ABSTRACT

Since their earliest contact with Europeans, the Kaluli people, who live at the foothills of Mt Bosavi in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, have viewed books as powerful and authoritative sources of information that white people use to shape and control the behaviour of others. In a narrative told to Steven Feld and myself in 1990 about gov­ ernment contact in the early 1950s, an educated Kaluli man told us about his father who had been selected by white patrol officers as the first local counsellor. As he put it, “my father was given the black shirt with a red stripe, the belt, knife, stick and a book, that book, people thought that if you kill, the blood of a dead person will go inside in the book, and the white man will know straight away and come and shoot you with a gun; that fear, everywhere so, everyone got frightened when my father got this”.