MARTYN NAMORONG | Medium
I RECENTLY attended a lecture on social mapping by Dr Andrew Moutu, an eminent scholar of Papua New Guinea’s identity narratives.
Dr Moutu’s lecture centred around the rules that set the boundaries of “insiders” and “outsiders” in terms of how tribal people present themselves to companies and the government.
Whilst Dr Moutu’s dialectic focused on the corporatisation of tribal groups to attain legal visibility, I was fascinated by how his discourse could be applied in the context of PNG’s 2017 general elections.
Just as in the context of resource extractions, divisions are created in the boundaries of social groupings; there is disaggregation of social groups into “supporters” of candidates.
The proliferation of incorporated land groups ILGs) - which, according to geographer Prof John Burton, could number over 70,000 - illustrates the level of disaggregation already in existence.
Much of the election violence and rivalry occurs when men from the same tribal boundary cause internal division in their bid to demonstrate tribal leadership.
The same applies in the struggles for legitimacy and recognition through ILGs.
Growing up at Kamusie logging camp in Western Province, I saw how the logging company kept landowner grievance in check by exploiting this quest for recognition.
Papua New Guinea’s tribes are heterogeneous, being comprised of rival groups each vying for pole position. Leadership is attained through conquest, by spiritual, political, economic or social means.
To some extent, PNG’s opposition parties exemplify these internal divisions.
Dr Moutu’s other interesting insight was that whilst divisions and disaggregation of groups may in theory continue for infinity, social norms are replicated.
Thus the social norms of the ‘original’ group can be found in a ‘new’ group. This makes the rules of engagement are much the same.
Companies do social mapping to understand the whole and parts of particular groups in order to appropriately engage them. Candidates in the 2017 general elections could benefit from similar voter profiling.
How does one leverage the internal divisions of a tribe to control electoral behaviour?
Candidates vying for general elections would be foolish to assume that one couldn’t disrupt tribal lines and exploit rivalries in order to gain broader support.