This article examines the widely reported phenomenon of the efflorescence of magical beliefs and practices, often explained as a response by some societies to their incorporation into the cash and market economy. Rather than accepting this view that the phenomenon is a generalizable response to modernity, I seek to understand it in its own terms as a singular response to the introduction of new forms of wealth into a specific cultural framework. Taking the example of a particular society, the Lelet of Papua New Guinea, I show how the expansion of forms of wealth has led to a loss of control over the processes by which sociality was previously regulated. This discussion proceeds through consideration of Lelet management of valuables and desire, and the importance of visuality in this.
|Journal||Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute|
|Issue number||no. 3|
|Publication status||Published - 2000|