Kastom, property and ideology

Kastom, property and ideology

Land transformations in Melanesia

Edited by: Siobhan McDonnell, Matthew Allen, Colin Filer orcid

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The relationship between customary land tenure and ‘modern’ forms of landed property has been a major political issue in the ‘Spearhead’ states of Melanesia since the late colonial period, and is even more pressing today, as the region is subject to its own version of what is described in the international literature as a new ‘land rush’ or ‘land grab’ in developing countries. This volume aims to test the application of one particular theoretical framework to the Melanesian version of this phenomenon, which is the framework put forward by Derek Hall, Philip Hirsch and Tania Murray Li in their 2011 book, Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia. Since that framework emerged from studies of the agrarian transition in Southeast Asia, the key question addressed in this volume is whether ‘land transformations’ in Melanesia are proceeding in a similar direction, or whether they take a somewhat different form because of the particular nature of Melanesian political economies or social institutions. The contributors to this volume all deal with this question from the point of view of their own direct engagement with different aspects of the land policy process in particular countries. Aside from discussion of the agrarian transition in Melanesia, particular attention is also paid to the growing problem of land access in urban areas and the gendered nature of landed property relations in this region.

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Kastom, property and ideology »

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  1. Powers of Exclusion in Melanesia (PDF, 0.3MB)Colin Filer, Siobhan McDonnell and Matthew G. Allen doi
  2. Urban Melanesia: The Challenges of Managing Land, Modernity and Tradition (PDF, 0.2MB)Sarah Mecartney and John Connell doi
  3. Urban Land in Solomon Islands: Powers of Exclusion and Counter-Exclusion (PDF, 0.2MB)Joseph D. Foukona and Matthew G. Allen doi
  4. ‘There’s Nothing Better than Land’: A Migrant Group’s Strategies for Accessing Informal Settlement Land in Port Moresby (PDF, 1.3MB)Michelle Nayahamui Rooney doi
  5. Informal Land Markets in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.4MB)Gina Koczberski, Georgina Numbasa, Emmanuel Germis and George N. Curry doi
  6. The Formation of a Land Grab Policy Network in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 0.3MB)Colin Filer doi
  7. Oil Palm Development and Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Papua New Guinea (PDF, 1.2MB)Jennifer Gabriel, Paul N. Nelson, Colin Filer and Michael Wood doi
  8. The Political Ramifications of Papua New Guinea’s Commission of Inquiry (PDF, 0.2MB)Colin Filer with John Numapo doi
  9. Urban Land Grabbing by Political Elites: Exploring the Political Economy of Land and the Challenges of Regulation (PDF, 0.9MB)Siobhan McDonnell doi
  10. Making the Invisible Seen: Putting Women’s Rights on Vanuatu’s Land Reform Agenda (PDF, 0.2MB)Anna Naupa doi
  11. From Colonial Intrusions to ‘Intimate Exclusions’: Contesting Legal Title and ‘Chiefly Title’ to Land in Epi, Vanuatu (PDF, 0.6MB)Rachel E. Smith doi
  12. Landownership as Exclusion (PDF, 0.2MB)Victoria Stead doi
  13. The Politics of Property: Gender, Land and Political Authority in Solomon Islands (PDF, 0.2MB)Rebecca Monson doi
  14. Afterword: Land Transformations and Exclusion across Regions (PDF, 0.2MB)Philip Hirsch doi


There has been much written on the growth and living death of urban areas in Melanesia over the years, starting perhaps with Nigel Oram’s classic study, Colonial Town to Melanesian City: Port Moresby, 1884–1974 (ANU Press, 1976). But it is only with the substantial and rewarding collection of articles reviewed here that the topic is finally receiving the weight and attention it deserves. 

—Jean Zorn, Pacific Affairs Journal, September 2018

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