Bloody time revisited: New observations on time in a Papua New Guinea Village

Research paper by Michael French Smith

Indexed on: 09 Mar '16Published on: 01 Jul '15Published in: The Australian Journal of Anthropology


In a 1982 paper I argued that perceptions of time scarcity in Kragur Village, Papua New Guinea, in the mid‐1970s were best understood as a reaction to new forms of authority characteristic of the growth of capitalism and calls for greater time order were grounded largely in its perceived ritual significance. More than forty years later, villagers are much more familiar with Western time, but less likely to perceive time as scarce. As in the 1970s, aspiring leaders still press for greater time order. Millenarian illusions informed advocacy of time order in the 1970s. Although today these illusions are, if not extinct, then dormant, unquestioned assumptions mirroring Western capitalist views of time inspire many of today's advocates. Yet, lacking the authority to impose new forms of time order, they have little effect on the rhythms of village life, and economic incentives to abandon comparative indifference to time remain weak.