Accepted Paper:

Gold mining and the mirroring of dreaming and waking life among the Hamtai-Anga of Mount Kaindi, Papua New Guinea.  


Daniele Moretti (Cambridge University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how a community of Melanesian miners understand the relationship between dreaming and the discovery of gold. It argues that the “mirroring process” required to translate oneiric omens into waking events has important implications for how they seek to minimise the impacts and maximise the outputs of their extractive activities.

Paper long abstract:

The Hamtai-Anga people of Mount Kaindi (Papua New Guinea) consider dreams an important means of communicating and interacting with the spirits of the mountain. In the productive fields of hunting and, more recently, artisanal and small-scale mining, certain dreams are understood to predict and facilitate the acquisition of prey and gold. This paper starts from a series of narratives about dreams that led to significant gold discoveries to investigate ethnographically how the Hamtai view the relationship between dreaming experience and future waking events. This exercise will show that the connection between the two should be best described "neither as chance, nor as necessity." (Lima 1999). This is not just because the polyvalent symbolism of dreams makes it hard to identify what events they are meant to predict and facilitate. Rather, even if correctly interpreted the enabling performances of dreams must be "mirrored" in waking life if they are to have an effect. For the Hamtai-Anga of Mount Kaindi, however, this "mirroring" process is tied not just to the waking will of the dreamer (ibid.), but also to the ongoing choice of the human and non-human spiritual entities that interacted with his or her soul in each particular dream experience. In the specific field of gold mining, this has important implications not just for how the miners orient their oneiric and waking life in relation to one another, but also for how they seek to minimise the impacts and maximise the outputs of their extractive activities.

Panel W074
Imprints of dreaming