This paper explores the namata ritual, common among Tolai people in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain Province. The namata is often presented as an event that contributes towards social order, both in the ethnographic record and by Tolai themselves. The namata is often experienced however as being highly ambiguous as various actors use the ritual to make sense of and intervene in hazardous processes of social change. In particular, the namata is a site where anxieties about perceived breakdowns of the socially cohesive power of reciprocal obligation are expressed and attempts are made to halt their corrosion. Paradoxically however these attempts are made from a position that is often experienced by those that they attempt to discipline as themselves being expressive of that very breakdown of reciprocal obligation, thus intensifying the sense that the namata has now become a site for the creation of uncertainty rather than social stability.