Macquarie University
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Nabuapaka: social change in a Roro community

posted on 2022-03-28, 15:29 authored by Michael Dunmore Monsell-Davis
This thesis is a study of the recent history and ethnography of the Roro people - Austronesian - speakers who live in the vicinity of Yule Island about 100 miles north west of Port Moresby. It shows that, like their neighbours the Mekeo, Roro have an authority structure that differs considerably from the big man systems commonly ascribed to Melanesia in that it is based on hereditary chiefs and sorcerers. -- The document indicates some of the changes that have taken place as Roro leadership and laws have been subordinated to a wider polity, and as they have come to depend on money rather than solely on the resources they obtained locally or through trade with their neighbours . In particularit shows the lessening of ceremonial, of chiefly prestige, and of people' s dependence on chiefs for initiative and resources. -- Despite the changes, however, the Roro traditiona l belief system has remained largely intact, in particular belief in the power of sorcery has enabled chiefs to retain control despite their waning prestige and commoner assertions that they are not doing their jobs. -- Finally the thesis shows the impact of the opening of the road between Bereina and Port Moresby in 1973. It has brought new Life to the village in that people can now travel easily between town and country, and those working in Moresby can return home often with money and news. But the road has also opened new opportunities for entrepreneurial enterprises such as transport and tradestores. The final part of the thesis examines some of the problems faced by these ventures, particularly the fears and guilt arising out of the clash between a growing, largely unperceived individualism and dependence on money, as against traditional values that stress equal access to resources and that prestige and status are normally conveyed only by birth. These values are supported by strong persisting fears of sorcery.


Alternative Title

Social change in a Roro community

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Making a living -- We followed the land out -- Mission and government -- Life cycle -- Itsuby and other groups -- Chiefs and other leaders -- Spirits and power -- Dispute settlement -- Village entrepreneurs -- The past, the present and the future.


June 1981 Bibliography: p. 355-368

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, School of Behavioural Sciences

Department, Centre or School

School of Behavioural Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Herbert Ian Hogbin

Additional Supervisor 1

Nicholas Modjeska


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Michael Dunmore Monsell-Davis 1982.




Papua New Guinea


1 online resource (xvii, 368, 15 p.) ill., maps

Former Identifiers

mq:24879 1788137

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