This paper explores some accusations of wrongdoing in Papua New Guinea in the early 2000s. These accusations illustrate an ambiguous encouragement and discouragement of different kinds of perceived dependence as Papua New Guineans struggled with a growing disenchantment with their nation‐state and the withdrawal rather than expansion of state services and assistance. The paper explores the dynamics by which these accusations brought particular dependencies, cast as legitimate and illegitimate, in and out of view, and compares these with other instances in other parts of the world. Ascriptions of ‘dependence’ are shown not only to shift with context but also to be highly performative, being a central means by which persons engaged in highly entangled interdependent relations attempt to re‐shape the nature of those entanglements.
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