On the edge of empire



Military brokers have played a decisive role in human affairs, but pragmatic obstacles make this an exceedingly difficult phenomenon to examine. Capitalizing on an unpublished documentary archive of interviews conducted in the early 1970s, we attempt a partial reconstruction of three barely known but consequential episodes of military brokerage in the early encounter between empire and the Middle Sepik people of New Guinea. In these incidents, “ethnic soldiers” emerge as classic brokers, monopolizing and manipulating the flow of information between colonial overlords and local populations to leverage power and advance their own agendas.