Dystopian realities and archival dreams in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Joshua A. Bell Smithsonian Institution, Department of Anthropology (MRC 112)

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Years of resource extraction by multinational corporations have transformed the Purari Delta into a resource frontier where communities’ desires, subjectivities and histories are being unevenly reconfigured. Focusing on the struggles of I'ai communities for recognition by the Papua New Guinean government as traditional resource owners, I examine how, in the wake of the destruction of regional archives and the perceived inaccessibility of PNG's National Archives, men are marshalling new assemblages of evidence: written ancestral histories, heirloom objects, found images and maps. I explore how I'ai men are strategically deploying these materials to actualise their utopian dreams of recognition.

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