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Archaeologies of Island Melanesia »

Current approaches to landscapes, exchange and practice

Publication date: August 2019
‘The island world of Melanesia—ranging from New Guinea and the Bismarcks through the Solomons, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia—is characterised more than anything by its boundless diversity in geography, language and culture. The deep historical roots of this diversity are only beginning to be uncovered by archaeological investigations, but as the contributions to this volume demonstrate, the exciting discoveries being made across this region are opening windows to our understanding of the historical processes that contributed to such remarkably varied cultures. Archaeologies of Island Melanesia offers a sampling of some of the recent and ongoing research that spans such topics as landscape, exchange systems, culture contact and archaeological practice, authored by some of the leading scholars in Oceanic archaeology.’ — Professor Patrick Vinton Kirch Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawai‘i Island Melanesia is a remarkable region in many respects, from its great ecological and linguistic diversity, to the complex histories of settlement and interaction spanning from the Pleistocene to the present. Archaeological research in Island Melanesia is currently going through a vibrant phase of exciting new discoveries and challenging debates about questions that apply far beyond the region. This volume draws together a variety of current perspectives in regional archaeology for Island Melanesia, focusing on Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea. It features both high-level theoretical approaches and rigorous data-driven case studies covering recent research in landscape archaeology, exchange and material culture, and cultural practices.

Island Rivers »

Fresh Water and Place in Oceania

Publication date: June 2018
Anthropologists have written a great deal about the coastal adaptations and seafaring traditions of Pacific Islanders, but have had much less to say about the significance of rivers for Pacific island culture, livelihood and identity. The authors of this collection seek to fill that gap in the ethnographic record by drawing attention to the deep historical attachments of island communities to rivers, and the ways in which those attachments are changing in response to various forms of economic development and social change. In addition to making a unique contribution to Pacific island ethnography, the authors of this volume speak to a global set of issues of immense importance to a world in which water scarcity, conflict, pollution and the degradation of riparian environments afflict growing numbers of people. Several authors take a political ecology approach to their topic, but the emphasis here is less on hydro-politics than on the cultural meaning of rivers to the communities we describe. How has the cultural significance of rivers shifted as a result of colonisation, development and nation-building? How do people whose identities are fundamentally rooted in their relationship to a particular river renegotiate that relationship when the river is dammed to generate hydro-power or polluted by mining activities? How do blockages in the flow of rivers and underground springs interrupt the intergenerational transmission of local ecological knowledge and hence the ability of local communities to construct collective identities rooted in a sense of place?

The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones »

Pacific Islands Perspectives

Publication date: May 2018
The moral economy of mobile phones implies a field of shifting relations among consumers, companies and state actors, all of whom have their own ideas about what is good, fair and just. These ideas inform the ways in which, for example, consumers acquire and use mobile phones; companies promote and sell voice, SMS and data subscriptions; and state actors regulate both everyday use of mobile phones and market activity around mobile phones. Ambivalence and disagreement about who owes what to whom is thus an integral feature of the moral economy of mobile phones. This volume identifies and evaluates the stakes at play in the moral economy of mobile phones. The six main chapters consider ethnographic cases from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu. The volume also includes a brief introduction with background information on the recent ‘digital revolution’ in these countries and two closing commentaries that reflect on the significance of the chapters for our understanding of global capitalism and the contemporary Pacific.

Tides of Innovation in Oceania »

Value, materiality and place

Publication date: April 2017
Tides of Innovation in Oceania is directly inspired by Epeli Hau‘ofa’s vision of the Pacific as a ‘Sea of Islands’; the image of tides recalls the cyclical movement of waves, with its unpredictable consequences. The authors propose tides of innovation as a fluid concept, unbound and open to many directions. This perspective is explored through ethnographic case studies centred on deeply elaborated analyses of locally inflected agencies involved in different transforming contexts. Three interwoven themes—value, materiality and place—provide a common thread.

Gender Violence & Human Rights »

Seeking Justice in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu

Publication date: December 2016
The postcolonial states of Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu operate today in a global arena in which human rights are widely accepted. As ratifiers of UN treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, these Pacific Island countries have committed to promoting women’s and girls’ rights, including the right to a life free of violence. Yet local, national and regional gender values are not always consistent with the principles of gender equality and women’s rights that undergird these globalising conventions. This volume critically interrogates the relation between gender violence and human rights as these three countries and their communities and citizens engage with, appropriate, modify and at times resist human rights principles and their implications for gender violence. Grounded in extensive anthropological, historical and legal research, the volume should prove a crucial resource for the many scholars, policymakers and activists who are concerned about the urgent and ubiquitous problem of gender violence in the western Pacific.   ‘This is an important and timely collection that is central to the major and contentious issues in the contemporary Pacific of gender violence and human rights. It builds upon existing literature … but the contributors to this volume interrogate the connection between these two areas deeply and more critically … This book should and must reach a broad audience.’ ­— Jacqui Leckie, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago ‘The volume addresses the tensions between human and cultural, individual and collective rights, as played out in the domain of gender … Gender is a perfect lens for exploring these tensions because cultural rights are often claimed in defence of gender oppression and because women often have imposed upon them the burden of representing cultural traditions in attire, comportment, restraint or putatively cultural conservatism. And Melanesia is a perfect place to consider these gendered issues because of the long history of ethnocentric representations of the region, because of the extent to which these are played out between states and local cultures and because of the efforts of the vibrant women’s movements in the region to develop locally workable responses to the problems of gender violence in these communities.’ — Christine Dureau, Senior Lecturer, Anthropology, University of Auckland

An Archaeology of Early Christianity in Vanuatu »

Kastom and Religious Change on Tanna and Erromango, 1839–1920

Authored by: James Flexner
Publication date: December 2016
Religious change is at its core a material as much as a spiritual process. Beliefs related to intangible spirits, ghosts, or gods were enacted through material relationships between people, places, and objects. The archaeology of mission sites from Tanna and Erromango islands, southern Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides), offer an informative case study for understanding the material dimensions of religious change. One of the primary ways that cultural difference was thrown into relief in the Presbyterian New Hebrides missions was in the realm of objects. Christian Protestant missionaries believed that religious conversion had to be accompanied by changes in the material conditions of everyday life. Results of field archaeology and museum research on Tanna and Erromango, southern Vanuatu, show that the process of material transformation was not unidirectional. Just as Melanesian people changed religious beliefs and integrated some imported objects into everyday life, missionaries integrated local elements into their daily lives. Attempts to produce ‘civilised Christian natives’, or to change some elements of native life relating purely to ‘religion’ but not others, resulted instead in a proliferation of ‘hybrid’ forms. This is visible in the continuity of a variety of traditional practices subsumed under the umbrella term ‘kastom’ through to the present alongside Christianity. Melanesians didn’t become Christian, Christianity became Melanesian. The material basis of religious change was integral to this process.

Talking it Through »

Responses to Sorcery and Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia

Publication date: May 2015
Sorcery and witchcraft practices and beliefs are pervasive across Melanesia. They are in part created by, and give rise to, a wide variety of poor social and developmental outcomes. These include uneven economic development, low public health, lack of social cohesion, crime, fear and insecurity. A further very visible problem is the attacks on men and women who are accused of being practitioners of witchcraft or sorcery, which can lead to serious bodily harm, banishment and sometimes death. Today, many communities, individuals, church organisations and policymakers in Melanesia and internationally are exploring ways to overcome the negative social outcomes associated with witchcraft and sorcery practices and beliefs. This book brings together a collection of chapters written by a diverse range of authors, both Melanesian and non-Melanesian, providing crucial insights both into how these practices and beliefs are playing out in contemporary Melanesia, and also the types of interventions that are being trialled or debated to address the problems associated with them.

A Political Memoir of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides »

Authored by: Keith Woodward
Publication date: October 2014
Keith Woodward has produced an inside account of the intricacies of official politics in the latter stages of the history of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides, which will be essential reading for anyone interested in the colonial period of Vanuatu. Woodward spent 25 years in the New Hebrides (1953 to 1978) based in the British Residency and it is his long service which makes his memoir so informative and important. Following a fascinating and insightful description of Port Vila and the New Hebrides when he arrived in the 1950s, Woodward focuses the rest of his memoir on issues relating to the difficulties the British faced in convincing the French that the two powers should come to an agreement on decolonisation of the New Hebrides—that is, to establish a process of constitutional advancement leading ultimately to independence. — Howard Van Trease, Honorary Research Fellow, Emalus Campus, University of the South Pacific, Port Vila This is a highly original, evocative and engaging memoir which offers an insightful firsthand account of colonial administration, bilateral French and British relations, political change and decolonisation in Vanuatu. It addresses some lacunae in the historiography of Vanuatu and dispels a number of assumptions about French intentions there. It will be of great benefit to people interested in Vanuatu, and more broadly in political change in the Pacific, constitutional arrangements, decolonisation, French-British relations, and particularly the divergent colonial policies of France and the United Kingdom. — Gregory Rawlings, Anthropology, University of Otago

Indigenous Peoples' Innovation »

Intellectual Property Pathways to Development

Publication date: August 2012
Traditional knowledge systems are also innovation systems. This book analyses the relationship between intellectual property and indigenous innovation. The contributors come from different disciplinary backgrounds including law, ethnobotany and science. Drawing on examples from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, each of the contributors explores the possibilities and limits of intellectual property when it comes to supporting innovation by indigenous people.

Working Together in Vanuatu »

Research Histories, Collaborations, Projects and Reflections

Edited by: John Taylor, Nick Thieberger
Publication date: October 2011
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.