-emphasize a chronological or any other clear-cut structure in "Cultures of Secrecy". By contrast, when, in chapter 2, Lattas mentions various "precontact cult ceremonies", he does not appear to be following any discernible order. Moreover, descriptive and interpretative passages prove to be as mixed up as in Lattas's earlier publications, and references to particular subjects such as the practices initiated by Censure or the preachings disseminated by the NTM are scattered throughout the book. In effect, it becomes rather difficult not only to gain a coherent view of these subjects, but also to assess how Lattas is analysing them.


As in his first writings about colonialism in Australia and West New Britain, in "Cultures of Secrecy" Lattas continues to presuppose the existence of a process of civilisation which, by entailing internalisation and self-alienation, leads to subjugation. He shares Foucault's idea that, since "modern state power" depends on the "pastoral custody and control of individuals" (1998: xlii), it is, as Foucault has it, "both an individualising and a totalising form of power".(32) For the Kaliai, the impact of modern state power and of the civilisation process begins when modern state institutions are brought to them. Here Lattas speaks of a "transformative project of European hegemony" that ultimately seeks to have "people becoming white by seeing themselves through European eyes" (1998: 223). According to Lattas, the Kaliai are embracing and supporting the process of civilisation and making the aim of 'becoming white' their own, when they incorporate "Europeans, Western technology, state rituals, and Christianity into their narratives" (1998: 98) and adopt and reproduce the modern state institutions that are brought to them. Adopting and reproducing these institutions, however, also implies the adoption and reproduction of the discourses that authorise them and that construct the Kaliai as "living in moral darkness and in need of spiritual enlightenment" (1998: 233). "That critique and its primitivist assumptions", Lattas writes, "were internalised by people, producing alienated subjects who hated the past for that moment of savagery that they read into themselves" (1998: 267).

What does Lattas say about the way in which western institutions and their underlying discourses are being adopted and reproduced? In his earlier publications, as well as in "Cultures of Secrecy", Lattas's answer is implicit in the correlation he makes between the conceptualisation of colonialism on the one hand, and ideas about gender and about the relationship between the living and the dead on the other. Corresponding to his earlier thesis that gender functions as a "metaphor for thinking about differences" (1990b: 75) both within Kaliai culture (1990b) and vis-à-vis westerners (1991a), Lattas now states that "Women's subordination to men provided the terms for thinking about racial subordination" (1998: 152). As "gender identities and inequalities" are combined with "racial identities and inequalities", the "blurring and overcoming" of the one is associated with the "blurring and overcoming" of the other (1998: 205). Accordingly Lattas interprets the importance that women had in "Censure's cult" - they seem to have formed the majority of his adherents and to have been specifically addressed by him - as an attempt to change the "symbolic positioning of women" (1998: 152) in order to achieve as Lattas writes with reference to a female cult leader a "refiguring of the gender hierarchy [that] promised a refiguring of the racial hierarchy" (1998: 220).(33)Furthermore Lattas claims that the traditional gender relationship, that is, the separation between men and women, is believed to have contributed to the emergence of the separation between the living and the dead, which in its turn allegedly continues to be linked to the separation between the Kaliai and westerners.(34) Thus the 'old' dichotomy between life and death, between surface and underground world, serves to think about the 'new' dichotomy of 'black' and 'white', while the 'new' one is used to think about the 'old' one respectively.(35) For Lattas, cargo cult adherents assume that the "current racially organised divisions of the world" have developed from "the separation of the dead and the living" (1998: 108) and that the "loss of control over present reality" results from "having lost control over the space of death" (1998: 110). Based on this assumption, Lattas argues, cargo cult adherents hope that, by reclaiming control over the world of the dead and overcoming the separation between them and the living, it will also become possible to reclaim control over "present reality" and to overcome the concomitant inter-cultural inequalities and distinctions.

It follows from Lattas's correlation between colonialism, gender and the life/death-dichotomy that, since both women and the dead represent, so to speak, otherness within the Kaliai's own culture, the way this 'familiar otherness' has traditionally been coped with does now provide a model for coping with the 'new otherness' of Western culture.(36) However, modelling the adoption and reproduction of introduced institutions and discourses on traditional ideas and practices necessarily implies a re-interpretation of these institutions and discourses in ways that have not been foreseen by colonialists and missionaries. Thus Lattas claims that while the Kaliai are embracing and supporting the "civilising processes of pacification and Christianization", in the context of cargo cults these processes are being "localized and transformed" as they receive "an indigenous context and content" (1998: 98) and become "reorganised and assimilated to a magical worldview (1998: 47). In particular, Lattas repeatedly mentions attempts by Censure to address and to 'school' the dead who are inhabiting the underground world (1998: 130-142, 180-182), and he states that here Censure "took the transformative logic of Kaliai magic and initiation rituals [...] and merged this with Western disciplinary rituals and pedagogic projects" (1998: 140). Accordingly Lattas speaks of "the intersection of two competing forms of mimesis that come to redefine each others processes of copying and becoming". (37)

The intersection of 'the old' and 'the new' shows that for Lattas each mutually influence the other: modelling the adoption and reproduction of introduced institutions and discourses on traditional ideas and practices also means capturing one's own past in order to capture one's future.(38) Accordingly the Kaliai, in Lattas's words, "reread the past to give it a future", but at the same time the reverse is also true, and they "reread the future (that they were shown by Europeans) to give it a past that was their own" (1998: 267). Thus Lattas portrays the Kaliai as seeing themselves in an interstitial position "between the past and the future" (1998: 267) and also "simultaneously inside and outside Western culture as well as inside and outside traditional bush Kaliai culture". "These forms of double incorporation and double alienation", Lattas continues, "encoded people's ambivalent attitudes toward both white-skins and their past" (1998: xxiii). In Lattas's view such ambivalent attitudes articulate themselves, for example, when the Kaliai, while making the aim of 'becoming white' their own, believe that this also implies a loss of traditional masculinity, (39) or when the past, while being "imagined as one's prison and burden", also "provides spaces of freedom and empowerment" (1998: xxviii).

For Lattas, by re-interpreting western institutions and discourses, the Kaliai are attempting not only to re-appropriate what has been subjected to the hegemonic impact of colonisation and missionisation, but also to gain control over the civilising process itself. (40) Paradoxically, embracing and supporting this process thus becomes in the end a means of resisting it; (41) in a similar vein, by making the aim of 'becoming white' their own, the Kaliai ultimately want to assert their own identity. (42) Here the relationship between the Kaliai and westerners or, in Lattas's words, "the present structure of hegemonic relationships" is seen as "made up of relations of mutual appropriations in which host and parasite feed off each other's appropriations but also feed off each other's appropriations of each other's appropriations". (43) According to Lattas this has implications for the construction of identity, which, in his words again, "emerges not simply through the mirror of the other but also through appropriating and mirroring back the other's appropriations and mirrorings of oneself" (1998: 312).

Since he understands the relationship between the Kaliai and westerners as a continuous struggle in which both parties are appropriating from each other and wrestling with each other for control, not only of the civilising process itself but also of "present reality", Lattas at least implicitly assumes that this struggle has a historical dimension and that it unfolds within a series of successive but structurally similar phases. At first the impact of colonisation and missionisation begins with the western usurpation of indigenous "moral authority and power" (1998: 175) which, through the re-interpretation of western institutions and discourses, is then re-captured by cargo cults. Catholic priests, for example, after praying at local cemeteries, were said to have secretly received money that their prayers had caused to appear magically at the graves. In this case, Lattas writes, "the Catholic church's attempts to poach upon traditional forms of respect for the dead are poached back to sustain cargo cult narratives of respect for the dead. Appropriations are in turn reappropriated [...]" (1998105). In the second phase western authorities find cargo cults threatening and attempt to counter them. Lattas speaks of "the official backlash against cargo cults" (1998: 174) and of "colonialism's policing of cargo cults". (44) Such a counter-action may take the form of implementing development projects, which, however, are re-interpreted again, thus "fuelling cargo cult desires". (45) The pattern of western impact and indigenous re-interpretation repeats itself in the third phase, which Lattas mostly describes by taking up what he had written earlier about the New Tribes Mission: still representing an "intensification" of the "civilising project", (46) the NTM attempts to re-capture what cargo cults had taken from Christianity (1998: 277, 289). But, as Lattas continues to argue in sharing Catholic positions, (47) while so doing the NTM becomes integrated into cargo cult ideas (48) and "a clandestine cargo cult inside the new mission" (49) emerges. "Here cargo cult appropriations of Christianity", Lattas concludes,

[...] come to be reconfirmed and revoiced by a new mission that has appropriated and reempowered theses cargo cult messages [...] in ways that have allowed these messages to be reappropriated yet again into new cargo cult voices [...] (1998: 273; cf. 311).

 Unlike in his 1996 paper, "Introduction: Mnemonic Regimes and Strategies of Subversion", where he had claimed that "the hegemony of the New Tribes Mission is growing" (1996c: 261), Lattas now appears to be unclear about the future outcome of this continuous struggle for control. On the one hand, the fact that, according to the Catholics, "the New Tribes Mission cult is declining" (1998: 309) might be seen as indicating the imminent defeat of the representatives of colonisation and missionisation. Whereas in his other 1996 paper, "Memory, Forgetting and the New Tribes Mission", Lattas had merely reported this view (1996d: 304, endnote 11), in "Cultures of Secrecy" he seems to have appropriated it, since he also voices his own view in declaring, with reference to the NTM and their services, which had previously been attended twice a day: "Today the cult has declined in intensity; services are held about three times a week, and some members miss even these" (1998: 303). On the other hand, while the Kaliai are embracing and welcoming the process of civilisation with the aim of resisting it, Lattas claims that in so doing they are actually reproducing their own self-alienation and subjugation. (50) In this sense the Kaliai's attempt to assert their own identity would ultimately have the opposite effect of making them, in Lattas's terms, even less 'black' and more 'white'.


The comparative analysis of "Cultures of Secrecy" and of Lattas's earlier publications reveals a set of interdependent methodological and theoretical problems. First, just as the preface of "Cultures of Secrecy" fails to present Lattas's methods as any less questionable, the same remark can be made for the succeeding chapters. These also contain data that have methodological implications without Lattas noticing it. When in chapter 6, he writes in passing that Censure died in 1988 (1998: 217), this means that he could only have interviewed Censure during his first fieldtrip in 1986, that is, at a time when, according to his own words, people were mostly "too frightened" or otherwise reluctant to tell him any "true traditional stories" or "secret cult stories". (51) All in all the Counts thus appear to have been justified in criticising the quality of Lattas's data and methods. - Intentionally or not, Lattas's poor self-reflexivity and methodological explicitness tend to mask the shortcomings of how he has obtained his data.

In their turn, these shortcomings may have been partly responsible for the fact that, as Robbins has pointed out, Lattas only insufficiently manages to contextualise his data. By consequence, and in comparison with Lattas's earlier articles, "Cultures of Secrecy" does not really provide the reader with a more coherent or more detailed view of the past or present living reality of the Kaliai. In his characterisation of 'traditional' culture, Lattas appears to replace "trickery" with "secrecy" as well as with "violence and fear" (1998: 155), but these new labels prove to be as insufficiently substantiated as the old one had been. With respect to colonisation and missionisation, the contradiction between the 'remoteness' of the Kaliai and their alleged suffering from colonial subjugation remains basically unaltered. (52) When Lattas writes about cargo cultists, Catholics and NTM-adherents he continues to do so without offering comprehensive information about how these groups are actually composed or the extent to which they differ in what their members are actually saying and doing. (53) In general, Lattas fails to address the present everyday life of the Kaliai - apart from a few brief and scattered references. Thus in an endnote he suddenly declares that during the early 1990s, due to the operations of a Malaysian timber company, "a network of roads" was constructed in the Kaliai bush and that "a 'law and order' problem" connected to "low royalty payments and environmental damages" emerged (1998: 321, endnote 5). These changes are not mentioned in any other part of "Cultures of Secrecy" or in any of Lattas's articles, and he does not relate them to the simultaneous 'success' of the NTM. Instead, he merely claims that unlike the American NTM-missionaries, the Malaysians have not been "incorporated into cargo cult stories" (1998: 321, endnote5), without even attempting to explain this striking contrast. If such a contrast indeed existed, however, in my view it would have the potential to challenge the alleged relevance that "cargo cult stories" have for the Kaliai's present reality.

As in "Cultures of Secrecy", Lattas's data still appear to have been obtained using questionable methods, and as they are still insufficiently contextualized, he continues to interpret these data by presupposing a dichotomy between subjugating 'bad' Westerners and subjugated 'good' Kaliai, while identifying himself with and speaking for the latter from a position of assumed moral superiority. (54) Compared to Lattas's earlier articles, however, the effect of his presupposed dichotomy tends to be somewhat mitigated by the fact that in "Cultures of Secrecy" he refers to intersections and ambivalent attitudes as well as mutual influences and appropriations. For Lattas the Kaliai are still agonised by western-inflicted "everyday pain and suffering", but apart from still causing self-alienation and subjugation, 'the other' now also tends to become a rather common factor which contributes to the construction of identity everywhere and ordinarily. (55) In general, however, these intimations of mitigation and 'normalisation' do not detract from the underlying persistency of Lattas's dichotomy between oppressors and oppressed. Apparently this binary model of interpretation, developed first on the basis of historical written sources from Australia and then applied to the Kaliai, has not been influenced much by the alleged fact that, according to Lattas himself, he succeeded in gaining more and more information from his informants by winning their trust. In my view Lattas's aim of substantiating a presupposed dichotomy is most likely to have affected his methods, that is, to have prevented him not only from contextualising his data sufficiently, but also from looking for facts which might have contradicted his theses. (56) - The poor contextualization of his data and his lack of methodological explicitness constitute only two of several factors which continue to hamper the verification of his data and his interpretations. Others are the language he uses, (57) his incessant mixing of descriptive and interpretative passages, and his habit of representing indigenous statements not with verbatim quotations but with his own summaries and translations. The latter is particularly problematic because many translations can easily be shown to be plainly incorrect (58) or create an odd impression by treating idiomatic Tok Pisin-expressions literally. (59) All these factors also make it possible to take the critique which the Counts have formulated with respect to Lattas's translations and to apply it to his work in general: in many ways he adds more obscurity than clarity.

For Lattas himself, the fact that he does not provide the reader with a particularly coherent or detailed view of the Kaliai's past or present living reality may not be much of a problem, since throughout his earlier articles and his recent monograph, his primary intention in dealing with the Kaliai was apparently rather to use them to corroborate his preconceived binary model of interpretation. (60) This allowed him to take particular statements which he had somehow collected while travelling through various Kaliai villages and to incorporate them into his dichotomy between oppressors and oppressed without caring much about either the conversational context of these statements or his own role in their production. Although he claims to have checked "the use of particular concepts" in two "local languages", (61) Lattas never gives any informations about the extent to which the ideas he reproduces are actually widespread among the Kaliai or about how his own interpretations are related to those of the Kaliai as a whole or to those of particular groups of Kaliai. (62) Instead he presumes to speak for 'the Kaliai'. By so doing he not only neglects 'intra-cultural differences', (63) but in the end his work produces the same effect that he himself had attributed to the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari: it "silences the discourses of others in order to read its own discourses ontop of them" (1991b: 111; see XXX). The Kaliai appear as equally voiceless, faceless, anonymous and homogenous as the Australian Aborigines for whom they have to function as a mere replacement within Lattas's presupposed dichotomy and who, in turn, share these very attributes with their own 'precursors', that is, with nineteenth century convicted criminals. By representing the Kaliai in this way, Lattas ultimately widens the cultural distance between them and the western reader, instead of bridging that distance, which could be seen as one of the most important objectives of anthropology.

Thus the praise in many reviews of "Cultures of Secrecy" obviously cannot be justified with respect to Lattas's qualities as an ethnographer of the Kaliai. On a more theoretical level, however, the question of how people cope with cultural otherness is proving to be of increasing relevance not only for anthropologists but also for those with whom they work. Irrespective of which ideas and practices do or do not constitute a cargo cult for Lattas, with respect to this question what Lattas has to say does appear plausible: cargo cults represent a form of dealing with the 'new otherness' of western culture that is modelled on the way the 'familiar otherness' of both women and the dead has been coped with traditionally. In addition, the Kaliai identify the western other with a part of their own self, thus granting the latter a major role in the construction of their own identity. Since for Lattas westerners themselves act in just the same way with Australian Aborigines or Papuans, in the colonial and postcolonial context different groups can be seen to conceptualise each other in quite similar ways. Since Wagner has taken the words "culture" and "kago" to be "mirror images", Lattas understands colonialism to be a "hall of mirrors". Reflections, however, also have their impact: indigenous and western ways of conceptualising each other and of coping with each other do not co-exist separately. In this sense I find Lattas convincing when he refers at least nominally to intersections and mutual influences between 'the old' and 'the new', and when he portrays the Kaliai and westerners as appropriating mutually from each other.

Rather than judging the quality of Lattas's work by its methodological and theoretical problems alone, the relevance of the subject and the plausibility of some of his theses would make it comparatively more fruitful to check the latter on the basis of specific ethnographic data. In so doing, however, it would be essential to view the interaction between different cultures as an interaction not only between different ideas but also between different ideas and practices. Moreover, in assessing the relationship between these ideas and practices, one would have to examine thoroughly their 'inter-cultural dimension' as well as their inherent ambivalences and contradictions. From this point on, one could proceed to compare Melanesian and western forms of coping with cultural otherness. Such comparisons, however, make it necessary to take the insights of the self-reflexive turn in anthropology seriously and thus to pay attention to ethnographic fieldwork itself. Though perhaps implicit, probably the most valuable contribution that can be derived from Lattas's work is that it serves as a reminder to see ethnographic fieldwork too as a process in which all the parties involved have to cope with cultural otherness. Accordingly this process should not be excluded when it comes to analysing intersections or mutual influences and appropriations.


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1986 The Aesthetics of Terror and the Personification of Power: Public Executions and the Cultural Construction of Class Relations in Colonial New South Wales, 1788-1830. Social Analysis 19: 3-21.

1987 Savagery and Civilisation: Towards a Genealogy of Racism. Social Analysis 21: 39-58.

1989 Trickery and Sacrifice: Tambarans and the Appropriation of Female Reproductive Powers in Male Initiation Ceremonies in West New Britain. Man (N.S.) 24: 451-469.

1990a Aborigines and Contemporary Australian Nationalism: Primordiality and the Cultural Politics of Otherness. Social Analysis 27: 50-69.

1990b Poetics of Space and Sexual Economies of Power: Gender and the Politics of Male Identity in West New Britain. Ethos. Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 18(1): 71-102.

1991a Sexuality and Cargo Cults: The Politics of Gender and Procreation in West New Britain. Cultural Anthropology 6(2): 230-256.

1991b Primitivism in Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. Social Analysis 30: 98-115.

1991c Book review of "Annette Weiner, The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1988. Oceania 61(3): 276-278.

1991d Book review of "Jeremy Beckett (ed.), Past and Present: The Construction of Aboriginality. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1988. Oceania 61(3): 282-285.

1991e Nationalism, Aesthetic Redemption and Aboriginality. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 2(3): 307-324.

1992a Hysteria, Anthropological Disclosure and the Concept of the Unconscious: Cargo Cults and the Scientisation of Race and Colonial Power. In: A. Lattas (ed.), Alienating Mirrors. Christianity, Cargo Cults and Colonialism in Melanesia; pp. 1-14. Oceania 63(1).

1992b The Punishment of Masks. Cargo Cults and Ideologies of Representation in West New Britain. Canberra Anthropology 15(2): 69-88.

1992c Skin, Personhood and Redemption: The Double Self in West New Britain Cargo Cults. In: A. Lattas (ed.), Alienating Mirrors. Christianity, Cargo Cults and Colonialism in Melanesia; pp. 27-54. Oceania 63(1).

1992d Book review of "J. Linnekin and L. Poyer, Cultural identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990. Oceania 63(3): 94-95.

1992e Primitivism, Nationalism and Individualism in Australian Popular Culture. In: Bain Attwood, and John Arnold (eds.), Power, Knowledge and Aborigines; pp. 45-58. Melbourne: La Trobe University Press.

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1993b Book review of "Nicholas Thomas, Entangled objects: Exchange, Material Culture and Colonialism in the Pacific. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. Oceania 64(3): 94-96.

1993c Essentialism, Memory and Resistance: Aboriginality and the Politics of Autheticity. Oceania 63: 240-267.

1993d Sorcery and Colonialism: Illness, Dreams and Death as Political Languages in West New Britain. Man (N.S.) 28: 51-77.

1995 Book review of "Lamont Lindstrom, Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1(3): 646-648.

1996a Book review of "Lamont Lindstrom, Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993". Oceania 66(1): 328-330.

1996b Colonialism, Aborigines and the Politics of Time and Space: The Placing of Strangers and the Placing of Oneself. Social Analysis 40: 20-42.

1996c Introduction: Mnemonic Regimes and Strategies of Subversion. Oceania 66: 257-265.

1996d Memory, Forgetting and the New Tribes Mission in West New Britain. Oceania 66: 286-304.

1996e Humanitarianism and Australian Nationalism in Colonial Papua: Hubert Murray and the Project of Caring for the Self of the Coloniser and Colonised. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 7(2): 141-164.

1997 Aborigines and Contemporary Australian Nationalism: Primordiality and the Cultural Politics of Otherness. In: Gillian Cowlishaw, and Barry Morris (eds.), Race Matters. Indigenous Australians and 'Our' Society; pp. 223-255, 282-283. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.

1998 Cultures of Secrecy. Reinventing Race in Bush Kaliai Cargo Cults. Madison, London: The University of Wisconsin Press.

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1993 Cargo Cult. Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

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1988 A Note on Cargo and Cultural Constructions of Change. Pacific Studies 11: 121-134.

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1958 A 'Cargo' Situation in the Markham Valley, New Guinea. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 14: 273-294.

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2000 Book review of Lattas 1998. The Contemporary Pacific 12(2): 540-542.

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1992 Nachrichten aus dem Beitrittsgebiet. Merkur 519: 465-480.

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1977 Search for Salvation. Studies in the History and Theology of Cargo Cults. Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House.

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1999 Book review of Lattas 1998. Oceania 70(2): 196-197.


Based on the recent deconstruction of the term 'cargo cult', the relevant literature, the so-called 'cargo archive', can be taken as a starting point for comparing Melanesian and Western forms of coping with cultural otherness. The work of Andrew Lattas is of interest in this context, because he interprets cargo cults as one of these forms. By analysing his recent monograph, "Cultures of Secrecy", in relation to his earlier publications, however, it becomes obvious that Lattas mainly uses his data, which have been obtained using questionable methods and are presented with poor contextualization, to substantiate a preconceived binary model contrasting subjugating, 'bad' Westerners to subjugated, 'good' Kaliai (West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea). One consequence of the methodological and theoretical problems inherent in Latttas's work is a need to check his theses on the basis of specific ethnographic material. Moreover, to make subsequent inter-cultural comparisons possible, unlike Lattas himself one would have to take the insights of the self-reflexive turn in anthropology seriously and view ethnographic fieldwork itself as a process in which all the parties involved have to cope with cultural otherness.

Keywords: cargo cults, coping with cultural otherness, self-reflexivity.

Holger Jebens, Dr. Phil. in Anthropology (Berlin 1994); Research Fellow at the Frobenius-Institut an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Managing Editor of Paideuma; fieldwork in Highland and Seaboard Papua New Guinea (1990-1991, 1995-1996, 1997); regional interests: Oceania, Australia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia; theoretical interests: religion, inter- and intra-ethnic conflict, identity, museology, fieldwork methodology; major publications: Wege zum Himmel (Bonn 1995), Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists and the Impact of Tradition in Pairudu (Southern Highlands Province, PNG). In: T. Otto, and A. Borsboom (eds.), Cultural Dynamics of Religious Change in Oceania; pp. 33-44. Leiden (1997), Signs of the Second Coming. On Eschatological Expectation and Disappointment in Highland and Seaboard Papua New Guinea. Ethnohistory (1): 171-204.

* I wish to thank John Barker, Bronwen Douglas, Dan Jorgensen and Joel Robbins for their instructive comments.

1 See Janssen (1974), Dorothy Counts (1972, 1978), David and Dorothy Counts (1976), and Dorothy and David Counts (1977).

2 For the term "Censure's cult" see Lattas (1991a: 234; 1998: 88, et passim). For the term "the Kaliai Stori (story) cult" see Lattas (1992a: 9; cf. 1991a: 237; 1992c: 71; 1998: 89). Using the name of the village in which this movement took place for a period of time, Lattas also speaks of "the Metavela cult" (1991a: 242) or "the Metavela cargo cult" (1992c: 40). Later Lattas changed the spelling of this village name into "Meitavale" (1998: xii, et passim), a spelling also used by the Counts (2000: 324). - While Lattas's earliest publications only have the personal name "Censure" (1991a: 234; 1992c: 71), later he speaks of "the cargo cult leader Censure (Napasisio" (1992c: 33) and the "cargo cult leader Napasisio (also known as Censure)" (1992a: 9). In "Cultures of Secrecy" Lattas attempts to explain his re-naming of Napasisio by referring to a "cargo cult led by a man called Sen Sio (Saint Sio, also known as Napasisio), which I will spell as it is pronounced Censure so as to capture the theme of critique that Censure offered (cf. Counts 1971, 1972)" (1998: xl, original emphasis, endnote omitted). For the Counts themselves, however, this citation of their work is "misleading" because they do not consider Lattas's re-naming of Napasisio sufficiently justified (Counts and Counts 2000: 328, endnote 2). Although I share the Counts' position in this respect, for the sake of adequately representing Lattas's work, I will also use the name "Censure" in this paper.

3 The books reviewed are Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's "A Thousand Plateaus" (1991b), Annette Weiner's "The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea" (1991c), Jeremy Beckett's "Past and Present" (1991d), Jocelyn Linnekin and Lin Poyer's "Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific" (1992d), Nicholas Thomas's "Entangled Objects" (1993a, b), Lamont Lindstrom's "Cargo Cult" (1995; 1996a), Tony Swain's "A Place for Strangers" (1996b), and - more recently - Martha Kaplan's "Neither Cargo nor Cult" (1999). Apart from his articles about the Kaliai, some of these reviews are in fact the only places where Lattas explicitly if briefly mentions that he has worked in West New Britain (1991b: 2; 1991c: 277); 1993a: 110, 113; 1996b: 41, endnote 10) or in Melanesia (1996b: 31).

4 This thesis is entitled: "The New Panopticon: Newspaper Discourse and the Rationalization of Society and Culture in New South Wales, 1803-1830". Unfortunately I have not been able to obtain a copy.

5 See Lattas (1991e, 1990a, 1992e). The first of these articles (1991e) consists of a combination of two earlier papers that were originally published in 1989 and, like Lattas's PhD thesis, I have not been able to obtain. The second article (1990a), already cited above, was reprinted under the same title but with slight changes in Lattas (1997).

6 Lattas devotes two articles to his criticism of contemporary Australian anthropology (1992f, 1993c). In the second of these, repeating in an expanded form arguments from the first, Lattas takes the alleged connection between the body and inter-cultural relations to justify his use of the term 'racism': "I prefer the word racism to ethnicity for it captures the way power and hatred are inscribed in bodies and in the policing of bodies" (1993c: 242, endnote omitted).

7 Lattas's critique becomes even more explicit when he uses an endnote to describe "the current state of ethnography on Aborigines" as being characterised by "intellectual complacency, a lack of scholarship and a self-congratulatory attitude which believes that because it is on the right political side it does not have to read any material that questions its assumptions (1996b: 38, endnote 1).

8 See Lattas (1991a, 1992b, c). - Similar ideas, though articulated outside this particular context, are examined in Lattas (1993).

9 See Lattas (1992a, 1996e). The former is also the introduction to a collection of articles about cargo cults published in "Oceania" and put together by Lattas as Guest Editor.

10 See Lattas (1992a: 6). Here, however, Lattas himself does not make explicit these parallels, as this text focuses solely on the colonisation of New Guinea, without containing any references to either Lattas's PhD thesis or to the two articles which are based on much the same material (1986, 1987).

11 This believing partly includes a forgetting of the knowledge that women had possessed in the mythical past (1989: 558)..

12 The only place in "Trickery and Sacrifice" where Lattas as it were transcends his reconstructions of 'traditional' Kaliai culture is the endnote from which I have already cited the first term: "This pervasive culture of trickery can operate in the colonial context as a language of resistance for subverting the colonising absolute truths of Whites and their cultural representatives" (1989: 467, endnote 5).

13 Lattas (1991a: 247). See also Lattas (1992c: 77-78). Here Lattas also states a close relationship between gender and colonialism: "The gender hierarchy and the colonial hierarchy come to overlap, so much that they often become conflated (1992c: 77).

14 Lattas (1992c: 51). See also Lattas (1993: 67). Here, Lattas claims that, in addition to western discourses, "the divisive space of colonialism, compartmented in separate regions inhabited by whites and blacks, comes to be internalized" (1993: 64). This, however, allegedly has the same effect: "The alienation of one race from another is transformed into self-alienation [...]" (1993: 64).

15 Lattas (1991a: 251). See also (1992c: 51, where Lattas speaks of the "pain and suffering of colonialism".

16 In a similar vein, Lattas claims in a later article that through the appropriation of the "dividing practices of Christianity" and of "Christian techniques for distancing subjects from themselves" by cargo cultists, "the techniques of colonial domination come to be localised and 'indigenised' as they become part of the local institutions which resist colonialism" (1992c: 51).

17 In addition to giving voice to the indigenous opposition against colonialism, for Lattas sorcery narratives also reflect its effects. He states that just like cargo cults these narratives "express through the body that same political culture of resistance, alienation and loss" (1993 Sorcery: 71). - Here Lattas endows the body with the same meaning that he had suggested in his critique of contemporary Australian anthropologists.

18 Here, Lattas appears to think that internalisation and self-alienation are more important than resistance when he - somewhat surprisingly - declares that "the focus on resistance can often be at the expense of an analysis of very real processes of hegemonic domination, where people come to internalize a sense oft their inferiority and worthlessness, where they come to hate their skins and their bodies, where they come to dream of the day they will turn white" (1992c: 74).

19 Lattas (1992c: 75). This idea, however, has been prefigured in the second part of the endnote from "Trickery and Sacrifice" which I have already referred to twice: "This pervasive culture of trickery [...] can also become a symbol of colonial domination, a symbol of fallenness: that one's culture only possesses the illusions of power, an image of a powerful creative being rather than the actual presence of that being" (1989: 467, endnote 5).

20 This is Lattas's contribution to a collection of articles which - again published in "Oceania" and put together by Lattas as Guest Editor - examines the relationship between remembering and forgetting in the context of colonisation. Lattas also wrote the introduction (1996c).

21 Lattas (1992c: 84, endnote 4). Here Lattas also mentions "the moral pressure and surveillance of the New Tribes Mission (1992c: 84, endnote 7, cf. 1993: 72). In "Sorcery and Civilisation", he claims that the younger generation especially has eagerly accepted the teachings of the NTM (1993: 73, endnote 27) and that by "1990 an anti-sorcery cult" linked to them "had abolished all the masks and traditional ceremonies in the Kaliai interior" (1993: 73, endnote 8). - This, of course, means that many of the 'traditional' practices which Lattas wrote about in his first two articles about the Kaliai had already started to become a thing of the past by the time of his fieldwork. These two articles, however, do not contain a single reference to the NTM.

22 Lattas speaks of "new ascetic regimes" which work "to transform the body's experiences into a mnemonic field" (1996d: 294).

23 Lattas (1996d: 286). Parallels between the Kaliai's response to the NTM and an earlier cargo movement had already been pointed out in 1990 by Ken Hyland. He argued that the NTM-missionaries "may be unwillingly exploiting a dormant cargo cult" (Hyland 1990a: 174) and that their success "may simply be a continuation of this movement in a different form" (Hyland 1990a: 175). NTM-representatives took this as an attack and criticised Hyland's research methods (Brunn and Zook 1990), to which he replied mainly by repeating his thesis (Hyland 1990b). - Interestingly enough, the only place in all of Lattas's publications prior to "Cultures of Secrecy" where he mentions Hyland at all is one short endnote, in which he blames him for having mixed up the names of two cult leaders (1992c: 84, endnote 6). In "Cultures of Secrecy" Lattas does not refer to Hyland with more than one sentence (1998: 198), accompanied by an endnote, in which he claims that "Hyland spent a few days in the Kaliai bush where he was under contract to the local landowner timber company to conduct an environmental impact study that never has been implemented properly" (1998: 338, endnote 7).

24 Apparently Lattas himself does not reflect upon this contrast between his and the 'people's' view.

25 Accordingly the valuation of, for example, discursive strategies depends mainly on the question which of the two categories these strategies can be assigned to: "[...] our essentialism, which is part of a structure of domination, is not the same as the essentialism operating in a structure of resistance" (1992f: 162).

26 One can even detect traces of identification, of Lattas viewing himself as oppressed, when he aligns himself with approaches that he portrays as being marginalized within Australian anthropology.

27 See Ernst (1994), Jebens (1995: 235-239; 1997: 33-35; 2000: 176-178), Barker (1999: 23-25), and Douglas (n.d.: 4).

28 Lattas's pre-1992 articles contain references to a 12-months-stay in 1986 (1989: 467; 1990b: 100, endnote 1; 1991a: 251), and from 1992 on he mentions a total of 21 months (1992c: 71; 1992c: 52; 1992 Sorcery: 72). For the villages he has visited Lattas usually gives the following names: Bolo, Salke, Onamanga, Aikon, Doko Sagra, and Molour (1989: 467; 1990b: 100; 1991a: 251; 1992c: 72; 1993: 72). In 1991, however, he suddenly adds Metavela, which had not been listed before, although in 1992 Lattas claims: "All quotes from Kaliai informants come from interviews in 1986 with Metavela cult followers" (1992c: 83). In the notes to Lattas (1993) Metavela disappears again (1993: 72). Later the name Metavela changes into "Meitavale" (see endnote 2).

29 While the protection of individual informants can, of course, be a good reason to work with pseudonyms, Lattas does not explain why the white NTM-missionary whom he chooses to call "Sign" should be in need of such protection. Lattas only declares that he intends to "also capture the resonances of his real name which in pidgin contains the meanings symbolising and foretelling" and that there is "a certain millenarian promise read into the name of this missionary" (1996d: 303, endnote 3; cf. 1998: 338, endnote 3). This, of course, is not a reason for not - at least additionally - revealing the real name. By not doing so Lattas is merely mystifying things and preventing the reader from checking whether this actual name does indeed translate as "sign" in Tok Pisin. Where the need to protect informants' identities might exist, however, as in the case of the cult leader whom he usually refers to as "Censure", Lattas does not refrain from also disclosing the name under which this man was known locally (see endnote 2).

30 If "Molou" is just another version of "Molour", Lattas is actually omitting here three of the village names he had mentioned before: Metavela or Meitavale, Onamanga and Bolo. Later in his preface, however, he goes on to claim that from "about 1991 onward" he has lived in "the houses of close informants" at Bolo, Meitavale, Molou and Robos" (1998: xii).

31 Michel Foucault, "The Subject and Power", Critical Inquiry 8: 777-795 (1982), p. 782; cited in Lattas (1998: xlii).

32 At the same time, however, Lattas continues to attribute to cargo cults the function of symbolically appropriating the reproductive powers of women and thus of exerting "the ritual control of women's bodies" (1998: 180). With reference to cargo cults Lattas therefore also speaks of "men's domination of women" (1998: 42) and of "the moral hegemony of Kaliai men over women" (1998: 75).

33 Lattas writes: "The separation of the living from the dead, which was holding the Kaliai back from the white man's world, was figured to have its origins in a culture of violence that separated men from women" (1998: 167).

34 Lattas (1998: 22-23). Compare, as cited above, Lattas (1992c: 47).

35 Lattas also stresses the importance of indigenous images of otherness when he criticises Thomas for not exploring such images. Following this criticism, which has already been mentioned above, Lattas states that "otherness cannot be treated simply as a Western romantic fiction or a relic of evolutionary theory, as though cultures did not have their own indigenous images of otherness which they enter into a dialogue with in their rituals, myths and exchange activities" (1993a: 115).

36 Lattas (1998: 261). Another intersection which Lattas notices with reference to "Censure's cult" is that of people's "indigenous geographies" and their "reworkings of European imaginary geographies" (1998: 96).

37 Lattas takes up this idea in various forms (1998: 149, 166, 175, 225).

38 Lattas (1998: 28). In a similar vein, Lattas refers to the indigenous idea that tinned meat actually consists of human flesh as indicating "people's ambiguous relationships to commodities and to Europeans" (1998: 23).

39 Lattas (1998: 313). At the same time the pursuit of control also has an 'intra-cultural' dimension. Thus the adoption and reproduction of Western institutions and discourses allegedly serves not only to "reinforce cult loyalty" (1998: 79), but also to empower the cult's leaders (1998: 242). Such an 'intra-cultural' dimension is already implicit in the idea that cargo cults have the function of symbolically appropriating the reproductive powers of women (see footnote 32).

40 In Lattas's view, "people resisted, not by situating themselves completely outside the dominant culture but by taking on and reworking its symbolic terms to gain power and their own frameworks of meaning" (1998: 123). For further references to resistance see Lattas (1998: 198, 234, 308).

41 Lattas claims that the "general need to occupy (and even to domesticate) the place of the other in order to be oneself is a central feature of cargo cults" (1998: 205), and he also speaks of a "struggle [...] to possess oneself" (1998: 315).

42 Lattas (1998: 311-312; cf. 273). In a similar vein, Lattas claims to have analysed "the cultural incorporation of processes of cultural incorporation" (1998: 313).

43 Lattas (1998: 175). With respect to this official position, Lattas also refers to his earlier article, in which he mentioned the western classification of cargo cults as "madness" (1998: xxxviii; cf. 1992a: 5).

44 Lattas (1998: 66). For an example see Lattas (1998: 66-73)

45 Lattas (1998: 304). Cf. Lattas (1996d: 295).

46 Lattas (1998: 294, 311). Cf. Lattas (1996d: 301).

47 Lattas (1998: 229, 277, 280, 287). Cf. Lattas (1996d: 292-293).

48 Lattas (1998: 231; cf. 232, 244, 263). Cf. Lattas (1996d: 286).

49 Lattas writes: "On the one hand, people formulate their resistances using the hegemonic terms that mediate their cultural incorporation into dominant discourses and structures. On the other hand, people can also be further incorporated into dominant discourses and structures by the very strategies of resistance they use to affirm their autonomy and distinctiveness" (1998: xxxii).

50 It could also be noted that throughout "Cultures of Secrecy" Lattas refers to "Censure's son Posingen" (1998: xvi), listing him among his "close informants" and claiming that he has lived in Posingen's house from "about 1991 onwards" (1998: xvii). This Posingen, also one of the few Kaliai who appears on Lattas's (undated) photographs, seems to be identical with the unnamed son of Censure whom Lattas cited in his earlier articles (cf. 1992c: 33), and who died prior to 1992, as Lattas himself writes, not in "Cultures of Secrecy", but in one of these articles (1992c: 84, endnote 7).

51 Thus Lattas writes that "poor transportation hindered the development of detailed forms of government surveillance and control"(1998: 15-16) and that prior to 1990 "the Kaliai had little in the way of a permanent European presence" (1998: 16). This, however, does not prevent Lattas from seeing stories about the murdering of a black Christ as "allegories that use the moral domain of Christian narratives to reobjectify the everyday pain and suffering that whites inflict upon labouring black bodies" (1998: xxxiv) or from attributing to the Kaliai an "experienced state of wretchedness and anguish" (1998: xxxviii).

52 Although Lattas never explains his understanding of what does or does not constitute a cargo cult, in his view this can also be a rather solitary affair, since he writes of one particular woman that she tried "to recruit followers to a cargo cult that she had been working alone" (1998: 286).

53 This position which I hope to have argued convincingly, does present a contrast to that of Robbins, who refers to "Cultures of Secrecy" when claiming that "compared to the [earlier] articles the ethnography is richer here, the arguments more completely worked through" (Robbins 2000: 540). In my view the continuities between Lattas's earlier publications and "Cultures of Secrecy" can also be found in his succeeding paper, "Telephones, Cameras and Technology in West New Britain Cargo Cults" (2000), as well as in his most recent article, The Underground Life of Capitalism" (2001), in which he shifts from the Kaliai to Bali Island (West New Britain).

54 Thus Lattas claims: "All human subjects constitute themselves by internalising and responding to the gaze of others" (1998: 156; emphasis added). - This idea is also being repeated in Lattas's recent paper (2000: 333).

55 Thus in his PhD thesis in which he assesses Lattas's work in a comparatively negative way Robbins criticises "Lattas' single-minded focus on the critical aspects of Kaliai evaluations of whites" (1998: 45). Robbins sees the "idealization of whites" as "a core aspect of contemporary social life" and in his view Lattas himself indicates that the Kaliai also appreciate and appropriate "white creativity or transformative power" (1998: 45).

56 See, for example, the following sentence which in the end does not say much more than that people use the underground to think about processes which are being mirrored by the underground which is mirroring these processes: "The underground was a way of reflecting on national processes of self-reflection and self-constitution that could now be remirrored in a subterranean world that deformed and deflected those national projects of pacification and Christianization" (1998: 138).

57 In attempting to justify his way of translating Lattas claims that unlike "he became angry" as "the translated English expression", the phrase "his stomach became hot" as "the original Melanesian expression" succeeds in capturing "the embodied nature of emotions in Melanesia" (1998: xviii). Here Lattas is obviously referring to the Tok Pisin term "belhat". However, while "bel" can indeed mean "stomach", "hat" does not translate as "hot" but as "hard" (Mihailic 1971: 95). A mistake often made by people who begin to learn Tok Pisin is to translate, for example, "all masters, all whites" as "ol masta" (1998: 18), while a Tok Pisin-speaker would, of course, say "olgeta masta".

58 Thus Lattas has his informants say that a person is "not enough" for an activity (1998: 34; 327, endnote 26; 332, endnote 8; 335, endnote 2), that people "will be clear" about something (1998: 178) and that others "broke the bush" (1998: 72).

59 In a similar vein and in response to one of Lattas's earlier articles, Steven Thiele has depicted Lattas as "doing moral sociology" (Thiele 1993: 77) and as being one of those writers who "are only marginally interested in real people" (Thiele 1993: 78). More recently, Bronwen Douglas has remarked that Lattas does "leave little discursive space for the agency of indigenous bodies and action" (Douglas 2001: 20, endnote 20).

60 Here Lattas refers to "the local languages of Aria and Mouk" (1998: xvi), whereas previously he had referred to both, Aria and Mouk, as "two Austronesian dialects" (1990b: 110, endnote 2).

61 Informations about this relationship are only conveyed implicitly, for example, when Lattas appears to share or appropriate Catholic positions on the NTM that is, on their association with cargo cults and on their future development.

62 These differences are only mentioned implicitly when Lattas refers to inter-denominational conflicts between Catholics and NTM. Here, Lattas's claim that the new mission has been welcomed particularly by younger people, while older men and "some cargo cult leaders" wanted to re-appropriate their own past, could be seen as indicating a relationship between inter-denominational and inter-generational conflicts (see XXX). However, this idea is not pursued by Lattas himself.