Gossip and Politics

Karen J. Brison

in Just Talk

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 1992 | ISBN: 9780520077003
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520912182 | DOI:
Gossip and Politics

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This chapter argues that rumors reflect a situation in which unsubstantiated stories can have far-reaching consequences socially and in politics. In Kwanga villages, and in small, relatively egalitarian communities everywhere, no one can automatically command respect or obedience, and autocratic attitudes tend to arouse resentment. Consequently, people try to prompt others toward certain conclusions and courses of action without seeming to do so, by casting interpretations of recent events in public meetings or in private conversations. They suggest that their rivals are lazy and ignorant, or that they are involved in nefarious secret plots. In this way, individuals try to influence others but avoid the appearance of ordering them around. It has been clear since Bronisław Malinowski's work on the Trobriand Islands that there is a close link between sorcery, magic, and leadership in many areas of lowland and insular Melanesia.

Keywords: rumors; politics; Kwanga; respect; Bronisław Malinowski; Trobriand Islands; sorcery; magic; leadership; Melanesia

Chapter.  13729 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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