Endemic corruption and fervent Christianity dominate Papua New Guinea (PNG) public discourse. We draw on ethnographic material—including the emplacement of a King James V Bible in Parliament—to contextualise corruption discourse and Christian measures against corruption within evolving Papua New Guinean ideas about witnessing. Both corruption discourse and Christianity invoke a specific kind of observer: a disembodied, reliable witness capable of discerning people’s intentions. Established ethnographic and linguistic data from PNG meanwhile document witnesses as imagined to be embodied, interested, lacking a privileged relationship to truth, and thus susceptible to coercion. Recasting the PNG corruption issue in terms of witnessing foregrounds a perceived cultural conflict between inclusion and duty; it also reveals how and why the Christian God was invoked—using debt and obligation rhetoric—to end corruption at the national scale.
- Papua New Guinea
- social change