Leviathans at the Gold Mine

Creating Indigenous and Corporate Actors in Papua New Guinea

Leviathans at the Gold Mine

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: March 2014

Author: Alex Golub

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Australia/New Zealand/Oceania, Sociology > Social Theory

Leviathans at the Gold Mine is an ethnographic account of the relationship between the Ipili, an indigenous group in Papua New Guinea, and the large international gold mine operating on their land. It was not until 1939 that Australian territorial patrols reached the Ipili. By 1990, the third largest gold mine on the planet was operating in their valley. Alex Golub examines how "the mine" and "the Ipili" were brought into being in relation to one another, and how certain individuals were authorized to speak for the mine and others to speak for the Ipili. Considering the relative success of the Ipili in their negotiations with a multinational corporation, Golub argues that a unique conjuncture of personal relationships and political circumstances created a propitious moment during which the dynamic and fluid nature of Ipili culture could be used to full advantage. As that moment faded away, social problems in the valley increased. The Ipili now struggle with the extreme social dislocation brought about by the massive influx of migrants and money into their valley.


"Golub's study of gold mining in Papua New Guinea is not only a fascinating ethnography but a strong tonic for anthropology, for law and courts, and for governments and corporations insofar as they continue to subscribe to the notion of fixed indigenous 'societies' and 'cultures'--or truly of any social facts or institutions that they dream have been or can be settled once and for all through the (post)modern techniques of audit and governmentality." — Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

"Golub’s chapter on the Ipili is an ethnographic tour de force."  — Martha MacIntyre, Current Anthropology

Leviathans at the Gold Mine truly does justice to Porgera’s complex reality. The author’s theoretically ambitious approach provides a sophisticated and refreshing perspective on the constantly evolving relationship between mining companies and local communities. It is accessible to multiple audiences and is a go-to book for anyone interested in mining, governmentality, Melanesian anthropology or globalisation. With a variety of writing genres displayed in each chapter – all written in Golub’s clear, witty and at times poetic style – Leviathans is a pleasure to read.” — Shaun Gessler, Journal of Pacific History

"Golub benefits from and contributes to a long conversation with fellow anthropologists who have been working in the area for several decades (Biersack, Burton, Filer, Jorgensen, and others) and who constitute another kind of grouping with blurred boundaries, variable ties, and internal controversies, which ultimately appears to be as feasible as the Ipili." — Pierre-Yves Le Meur, American Anthropologist

"Ethnographies from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have appeared frequently enough in the past half-century to make it rare to encounter a truly innovative one. Yet this is just such a work. Golub is a thoughtful and well-read scholar, and his book sparkles with anthropological insights throughout." — Richard Scaglion, Journal of Anthropological Research

"[C]ombining history, anthropology, and Melanesian cultural studies, [the book] keeps to its word on going beyond simplistic generalizations to reach a more nuanced understanding of the actors in play." — Tess Lea, Bulletin of the Pacific Circle

"Golub succeeds in presenting complex ideas and arguments in a readable and at times entertaining fashion. Scholars interested in kinship, cosmology and vernacular ideas of personhood and social relations should find the volume to be highly relevant to understanding emergent ideas about kinship." — Simon Kenema, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

"Leviathans at the Gold Mine is a game-changing work. Any one of its chapters would be enough to secure its place as a breakthrough book, but the ensemble is a tour de force of the sort that comes along only rarely. Future debates about the politics of resource development or the relation between the states, transnational corporations, and indigenous people will have to start here. Theories about globalization, structure, and agency will have to take it into account. And the bar of Melanesian ethnography has just been raised." — Dan Jorgensen, University of Western Ontario

"Leviathans at the Gold Mine is an important contribution to our knowledge of the Porgera mine and mining in Papua New Guinea more generally. Alex Golub offers a subtle, original reading of mine-landowner relations, as well as new information about the microprocesses associated with Porgera mining, such as how landownership is determined and how royalty checks are distributed. Those insights will be welcomed by scholars interested in local-global articulations and the politics and misunderstandings associated with them." — Aletta Biersack, coeditor of Reimagining Political Ecology


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alex Golub is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa. He is a cofounder of the anthropology blog savageminds.org.

Table of Contents Back to Top



1. The Yakatabari Negotiations

2. The Birth of Leviathans

3. Being Ipili in Porgera

4. The Melanesian Way



Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2015 Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (APLA) section of the American Anthropological Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5508-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5494-9
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