This collection builds on previous works on gender violence in the Pacific, but goes beyond some previous approaches to ‘domestic violence’ or ‘violence against women’ in analysing the dynamic processes of ‘engendering’ violence in PNG. ‘Engendering’ refers not just to the sex of individual actors, but to gender as a crucial relation in collective life and the massive social transformations ongoing in PNG: conversion to Christianity, the development of extractive industries, the implanting of introduced models of justice and the law and the spread of HIV. Hence the collection examines issues of ‘troubled masculinities’ as much as ‘battered women’ and tries to move beyond the black and white binaries of blaming either tradition or modernity as the primary cause of gender violence. It relates original scholarly research in the villages and towns of PNG to questions of policy and practice and reveals the complexities and contestations in the local translation of concepts of human rights. It will interest undergraduate and graduate students in gender studies and Pacific studies and those working on the policy and practice of combating gender violence in PNG and elsewhere.
In Pacific Affairs: Volume 87, No.2 2- June 2014, Penelope Schoeffel reviews Margaret Jolly, Christine Stewart and Carolyn Brewer’s collection Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea. Schoeffel describes the book as “timely” (p394), linking the book to the current international conversation regarding Papua New Guinea following “incidents in several provinces involving the torture, beheading or burning of women accused of witchcraft.” (p394)
Schoeffel touches on the book’s themes of “the country’s fraught colonial and post-colonial history” and “uneasy juxtapositions of old and new religious values and economic forces” (p394), and briefly highlights each essay’s central concern, concluding:
Violence against women is the ultimate expression of gender inequality and the disempowerment of women, and these essays all suggest that change will only occur when men are required to give up privileges that are currently maintained by the threat of violence. (p396)
The review can be found on Pacific Affairs’ book reviews page for this issue.