The University of Wisconsin Press

Anthropology / Asian - Pacific Studies / Religion


Cultures of Secrecy
Reinventing Race in Bush Kaliai Cargo Cults
Andrew Lattas

New Directions in Anthropological Writing

"Pushes anthropology into the edgy places it needs to go to reexamine its constructions of race, bodies, belief and power."
—Steven Feld, New York University

After driving the Japanese out of Papua New Guinea during World War II, the U.S. military left their gear—and the makings of a cargo cult—to the native Kaliai. Cultures of Secrecy offers a close look at how, for fifty years, the bush Kaliai in Melanesia have worked these tailings of the western world into their indigenous culture. Andrew Lattas shows how cargo cults in general bring together past, present, and future in their curious blending of traditional myths, imported folklore, borrowed state practices and ideologies, and reworked Christian stories. The result is a richly interdisciplinary work that uses ethnography to explore questions of racial experience, gender relations, space, time, death, and the politics of human relations.

"A wonderful book: an original and compelling argument, a wealth of empirical detail analysed with great political sensitivity, and a break-through in understanding what cargo means to those people whom anthropologists have used cargo to define."
—Michael Jackson, Victoria University–Wellington

Andrew Lattas is fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia. He has been editor of two special editions of the journal Oceania.

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Green and black toned portrait of a bush kaliai

June 1998

406 pp.   6 x 9   20 b/w photos

The 1998 cloth edition, ISBN 978-
0-299-15800-4, is out of print.

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