Accepted paper:

Growing families: household, gardening, production, and the family among the Kairak Baining of Papua New Guinea


Inna Yaneva-Toraman (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the significance of the rural household and household based gardening in sustaining and creating persons and families among the Kairak Baining of Papua New Guinea. I also examine the effects of commercial oil palm agriculture on Kairak kinship relations and social organisation.

Paper long abstract:

The Kairak Baining of Papua New Guinea are a rural community, living in the inland mountainous region of East New Britain. Similar to many Papua New Guinean societies, gardening among the Kairak plays important role in people's daily lives. In this paper, I examine the Kairak nuclear household as the basic unit of production and consumption, and household based gardening as a significant component in creating and sustaining persons and families. I argue that 1) through household gardening nuclear family members "feed" and "grow" each other, and 2) through reciprocal gardening assistance among households, people make relations within the hamlet, and establish themselves as part of a family and larger kin groups. Gardening, thus, creates and maintain relations between households, and mediates kinship, defining both cognatic and affine relations. In recent years, however, much of the Kairak land has been leased for an oil palm development project, which has significantly affected the rural communities. Plantation jobs have become more than just an opportunity, but a necessity due to lack of gardening land near the rural settlements. As a result, new forms of inter-household relations and circulation of wealth among kin groups have emerged. By examining the effects of commercial oil palm agriculture, in contrast to household based gardening, the ways in which people have adapted to these changes, and their role in making persons, families, and 'Kairak clan' identity; the paper offers significant contribution to more general understandings about work and kinship, traditional and alternative rural livelihoods, and community identity.

panel Rur02
The rural home as a site of production