Working Together in Vanuatu

Research Histories, Collaborations, Projects and Reflections
Edited by:
ISBN (print): 9781921862342
ISBN (online): 9781921862359
Publication date: October 2011
Imprint: ANU Press

This collection is derived from a conference held at the Vanuatu National Museum and Cultural Centre (VCC) that brought together a large gathering of foreign and indigenous researchers to discuss diverse perspectives relating to the unique program of social, political and historical research and management that has been fostered in that island nation. While not diminishing the importance of individual or sole-authored methodologies, project-centered collaborative approaches have today become a defining characteristic of Vanuatu’s unique research environment. As this volume attests, this environment has included a dynamically wide range of both ni-Vanuatu and foreign researchers and related research perspectives, most centrally including archaeologists and anthropologists, linguists, historians, legal studies scholars and development practitioners. This emphasis on collaboration has emerged from an ongoing awareness across Vanuatu’s research community of the need for trained researchers to engage directly with pressing social and ethical concerns, and out of the proven fact that it is not just from the outcomes of research that communities or individuals may be empowered, but also through their modes and processes of implementation, as through the ongoing strength and value of the relationships they produce. With this in mind, the papers presented here go beyond the mere celebration of collaboration by demonstrating Vanuatu’s specific environment of cross-cultural research as a diffuse set of historically emergent methodological approaches, and by showing how these work in actual practice.


Barbara Andersen has reviewed Working Together in Vanuatu: Research Histories, Collaborations, Projects and Reflections, edited by John Taylor and Nick Thieberger, in Collaborative Anthropologies 7.1. Andersen called the edited work, which is based on the conference Afta 26 Yia held in 2006 at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, “a tribute to some of the many projects on which ni-Vanuatu and foreign researchers have worked together”. Andersen stated that the completed work “speaks to the future of research in Vanuatu as well as to its past” and praised the contributors for their “commitment to decolonizing the practice of research and its dissemination, marshaling Melanesian modes of oratory, codes of respectful recognition, and ways of understanding collaborative praxis”.

Andersen concludes her review by stating:

Working Together in Vanuatu is a helpful reminder that collaboration and compromise have helped, not hindered, the production of anthropological knowledge about Vanuatu and its people.”

(Barbara Andersen, review of Working Together in Vanuatu: Research Histories, Collaborations, Projects and Reflections, edited by John Taylor and Nick Thieberger, in Collaborative Anthropologies Volume 7, Number 1, 2014)