What women want: Fashion, morality and gendered subjectivities in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Olivia Barnett-Naghshineh

This article brings Papua New Guinean women’s perspectives on fashion, gender and morality into conversation with questions of colonial histories and global consumerism. The article shows that adherence to social norms is policed by women in the public sphere and that one person’s choices are enmeshed in ideas of responsibility and obligation to others. Increasingly, younger generations of women believe it is an individual woman’s right to wear what she wants in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Yet young women confront their peers in much the same way older women do. What women wear in PNG is embroiled in ideas of collective morality; plays out at intersections of class, age, race and gender; and demonstrates tensions between ideas of autonomy and collectivity. On whose terms do contemporary Papua New Guinean women get to decide how to dress: their own, or in accordance with community norms and standards? What are the contemporary and historical contexts of whiteness and colonial power that have influenced these norms and standards? This article brings together the experiences and perspective of a young professional Papua New Guinean woman, and her relatives, in dialogue with a young English‐Iranian woman anthropologist.

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Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Almah Tararia
June 7, 2022
Published in
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