This paper explores some accusations of wrongdoing in Papua New Guinea in the early 2000s. These accusations illustrate an ambiguous encouragement and discouragement of different kinds of perceived dependence as Papua New Guineans struggled with a growing disenchantment with their nation‐state and the withdrawal rather than expansion of state services and assistance. The paper explores the dynamics by which these accusations brought particular dependencies, cast as legitimate and illegitimate, in and out of view, and compares these with other instances in other parts of the world. Ascriptions of ‘dependence’ are shown not only to shift with context but also to be highly performative, being a central means by which persons engaged in highly entangled interdependent relations attempt to re‐shape the nature of those entanglements.
Morality, debt and the corporation A perspective by Keir Martin
Keir Martin and Sylvia Yanagisako
Anxieties around the moral effects of states of ‘dependence’ remain central to political and social debate across the world. At a time when the association between wage‐labour and a particular valorised conception of adult male independence is increasingly hard to sustain, these contests can take on new forms and new levels of intensity. Anthropology has a potentially valuable contribution to make to these discussions, having long made descriptions of particular forms of ‘dependence’ central to many of its most distinctive analytic framings. Nonetheless, the concept of ‘dependence’ itself has rarely been explicitly theorised in anthropological theory, as opposed to other concepts with which it has often been theoretically entwined, such as ‘exchange’, ‘reciprocity’ or ‘debt’, which have been subjected to more concerted theoretical investigation. The papers in this collection provide a series of comparative ethnographic explorations of the role of dependence in shaping new forms of sociality across the globe, as a contribution to the development of an anthropological understanding of the continued evolution of the term’s meaning and effect in the 21st century.
Reconfiguring labor, kinship and relational obligation
Keir Martin, Ståle Wig, and Sylvia Yanagisako
Interdependence is a fundamental characteristic of human existence. The way in which certain dependencies are acknowledged as opposed to those that are hidden, or the ways in which some are validated while others are denigrated, is central to how social inequalities are reproduced and recreated. In this introduction we explore how particular dependencies are categorized, separated, and made visible or invisible as part of their performative effect. In particular, we explore the distinction between wage labor and kinship as two forms of relatedness that are often separated in terms of the (in)dependence that they are seen to embody. Even though they are practically entangled, their conceptual separation remains important. These conceptual separations are central to how gender difference is imagined and constituted globally.