Marking time: The dichotomizing discourse of multiple temporalities

Bambi B. Schieffelin

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Among the first linguistic innovations during early colonization/ missionization in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea, was the introduction of vocabularies and discourses of marking and keeping various types of European-based time. The introduction of European-style institutionally organized activities in which participation was regimented and monitored-for example, paid and unpaid labor schemes, schools, and churches-in the early 1970s gave rise to new ways of dividing days, weeks, months, and years based on linguistic innovations in Kaluli and Tok Pisin. Individuals who aligned themselves with mission organizations referred to these new economies of time, using particular expressions to differentiate themselves and their activities from those who were not similarly positioned. Simultaneously, new genres such as literacy lessons and sermons delineated time in terms of oppositional dichotomies that were temporally less specific but nonetheless linked to notions of social differentiation based on affiliation with a Christian community and/or identification with a nation-state. While lessons focused on oppositions between a past and a present, sermons related current actions and attitudes to future consequences and possibilities, both positive and negative. Both genres targeted attachments to past ideas and practices as obstacles to belief and conversion. Bosavi people played an active role in changing time; while maintaining the vernacular, they nonetheless changed critical cultural meanings.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)S5-S17
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Issue numberSUPPL. 4
    StatePublished - 2002

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


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