Revelations of the World: Transnationalism and the Politics of Perception in Papua New Guinea
Like many over the past century, people in the Yopno Valley of Papua New Guinea have experienced a burgeoning of connections with people across great geographical distances. Building on Benedict Anderson’s well-known discussion of the nation as a “community” imagined in part through the realist framing of newspaper reporting, novels, censuses, and so on, I argue that revelation is an interactional frame central to an emerging global imaginary in the Yopno Valley, one that lies at the heart of Yopno engagements with transnational projects ranging from Christian missionization to environmental conservation and development through Western-style education. In the course of sermons, community meetings, public announcements, and the like, people frequently reveal knowledge of transnational institutions to others, presenting themselves as the necessary mediators between an “out-of-touch” community and a knowledgeable, powerful, and yet obscure world of transnational actors. The world perceived through revelation is one in which persons are defined by their place in a global hierarchy organized by the trajectory of knowledge in circulation, with the Yopno, the last to know, at the bottom. This imaginary, in turn, is reshaping power relations in Yopno communities and influencing people’s understanding of and interest in various transnational projects.