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Urbanisation Process and Changes in Traditional Domiciliary Behavioural Patterns in Papua New Guinea - article ; n°2 ; vol.103, pg 149-161


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Journal de la Société des océanistes - Année 1996 - Volume 103 - Numéro 2 - Pages 149-161
This paper explores the effect of urbanisation process on domiciliary behavioural patterns in Papua New Guinea. Urbanisation process in PNG has had significant effects on traditional socio-cultural norms despite its low level. The rate of cultural change has of course been exacerbated by many years of missionary and colonial activities. Using ethnographic and anthropological evidence the paper first traces what has, for many years, been considered traditionally acceptable and expected domiciliary behavioural patterns. These are then examined in the context of the current urbanisation process and its attendant effects. It is then argued that any severance of the traditional domiciliary behavioural patterns are likely to cause considerable stress amongst household members and kinship groups. Finally, the paper calls for detailed studies into cultural domiciliary patterns. These will enable for the designing of appropriate dwellings in which culturally acceptable behaviours can unfold unimpeded. It is argued that the built environment is extremely important for both expressing and structuring domiciliary behaviours.
13 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Sababu Kaitilla
Urbanisation Process and Changes in Traditional Domiciliary
Behavioural Patterns in Papua New Guinea
In: Journal de la Société des océanistes. 103, 1996-2. pp. 149-161.
This paper explores the effect of urbanisation process on domiciliary behavioural patterns in Papua New Guinea. Urbanisation
process in PNG has had significant effects on traditional socio-cultural norms despite its low level. The rate of cultural change has
of course been exacerbated by many years of missionary and colonial activities. Using ethnographic and anthropological
evidence the paper first traces what has, for many years, been considered traditionally acceptable and expected domiciliary
behavioural patterns. These are then examined in the context of the current urbanisation process and its attendant effects. It is
then argued that any severance of the traditional domiciliary behavioural patterns are likely to cause considerable stress amongst
household members and kinship groups. Finally, the paper calls for detailed studies into cultural domiciliary patterns. These will
enable for the designing of appropriate dwellings in which culturally acceptable behaviours can unfold unimpeded. It is argued
that the built environment is extremely important for both expressing and structuring domiciliary behaviours.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Kaitilla Sababu. Urbanisation Process and Changes in Traditional Domiciliary Behavioural Patterns in Papua New Guinea. In:
Journal de la Société des océanistes. 103, 1996-2. pp. 149-161.
doi : 10.3406/jso.1996.1986
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/jso_0300-953X_1996_num_103_2_1986Urbanisation Process and Changes in Traditional
Domiciliary Behavioural Patterns in Papua
New Guinea
Sababu KAITILLA (Ph.D)1
Introduction in many developing countries this is still at a very
low rate, often between 1 5 and 30 percent of the
Urbanisation and development processes are total population, but increasing rapidly. This is
inextricably linked. Both create economic, socio- also the case in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where
cultural and technological change, may vary the level of urbanisation is currently between 15
from place to place. Urbanisation is a process and 16 percent of the total population of 4 mil
whereby a country or region undergoes a transi lion people. However, the rate of urban populat
tion from agrarian subsistence to a cash ion growth in major centres is unprecedented
'modern' 2 dependence. In other words, it is a elsewhere in the developed countries.
shift from agricultural to nonagricultural Nonetheless, almost everywhere, the process
employment. This process is often accompa- of urbanisation is often accompagnied by
gnied by changes in land-use, increase in urban serious problems such as socio-cultural change,
shortage of housing, employment, lack of adepopulation, economic growth, industrial and
technological development. Urbanisation pro quate social and physical infrastructure facilities
cess is also accompanied by a variety of other (see Segall 1979; Saile 1978, among other
features of 'modern' development and progress things). Similar concerns have often been echoed
such as the provision of schools, health-care, and by many scholars of urbanisation in PNG (see
infrastructure facilities (see Conroy 1977:59). Connell 1985, Oram 1989 and 1974, among
Consequently, it contributes to gradual but others). It is for these reasons that urbanisation
significant social and economic changes (Kai- in PNG is merely tolerated by successive govern
tilla 1990: Oram 1989; Rowley 1965). However, ments for lack of realistic alternatives. Several
social and cultural changes in most developing attempts to slow urbanisation process, for examp
countries is largely the result of missionary and le, forced repatriation of urban migrants have
colonial activities rather than of industrial and had little success (Oram 1974; 170).
technological developments (see Connell and The concept of town 3 in PNG was not only
Lea 1994). Unlike in most developed countries foreign but generally almost all settlements rarely
where the process of urbanisation has stabilised, exceeded a few hundred sparsely scattered (Oram
1 . The author is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Building at the PNG University of Technology. The
author is grateful to Dr. Paul Memmott of the Aboriginal Data Archive for his extensive and constructive comments. The is also indebted to three anonymous reviewers for their criticisms and valuable suggestions. However, any limitations
remain solely those of the author.
2. Also, the idea of modernisation is almost inseparable from industrialisation. McCarthy (1970:47) was of the opinion that
the introduction of any industry in PNG would considerably halt the changes to traditional families.
3. As in the whole of Melanesia, towns were built by colonial administrations to serve the interests of the few expatriates
communities (see, for example, Levine and Levine 1979). Urban houses too were built to serve the and meet the values
of the expatriate communities as in their countries of origin. Unfortunately, even independent governments have continued to
preserve and enhance expatriates social values in their housing programmes. 150 SOCIÉTÉ DES OCÉANISTES
1974; 170). For many areas, this population personal relationships between and among indi
remained fragmented into small ethno-linguistic viduals. This means knowing what types of beha
groups or even on a clan basis (see Levine and vioural patterns occur where, when, how and by
Levine 1979). On these premises, it is argued that whom, and to whom they are directed. It is
any urban conglomeration is likely to cause argued that strict compliance with socio-spatial
considerable stress to those who traditionally and distances are important to ensure that interperso
culturally interacted only with relatively small nal relationships are maintained at all times. In
groupings of their own kin or clan. As argued other words, how far apart or close can people be
below, stress may arise because urban life operat to each other when they interact? Indeed, this dis
es on different value systems, different concept tance varies considerably between and among
ions and forms of social organisations. cultural groups. This cultural 'distance' is
In addition, contemporary urban 4 housing significantly influential in the spacing of objects,
style in almost all PNG societis is also alien in sitting arrangements or even in the layout of
terms of layout, space utilisation and building rooms in a house.
style. Like elsewhere, in pre-contact period, This paper is not intended to offer a complete
Melanesians lived in traditional houses. But with theoretical foundation to this issue, but sets out
the coming of missionaries and colonial administ the basis for further exploratory studies in this
rators alien housing styles and alien settlement important area. The paper is based on a literature
layouts were imposed upon the indigenous popul review on the subject. It also reviews ethnogra
ations (Clay 1986; 100-1 19; 264). This is particul phic and anthropological data, and where neces
arly highlighted in the housing literature which sary supplements it with written information by
shows a growing concern between user dissatis early explorers, travelers and missionaries.
faction (Kaitilla 1993) in relation to space utilisa
tion and behaviour in the home environment. A
serious problem in most housing schemes is the Cultural generalisation
neglect by designers to consider socio-cultural
norms of the people that shape domiciliary beha PNG's population of nearly four million inha
viours (Mangar 1980). In PNG, these cultural bitants is sparsely and unevenly distributed
norms are collectively shared. These are in turn among the 700 small tribal groupings. Each has
its own specific socio-cultural development. fundamental in dictating domiciliary behaviour
al patterns and spatial use of the home environ Although the people of PNG are very diverse, it is
ments by different members of a household. possible to make some generalisation about them
This paper explores the impact of urbanisation on the basis of their domiciliary behavioural pat
process on domiciliary, or dwelling, behavioural terns. To a reader familiar with distinctive featu
patterns among the people of Melanesia and res of the people, for instance, facial différencies,
Papua New Guinea in particular. A historical such a generalisation would appear to do injus
exploration of this process is, therefore, impor tice and perhaps distort some subtle internal
tant to understand the basis of these changing differences. This bias must deliberately remain as
the focus of the generalisation is restricted to values and norms. A theoretical assumption
underlying this study is that traditional cultural commonly shared cultural norms (see, Rowley
norms of social organisation between and among 1965), social organisation and interactive use of
space. When examined closely there are common kinship groups are important in the ordering and
threads that make this cross-cultural generalisause of space. Any ordering and use of space in a
dwelling that ignores these norms is likely to tion among Papua New Guineans possible.
cause considerable cultural changes leading to Many common similarities, such as social organi
psychological stress among its members (see sation and behavioural patterns, considerably
Segall 1979; Pellow 1988 and Lawrence 1988). outweigh differences of facial appearances or
This historical exploration is beneficial in unders forms of subsistence. It is only when the different
societies are examined as one that specific and tanding the changing domiciliary patterns, that
is, individual behaviour and use of space on the common threads emerge (see Schieffelin 1976,
one hand. It is only when the changes in domicil among others).
This paper adopts a limited definition of culiary patterns are thoroughly understood can
architects design dwellings and dwelling spaces ture as revolving on the concept of social organi
which are culturally appropriate. To achieve this, sation and comprises shared common customs, must be conversant with spacial beliefs and socio-cultural values by a group of
4. For a detailed coverage of urban housing satisfaction in PNG (includes plans and elevations) the reader should refer to
the rural - urban culture co-exists alongside as a people. These values are both factual and symboli
c. Cultural groups confer common meanings constant reminder of the past; and that the past is
and significance to things. Meanings that are far from dead.
established are statements of particular associa In each society there are certain features that
tions and connections or disjunctions that sus most individuals or groups of individuals hold in
tain specific understanding of the social world. common. For example, what makes Papua New
Social organisation also includes the means Guineans recognisably Melanesian as a distinc
by which societies adapt to their environ tive cultural group from Micronesians or Polyne
sians? Firstly, Melanesians are connected ments for survival, protection, security and conti
nuity. socially, culturally, and geographically (see, Kait
One important aspect of socio-cultural norms illa 1990). Secondly, it is the pattern of how
is that they can be learnt, diffused, altered or Melanesians interweave common features in the
incorporated into other social and cultural sys process of social organisation, including those
tems, retaining the same form but with different socially and culturally determined behaviours
functions and meanings. It is often suggested that that make them a distinctive group. These com
any changes or amendments in technology indu mon features include shared systems of thoughts,
ces social and cultural changes in the persons who beliefs, lifestyle, behaviour, initiation rites, feas
either invent, introduce, implement and/or re ting, marriage and social exchange of goods of
spond to them (Jequier 1976 and Morgenthaler traditional value and so on. A Melanesian is, the1977). Although new features may be invented, refore, no more than a convenient term for people
adopted or difffused in a relatively short-time who are "more or less in a common predicament"
Connell and Lea (1994:277), Connell (1988) and (Rowley 1965:33). Consequently, the concept of Rowley (1965:45) further argue that traditional a single culture can be extended to those societies, rural habits often die hard. In other words, the or communities, that are socially, culturally and process of adaptation involves a continuous geographically connected (Kaitilla 1990). interplay between the need for stability and the
need for change. However, Marris (1975) argues
that although individual desire for change may Social organisation as the basis of cultural general
predominate, collectively and verbally, indivi isation
duals may claim not having changed. This may
In this paper social organisation is used in its oblige some individuals to pretend to be maintai
broadest sense and refers to commonly held ning part or all of the rural socio-cultural tradi
beliefs about things and ways of doing things. It tions.
also implies all the things, people in a given How does this relate to the PNG situation? In
society, do either in their daily social interaction PNG many people consider urban residence as
such as reciprocal obligations between kinsmen. permanent only if they can accrue some econo
In several parts of PNG this was, and still mic benefits from it. Often, migrants show a
strong desire to return to, and permanently retire remains, the basis of morality. It was also an
in, their rural areas (Kaitilla and Sarpong-Oti important way to ensure survival and security
1993; Connel and Lea 1994; Connell 1988). This among clan members. Reciprocal obligations
may exert pressure on individuals to maintain all were, usually, maintained through either trading
of rural cultural traits or parts of rural and urban {moka, tee, etc) or exchange of good and food
cultural norms. Available evidence, for example, stuffs (hiri, kula ring etc) between neighbouring
suggests that urban migrants usually seek the villages (Kaitilla 1992). The objects of exchange
support and security of those who are left in the were highly valued for ritual ceremonies (Feil
villages. This can be either during difficult times 1987:251). However, Oliver (1989:554) and
or when the urban sojourn is over (Kaitilla and Rowley (1965:37) argue that the primary reason
Sarpong-Oti 1993; Connell 1988; Levine and for exchange was to maintain friendly rela
Levine 1979 among others). In this sense urbani tionship between neighbouring clans or villages.
sation in PNG has created a 'sub-urban culture' A close examination of these is, therefore, import
to use Levine and Levine 's (1979:132) terminol ant to decode ways members from different cul
ogy. It is common for migrants to regularly tural groups, think, share and express their beliefs
oscillate between villages and cities. That is, a to one another.
sub-urban culture is one in which migrants hold Firstly, is the need to understand the system of
neither rural nor urban to the fullest (see also thoughts and beliefs and how these are connected
Connell and Lea 1994:274). As Rowley (1965:52) to the general domiciliary behavioural patterns of
rightly comments, despite obvious social changes the people. Some of these include: (i) shared 152 SOCIETE DES OCEANISTES
beliefs in sorcery 5 (ii) supernatural powers to too frequent sexual contacts with, and the menst
rual conditions of, women (see, Meggitt 1964; harm or cause disaster, (iii) ability to foretell
Berndt 1962; Strathern 1972; Newman 1965; future events or (iv) to reveal the guilty or the
Read 1952; among others). According to Gelber innocent. An understanding of these beliefs is
(1986) many men believed, and some still believe central in any study of domiciliary behaviour.
in the power of women to pollute and contamiAccording to Rew (1974:22) and Rowley
nate men. Using evidence from PNG, Brandewie (1965:34-35) particular cultural norms promote
(1981:119-122) further stress the debilitating or inhibit certain behavioural display. Beliefs in
nature of women pollution. It was held that sorcery, for example, have had fundamental heterosexual intercourse drained the strength of impact on the social organisation including
men, weakening them for battle and dimifamily protection, among other things; Rowley nishing their skills for hunting and trapping ( 1 965 :46) highlight a widespread "use of spells to (Meigs 1984; Kembol, et al 1972). Strathern manipulate deities and ancestral spirits for (1972) offers a succinct insight into this fear human purposes, ... as a means of dealing with thus: one's enemies, ...". Another cultural norm in
...sexual relations are held to be debilitating, so that common practise was that prohibiting trespas
men lose their strenght through too frequent sexual sing by a stranger in one's garden or hamlet.
contact with women; and since women [anyhow] are Reasons for this are not hard to find, as anyone not strong, their presence threatens men's strength, who unnecessarily trespassed was regarded as (p. 164). having bad intentions.
A second form of social organisation is that The fact that women's presence threatened
based on the structure and meaning of mythol men's strength and hence the basis upon which
ogy (see, Finch, 1985). According to Finch the well-being of the household depended for
(1985:197) myth represents a very special and protection, security and livelihood provides
interesting form of communication - unique strong evidence for this segregation. Reasons for
repository of cultural information. Myth operat this fear and subsequent gender segregation are
es on the principle of sacredness which protects not hard to find. Firstly, not too long ago, much
it from conscious tampering. It serves as a vehicle of the subsistence depended on what one could
for collective rather than individual thought. gather from the natural environment, either by
Finch ( 1 985) is of the opinion that myths provide gardening, hunting, fishing or food gathering in
moral order of society and they either: the forest. Secondly, the survival and the conti
nuity of a society relied on its strength to defend ...provide an account of the origins of social regula
itself from neighbouring hostile clans. Intertions, or they make a normative statement about
those regulations. ...rules developed do form an tribal warfare was particularly common between
important set of constraints on the behaviour of indi hostile clans especially before pacification. For
viduals. These moral regulations are an important the purpose of this paper inter-tribal hostility is
part of what prople see as making themselves distinc considered as another form of social organisat
tively human. Myth not only creates the distinction ion. This was even when the same hostile groups between nature and culture but also provides the maintained intact friendly trading contacts and basis for cultural behaviour that makes this marriage relations between them (Bateson 1980; significant (p. 213, emphasis added).
Kaitilla 1992). The fear of attack being so real it
One such myth is the belief in gender separat was the responsibility of the male members to
ion. Gender separation was widespread in protect and ensure security and continuity of
Melanesia and included strict and distinct divi their own clans (Meigs 1984:15-6; Rowley
sions of labour and space use in home environ 1965:41). For these reasons the need to maintain
ments. Gender separation was particularly nota strength to defend one's clan members greatly
ble in the display of domiciliary behaviour. influenced the defensive spatial layout of settl
Several villages still have prescribed places where ements. This meant that tools of survival had
to have 'good luck'. To achieve this it also men and female gather separately. A number of
reasons have been advanced for excluding meant that such tools must be kept away from
women from men's affairs. One of the reason was women and uninitiated children. This fear of
the fear by men of being contaminated 6 from rendering tools of survival with bad luck is well
5. According to Bateson (1980:124) a man gains a social standing in the community by his achievement in sorcery.
6. Reay (1959:84) claims that the wealthier Kuma men practised taboo of avoiding sexual relations with their wives while
breast feeding or during menstruation. She also claims that the self-respecting clansmen did not sleep with their wives in
women's houses for fear that they might reveal clan's secrets to these women who might in turn reveal them to their own close
agnates (cited in Reay 1990:70-71). URBANISATION PROCESS AND CHANGES 153
ground; they are located in a circle or semi-circle highlighted by Kembol, et al (1972) among the
arount the plaza and are reluctantly entered by men, Engans:
...Men's houses, forbidden to women and children,
[...] if women happen to walk over any of our pro are generally larger and built on higher posts well off
perty such as weapons, they might reduce the suc the ground at one or another end of the plaza circle
cess of ...fighting or ...any of the activities carried or oval. (p. 20).
out by men. (p. 21).
This type of village layout (Figure 1) was by
Daily, therefore, men congregated in prescri no means typical throughout PNG or Melanes
bed male areas not only for leisure purposes or to ia. Where this was not the norm, gender segre
discuss village politics, hunting and fishing expe gation among members of a household was ins
ditions alone, but also to debate and plan wars. tead achieved, for example, through optimisation
By the same token, many women's activities of interior space. Alternatively, this was achieved
usually took place in prescribed female spaces. through body posture or avoiding eye contact
For example, meal preparation, cooking and between and among particular members of the
gossiping took place mainly in the 'haus-kuk', household. This was a common practice among
the kitchen, or at the rear of the houses. the residents of the longhouse, for example, the
To summarise, it is evident that some common Samp of Western province (Shaw 1990:34-38)
themes emerged from this generalisation. It is and the Kaluli of Southern Highland province
obvious from this discussion that uniformities in (Schieffelin 1976:32-41). Generally, the number
social organisation, system of thoughts and gen of occupants in any longhouse varied from place
der segregation make cultural generalisation to place depending on a number of factors, for
possible. Almost everywhere social and cultural example, raiding, alliance selection and sorcery
beliefs, ideas, aspirations, and fears have contri accusation. But it was not uncommon to find up
buted to particular lifestyles of domiciliary to 60 people 7 or 1 5 families from two or three
behaviours, building and layout of dwellings, clans residing in one longhouse (Schieffelin
sleeping and so on. To better understand cultu 1976:38). However, even with such high occu
rally appropriate domiciliary behaviour in any pancy rate the interior space of the longhouse
society it is important to begin with anthropolog was usually divided into several major areas as
ical and ethnographic accounts which detail shown in Figure 2. Fronting the main entrance is
space utilisation in home environments. an activity area predominantly for women and
where food was prepared and cooked. Beyond
the entrance are the male and female sleeping Space utilisation in home environments
areas. These are distinctly separated by a long
and wide corridor that was often used as a male It is clear that gender segregation also generated
activity area. From the women's activity area, distinct separation of spaces in which each
there is a separate side entrance which leads to group congregated in isolation of the other. This the females' sleeping area. Close to this entrance, segregation is marked in domiciliary space util
is located an alcove for the confinement of isation, building and settlement layout. Space use
women during menstrual period. The sleeping and gender separation have preoccupied many
area for unmarried boys is located at the other anthropological studies especially those regar
end of the longhouse, on each sides of the cending domiciliary behaviour (see for example
tral corridor. Waterson 1990, and Brandewie 1981:53). Rules
Also, in West Britain province where traditioabout space use provide potentially powerful
nally husbands shared the same dwelling with means of encoding cultural aspects of social
their wives, yet males spent a considerable part relations. In many traditional societies gender
of their daily time in men's quarters - usually has been a major factor in the layout of houses
away from the females and children (see, Alexanand the use of space in other cultures as well.
der and Cloutier 1980). A man who had more Barth (1975), for example, describes a Bakita
than one wife built separate houses for each wife. village as consisting several:
According to McDowell (1991:49) and Bran[...] house types and areas of different degrees of dewie (1981:51) this was necessary to reduce sacredness and purity. Menstrual huts are placed on
conflict among agnate. But where two or more the ground, outside the bounds of the village;
wives shared dwelling each had a separate ...Women's huts, in which women, children, and pigs
fireplace (see, also Bateson 1980:143). In many reside are built low but with their floors off the
7. According to other observers, longhouses in Gulf Province, for example could accommodated more then 100 people.
(Personnal communication with Professor W. Ruff). Also, in Western Province more then 1 00 Gogola resided in one longhouse
whereas for the Hesif, the largest number never exceeded 25 people (Anonymous Reviewer). '
1G 10 ^ N/
o o •<
n 0 O 22 in# ~
O 11 6 5
Uo20 O 19
6 Ô
h>2.Vs house with cerenonial pla?.a
>taren s houâo FAHILY^'''"'-.'-./:^---1"'-"1"''
rm-"-' Display liCHir^; a
Spirit bousi? 012 5 10 M
f^nst-ruation hut
A: Mbowamb, Central Highlands after Brandewie (1981:41). B: Gwali village, Maprik, East Sepik after Nashikawa (1986:41).
Figure i . - Settlement layout. URBANISATION PROCESS AND CHANGES 155
open end rear veranda
j gowali ' platform" O 50 dulunalu dulunalu (*> "lighting ! main poslO I Jc °- men socializing fire box s I w arrows o g I 'exclusive male ready 1 S "« bachelors and boys t activity arsa |Or use t
□ 2 D hchocli monsoon "dance room"
male activity menstrual
area confinement
area D D
ga kudo ga kudo women's women's socializing area socializing area
nanlin monsoon room" n 1 "tood
predominantly female fl f\
activity area
(ront veranda main
entrance ladder
overhang ID fire box
• house post
" wall or partition I
A: Kaluli longhouse after Schieffelin (1976:32). B: Kandila longhouse after Shaw (1990:36).
Figure 2. Interior space utilisation in the longhouse.
rural areas, gender separation was, and still is, pants, a space for individual sleeping, sitting,
extended to the use of toilets and bathing areas. socialising and cooking as well as ritual and tribal
Gender as a basic concept in the organisation politics. At other times, it became a public space
of space and layout of houses and settlements in which socialising and sing-sing, or dancing,
has been observed in other cultures as well. took place with clans from other longhouses.
Waterson (1990) has shown in her work in South It can therefore be said that in village environ
East Asia that where social relations are rapidly ments males have had a special areas to which
changing it is important to apply certain rules in they retreated when they wished to be away from
the use of space. She goes on to show the merits the females and children, and vice versa. Inevi
of allowing people to behave as required their tably, much of the traditional Melanesian and
preferred relationships to each other. This can be particularly PNG vernacular architecture has
achieved through, for instance, prohibition and responded well to local cultural values and sys
manipulation of objects in space and through tems of social organisation. However, such re
body orientation and movement through parti sponsive and conducive arrangements are not
cular spaces. For example, the longhouse, dis provided for in most urban housing schemes (see
cussed above could, at times, be used as a private Kaitilla 1993 for details of urban housing).
space, and at other times as a public space. But for Attention is now turned to examine interperso
most part, the longhouse provided, for its nal relations in the home environment. 156 SOCIÉTÉ DES OCÉANISTES
Social relations among kin son's, wife or enter her house when the brother,
or the son, was not present (Bateson 1980:143).
Social refer to primarily interperso The same avoidance rules also applied to women
nal relationships among kinship 8 groups who hat to avoid their husband's brothers. If, for
through which most social organisation takes example, a woman entered a house in which her
place. Kinship systems provide patterns of husband's brothers was present she was obliged
domiciliary behaviour, define and regulate group to sit at one side of the house and address him
membership. They also prescribe rules of decent without staring directly into his eyes 10.
and marriage. Kinship obligations affect the Also, and according to McDowell (1991:209)
social behaviour of people with respect to their and Mead (1992:77) eating had strong cultural
spatial relations, relation between father and ramification in terms of avoidance and respect,
son, son-in law and mother-in-law and so on. even between affines of the same sex. It was not
Social relations may be manifested in positive or permitted for a woman to eat close to her
negative behaviour to certain members of the daughter-in-law nor was a man permitted to sit
household. This may refer, for example, to one's near his brother-in-law or near where his affine
body posturing such as body orientation, body had recently sat. This is well highlighted by
contact, or eye contact toward various kin 9 . Mead (192) of what she observed in Manus
Often, traditional cultural norms dictate the use where:
of space and oblige appropriate social distance ...a house is divided into two parts by one or more
for various types of interactions. mats hung from the ceiling. Such a house can
There are, generally, three types of interperso accommodate two households in which live a man
nal relationships centred on avoidance, respect and a woman whom he calls daughter-int-law and
who must therefore avoid him, and never raise her and joking (see Mead 1992:56). Avoidance refers
voice so that he can hear it at the other end of the to behavioural display toward people whom one
house. Nor can she go into this section of the house must avoid, whereas respect refers to behaviour
except when he is absent, (p. 79). al display which evoke shame toward certain
people. However, respect is primarily an avoi This arrangement allowed people to practise
dance behaviour and both potentially evoke respect and avoidance behaviours between
embarassment. Joking, on the other hand, is affinal relatives. As already mentioned above, it
usually a behavioural display addressed to peo was not uncommon for a female visitor to
ple who may be jested or played with. This also remain outside the house because her affinal
included the right to behave disrespectfully male relative was inside the house. A mother-in-
towards a senior person (Rowley 1965:34). law, for instance, would not enter a house when
McDowell (1991:200), however, claims that avoi her son-in-law was present nor a woman would
dance and respect behaviours may have also pre not attend a feast at which her brother-in-law
vailed even among persons who exercised joking was also present (Mead 1992:80). Furthermore,
relationships. and according to Mead (1975:52), the use of
These forms of social organisations have as personal names among the people of Manus was
well been observed among several PNG societ likely to cause considerable strain to the rel
ies. Among the Mundugumor of the Sepik ationship between members of a household.
region, for instance, the relationship between
affine of the opposite sex was generally that of
respect and near avoidance (McDowell 1992: Social and cultural change in PNG 1 1
209; Mead 1975:51). Rules of avoidance affect
These types of cultural domiciliary behadaily spatial behaviour including body orienta
tion and eye contact. For instance, a man was viours still predominate in several rural communi
not permitted to directly address his brother's, or ties in PNG. Generally, avoidance behaviours
8. Kinship refers to culturally specific ideas and methods of categorising people in terms or real or putative ties of
consanguinity and affinity. One of the process of entering into a personal relationship is on the basis of shared blood or through
9. It is remarkable to especially note where people choose to sit and their sitting orientation. In PNG most people sit
anywhere, and their sitting arrangement (body orientation) does nos necessarily follow on any particular order. See, for example,
Mead (1992:53) on eating behaviour among the people of Manus.
10. In New Ireland province, tradition dictates that a sister-in-law cannot pass in front of her sister's husband without her
head being covered by a head dress (personal communication with Cletus Gonduan).
1 1 . Some writers claim that the destruction of old cultures is a form of development. This has been the case with the
replacement of men's houses - places of associations - with religious buildings which are places for worship (Kaitilla 1992;
and subsistence gardening are less prevalent and were not meant to express or signify hostility.
But they were meant to maintain rituals, taboos often discouraged in most urban areas.
and respect for kin and elder members of the One fundamental effect of urban lifestyle is
clan. What happens to people who move to the severance of rural cultural norms that have
towns where cultural traditions are no longer been responsible for the maintenance of tradi
closely maintained? Alternatively, are there any tional domiciliary behaviours. The transition
cultural mechanisms to cope with stress brought from rural to urban lifestyle, although long and
about by social and cultural change? slow, often requires a change in social organisa
Over a hundred years of cultural contact with tion with respect to gender and kin (see McCart
missionary and colonial agents have left a devas hy 1970). Not only do migrants undergo econotating effect on PNG although not on the same mic change, but their cultural ideals about level as in other developing countries (Oram society undergo fundamental changes as well. In 1989:70). However, having been ignorant of the urban areas, migrants experience a transition, significance of the Melanesian cultural tradi from mono-cultural to less tangible multitions both missionaries and colonial administrat cultural relationship. However, as suggested earors suppressed most of them. They, instead, lier that rural habits die hard, it is not uncomimposed their own alien cultural values. Both mon therefore for people to deny that they are males and females were made to abandon, undergoing socio-cultural change. Despite compamong other things, their separate living lifesty lexity of this process, that is, cultural rigidity or les and instead they were forced to adapt to a conservatism, it usually involves a continuous nuclear family house and the organisation of cul interplay for the need for stability and the need tural domiciliary behaviour was also significantly for change. It is this interplay between the old changed. and the new that eventually determines the The most likely people to be affected by urba degree of assimilation into an urban society, on nisation process would be migrants. McCarthy the one hand, and a change in a rural lifestyle, on (1970) recorded a useful insight on urban lifes the other. This transition is difficult, despite tyle of migrants in Port Moresby: migrants' claims for or against complete adjus
The old days were good, ...That's all finished now... tment to urban lifestyles.
[The old people] were all bitter about Port Moresby Consequently, urban domiciliary behaviours and regarded it as a place of horror which had swal are likely to produce considerable stress, for lowed and destroyed their families. Our children get example, for individuals for whom avoidance sick there. ...they run around and sell themselves to and respect practices were until now the norms. men. ... Port Moresby is a bad place, (p. 45, emphasis
Stresses may arise due, but not limited, to chanadded).
ges in the domiciliary behavioural patterns. For
Such problems are unheard of in most rural instance, from that of living in separate dwellings
settings. Urban context foster a sense of anony to that of living in the same house and hence
mity and, besides, urban lifestyle is based on the constantly being in close contact with females
concept of sharing. For example, members of an most of the time. Kembol, et al (1972) draw
urban household share among themselves attention to the feelings of traditional Engans
almost everything. Household members live, when men and women sleep in the same dwel
sleep, eat, relax in the same dwelling space. They ling 12.
use the same toilet, and same bathing facilities. [Our fathers] stayed away from women most of the Unlike in rural areas where gender separation is time but now we are living together. [We] know that
distinct, in an urban area a household lacks an we are breaking the laws of our fathers and [we]
area that can exclusively be called a male or usually feel guilty when [we] sleep in one house with
female activity area nor separate huts for women, (emphasis added, p. 61).
women's menstruation. In addition, with shif
ting composition, and its resultant changes of It is obvious that tensions may arise due tu
loyalty, there are other significant structural lack of alternative settings into which to retreat.
stresses to both sexes. Many traditional roles are In urban areas, such tensions become potential
rapidly changing. More men are steadily taking sources of conflicts between men and women
part in household chores. Cultural and traditio (see Herdt and Poole 1982). This conflict is often
nal female roles, for example, that of raising pigs directed at women. According to Alexander and
12. The author is aware of a similar sleeping arrangement in an urban setting intended to respond to cultural norms. A Sepik
friend has a three bedroom house in one of the urban settlements in Lae. All three bedrooms are accessible only from the outside.
The two extreme bedrooms belong to the two parents of the opposite sex whereas the children occupy the third bedroom in the