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Framing the Islands »

Power and Diplomatic Agency in Pacific Regionalism

Authored by: Greg Fry
Publication date: 2019
Since its origins in late eighteenth-century European thought, the idea of placing a regional frame around the Pacific islands has never been just an exercise in geographical mapping. This framing has always been a political exercise. Contending regional projects and visions have been part of a political struggle concerning how Pacific islanders should live their lives. Framing the Islands tells the story of this political struggle and its impact on the regional governance of key issues for the Pacific such as regional development, resource management, security, cultural identity, political agency, climate change and nuclear involvement. It tells this story in the context of a changing world order since the colonial period and of changing politics within the post-colonial states of the Pacific. Framing the Islands argues that Pacific regionalism has been politically significant for Pacific island states and societies. It demonstrates the power associated with the regional arena as a valued site for the negotiation of global ideas and processes around development, security and climate change. It also demonstrates the political significance associated with the role of Pacific regionalism as a diplomatic bloc in global affairs, and as a producer of powerful policy norms attached to funded programs. This study also challenges the expectation that Pacific regionalism largely serves hegemonic powers and that small islands states have little diplomatic agency in these contests. Pacific islanders have successfully promoted their own powerful normative framings of Oceania in the face of the attempted hegemonic impositions from outside the region; seen, for example, in the strong commitment to the ‘Blue Pacific continent’ framing as a guiding ideology for the policy work of the Pacific Islands Forum in the face of pressures to become part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

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Solomon Islanders in World War II »

An Indigenous Perspective

Authored by: Anna Annie Kwai
Publication date: December 2017
The Solomon Islands Campaign of World War II has been the subject of many published historical accounts. Most of these accounts present an ‘outsider’ perspective with limited reference to the contribution of indigenous Solomon Islanders as coastwatchers, scouts, carriers and labourers under the Royal Australian Navy and other Allied military units. Where islanders are mentioned, they are represented as ‘loyal’ helpers. The nature of local contributions in the war and their impact on islander perceptions are more complex than has been represented in these outsiders’ perspectives. Islander encounters with white American troops enabled self-awareness of racial relationships and inequality under the colonial administration, which sparked struggles towards recognition and political autonomy that emerged in parts of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate in the postwar period. Exploitation of postwar military infrastructure by the colonial administration laid the foundation for later sociopolitical upheaval experienced by the country. In the aftermath of the 1998 crisis, the supposed unity and pride that prevailed among islanders during the war has been seen as an avenue whereby different ethnic identities can be unified. This national unification process entailed the construction of the ‘Pride of our Nation’ monument that aims to restore the pride and identity of Solomon Islanders.

Mobilities of Return »

Pacific Perspectives

Publication date: December 2017
In recent decades, the term ‘mobility’ has emerged as a defining paradigm within the humanities. For scholars engaged in the multidisciplinary topics and perspectives now often embraced by the term Pacific Studies, it has been a much more longstanding and persistent concern. Even so, specific questions regarding ‘mobilities of return’—that is, the movement of people ‘back’ to places that are designated, however ambiguously or ambivalently, as ‘home’—have tended to take a back seat within more recent discussions of mobility, transnationalism and migration. This volume situates return mobility as a starting point for understanding the broader context and experience of human mobility, community and identity in the Pacific region and beyond. Through diverse case studies spanning the Pacific region, it demonstrates the extent to which the prospect and practice of returning home, or of navigating returns between multiple homes, is a central rather than peripheral component of contemporary Pacific Islander mobilities and identities everywhere.

War and Other Means »

Power and violence in Houaïlou (New Caledonia)

Authored by: Michel Naepels
Publication date: October 2017
War and Other Means describes and analyses the practices of war, the ‘objects of war’ and the conventions of the use of violence in Houaïlou, New Caledonia. It focuses on the colonial repression conducted in 1856 and after, the anti-sorcerer hunt in 1955, the independence mobilisation in the 1980s and the village feuds in the 2000s. Through this archaeology of violence, it reports on the practical inventiveness, intelligence and cunning of the Kanaks involved in social, often violent, conflicts. The use of archival material and recourse to the oral stories gathered from the inhabitants of Houaïlou restores the depth of these historical moments and the nested contexts of the political action that unfolded; it also questions the value and limits of fieldwork investigation. These episodes are moments of change in the social, administrative, land and political organisation of New Caledonia; they make it possible to understand, from France’s takeover to the present day, the real modalities of implementation of colonial and postcolonial governmentality. The attention given to the invention, the importation or the adaptation of repressive techniques, closely linked to the French experience in Algeria, opens up a geopolitics of colonisation. Through this detailed description of the social logics of conflict, Michel Naepels also invites us to reflect on the place of European fantasies on violence and on the representations of otherness. For the French edition, Conjurer la guerre. Violence et pouvoir à Houaïlou (Nouvelle-Calédonie), published by Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, please visit editions.ehess.fr/ouvrages/ouvrage/conjurer-la-guerre

A Bark But No Bite »

Inequality and the 2014 New Zealand General Election

Publication date: August 2017
Based on New Zealand Election Study (NZES) data from a sample of 2,830 eligible voters, A Bark But No Bite explores a puzzle. While there was a lot of talk about inequality before the 2014 general election in New Zealand, and during the campaign, concern about inequality appeared to have no tangible effect on the election outcome. This book shows that, by its attention to the concerns of middle ground voters, the National Government had reduced the potential of policy differences to drive voter choices. Perceptions of competence and effective leadership were National’s strongest suit, crowding out voter concerns over matters of policy. When voters did consider policy, inequality and related concerns were second to the economy. Traditional priorities about health and education, and perceptions of party differences on these matters, had faded into the background. Meanwhile, voters doubted the opposition Labour Party’s ability to govern effectively in an alternative coalition to that of the National-led government. Labour’s policies were too many. In various ways, they would have chipped away at inequality, but lacked a coherent narrative and presentation. This book confirms that Labour’s proposal to increase the age for receipt of New Zealand superannuation gained Labour no new votes. Hopes that the ‘missing million’ people who failed to turn out to vote in 2011 would vote in 2014 and give an advantage to the left were unfulfilled. A comprehensive study of the 2014 election, this book provides a detailed account of all these findings, and a host of others.

The General’s Goose »

Fiji's Tale of Contemporary Misadventure

Authored by: Robbie Robertson
Publication date: August 2017
His admirers said he was a charismatic leader with a dazzling smile, a commoner following an ancient tradition of warrior service on behalf of an indigenous people who feared marginalisation at the hands of ungrateful immigrants. One tourist pleaded with him to stage a coup in her backyard; in private parties around the capital, Suva, infatuated women whispered ‘coup me baby’ in his presence. It was so easy to overlook the enormity of what he had done in planning and implementing Fiji’s first military coup, to be seduced by celebrity, captivated by the excitement of the moment, and plead its inevitability as the final eruption of long-simmering indigenous discontent. A generation would pass before the consequences of the actions of Fiji’s strongman of 1987, Sitiveni Rabuka, would be fully appreciated but, by then, the die had been well and truly cast. The major general did not live happily ever after. No nirvana followed the assertion of indigenous rights. If anything, misadventure became his country’s most enduring contemporary trait. This is Fiji’s very human story.

Sinuous Objects »

Revaluing Women’s Wealth in the Contemporary Pacific

Publication date: August 2017
Some 40 years ago, Pacific anthropology was dominated by debates about ‘women’s wealth’. These exchanges were generated by Annette Weiner’s (1976) critical reappraisal of Bronisław Malinowski’s classic work on the Trobriand Islands, and her observations that women’s production of ‘wealth’ (banana leaf bundles and skirts) for elaborate transactions in mortuary rituals occupied a central role in Trobriand matrilineal cosmology and social organisation. This volume brings the debates about women’s wealth back to the fore by critically revisiting and engaging with ideas about gender and materiality, value, relationality and the social life and agency of things. The chapters, interspersed by three poems, evoke the sinuous materiality of the different objects made by women across the Pacific, and the intimate relationship between these objects of value and sensuous, gendered bodies. In the Epilogue, Professor Margaret Jolly observes how the volume also ‘trace[s] a more abstract sinuosity in the movement of these things through time and place, as they coil through different regimes of value … The eight chapters … trace winding paths across the contemporary Pacific, from the Trobriands in Milne Bay, to Maisin, Wanigela and Korafe in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, through the islands of Tonga to diasporic Tongan and Cook Islander communities in New Zealand’. This comparative perspective elucidates how women’s wealth is defined, valued and contested in current exchanges, bride-price debates, church settings, development projects and the challenges of living in diaspora. Importantly, this reveals how women themselves preserve the different values and meanings in gift-giving and exchanges, despite processes of commodification that have resulted in the decline or replacement of ‘women’s wealth’.

Ten Thousand Years of Cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea »

Publication date: July 2017
Kuk is a settlement at c. 1600 m altitude in the upper Wahgi Valley of the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, near Mount Hagen, the provincial capital. The site forms part of the highland spine that runs for more than 2500 km from the western head of the island of New Guinea to the end of its eastern tail. Until the early 1930s, when the region was first explored by European outsiders, it was thought to be a single, uninhabited mountain chain. Instead, it was found to be a complex area of valleys and basins inhabited by large populations of people and pigs, supported by the intensive cultivation of the tropical American sweet potato on the slopes above swampy valley bottoms.  With the end of World War II, the area, with others, became a focus for the development of coffee and tea plantations, of which the establishment of Kuk Research Station was a result. Large-scale drainage of the swamps produced abundant evidence in the form of stone axes and preserved wooden digging sticks and spades for their past use in cultivation. Investigations in 1966 at a tea plantation in the upper Wahgi Valley by a small team from The Australian National University yielded a date of over 2000 years ago for a wooden stick collected from the bottom of a prehistoric ditch. The establishment of Kuk Research Station a few kilometres away shortly afterwards provided an ideal opportunity for a research project.

Bearing Witness »

Essays in honour of Brij V. Lal

Publication date: July 2017
"Brij V. Lal is a singular scholar. His work has spanned disciplines—from history to politics—and genres—from conventional monograph history, to participant history, political commentary, encyclopaedia, biography and faction. Brij is without doubt the most eminent scholar Fiji has ever produced. He also remains the most significant public intellectual of his country, despite having been banned from entering it in 2009. He is also one of the leading Pacific historians of his generation, and an internationally recognised authority on the Indian diaspora. This Festschrift volume celebrates, reflects upon and extends the life and work of this colourful scholar. The essays, whose contributors are drawn from across the globe, do more than review Brij’s work; they also probe his contribution to both scholarly and political life. This book will therefore serve as an invaluable guide for readers from all walks of life seeking to better situate and understand the impact of Brij’s scholarly activism on Fiji and beyond." — Clive Moore, University of Queensland "It is a pleasure to commend this collection of very different essays that celebrate, reflect upon and extend the life and work of a remarkable scholar. Although I have had, at times, a close association with Brij Lal’s life and work, I have learned much from reading this book. It provokes further thought about the course of democracy in Fiji, and the very sorry state and future of Pacific history and the humanities in academia. Here is a timely assertion of the significance and major contribution that courageous scholars such as Brij have made to the study and public awareness of these areas of concern." — Jacqueline Leckie, University of Otago

Navigating the Future »

An Ethnography of Change in Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Monica Minnegal, Peter D. Dwyer
Publication date: June 2017
Navigating the Future draws on long-term ethnographic fieldwork with Kubo people and their neighbours, in a remote area of Papua New Guinea, to explore how worlds are reconfigured as people become increasingly conscious of, and seek to draw into their own lives, wealth and power that had previously lain beyond their horizons. In the context of a major resource extraction project—the Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural Gas (PNG LNG) Project–taking shape in the mountains to the north, the people in this area are actively reimagining their social world. This book describes changes in practice that result, tracing shifts in the ways people relate to the land, to each other and to outsiders, and the histories of engagement that frame those changes. Inequalities are emerging between individuals in access to paid work, between groups in potential for claiming future royalties, and between generations in access to information. As people at the village of Suabi strive to make themselves visible to the state and to petroleum companies, as legal entities entitled to receive benefits from the PNG LNG Project, they are drawing new boundaries around sets of people and around land and declaring hierarchical relationships between groups that did not exist before. They are struggling to make sense of a bureaucracy that is foreign to them, in a place where the state currently has minimal presence. A primary concern of Navigating the Future is with the processes through which these changes have emerged, as people seek to imagine—and work to bring about—a radically different future for themselves while simultaneously reimagining their own past in ways that validate those endeavours.