Raitman Olgeta: Negotiating What it Means to be a ‘Good’ Man in Contemporary Papua New Guinea




Lusby, Stephanie

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This thesis investigates ambivalences and tensions in the ways that men and their communities frame what it means to be a raitman, a ‘real’ man or ‘good’ man, in contemporary East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. In looking at the refraction of aspirational masculinity through lived experiences of men and their communities, I argue that to affect change, there is a need for more nuanced and politicised conceptualisations of masculinities in the context of campaigns for equal gender rights. The figure of the raitman is a common trope in Papua New Guinean and international campaigns to address HIV and AIDS, sikAIDS in Tok Pisin, and violence against women. This figure is imagined as a perfect role model who is compliant with the directives of prevention slogans: a wearer of condoms, a faithful partner, non-violent and in control of everything from anger to sexual appetite, to alcohol consumption. In reality, these tropes manifest unevenly and ambivalently in the lives of men, their partners and their broader communities as they are refracted through personal and collective aspirations; loving and complex relationships with peers, families and intimate partners; existing normative ideas of the most esteemed way of being a man; and collective efforts to navigate structural violence and uncertainty. Within this milieu, I consider how men’s efforts to navigate ideas of aspirational masculinity, and their desire to position themselves as raitman, impact upon how they relate to and position women, and what this can tell us about efforts to address issues of gender violence and inequality in Papua New Guinea. The thesis takes the transnational campaign framing of good masculinity as a starting point and asks how these attempts to influence gender norms and practices are heard and adopted, or subverted, in everyday encounters. The research draws upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted in urban, semi-rural and rural-remote field sites in 2012-13. The thesis is anchored in feminist scholarship and engages with literature from anthropology, geography and development studies to complement the narratives of women, men and communities heard through the fieldwork. In doing so, the thesis provides an account of how gendered norms intersect with, and are made malleable by, individual and collective development aspirations, and experiences of structural violence and precarity.



masculinity, gender studies, Papua New Guinea, behaviour change, gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, violence prevention, ethnographies of violence, precarity, precariousness




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