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'Seeing’ Papua New Guinea

Making Order and Disorder through a Petroleum Project

Steffen Dalsgaard

This article contributes to debates about how capitalist corporations ‘see’, and how they concurrently relate to the places where they are located. It argues that an analytical focus on ‘seeing’ illuminates how internal organization and outward relation making are tied together in complex ways. Even so, corporations of the extractive industries in particular cannot be assumed to encompass a single coherent view. The empirical case is a critical examination of how a gas project employed strict health, safety, and security measures to generate order when encountering alterity in an unfamiliar environment in Papua New Guinea. It reveals how the project was organized around two conflicting ways of seeing its host country—trying to separate itself from it while simultaneously having to engage and provide benefits for it.

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Uneven development in the Papua New Guinea highlands

Mining, corporate social responsibility, and the “life market”

Jerry K. Jacka

Over the last 20 years, Papua New Guinea has been at the center of a resource development boom as mining, petroleum, and logging companies extract the rich resources of this tropical Pacific island. As 97 percent of the country is owned by customary groups who correspondingly receive benefits from extraction, resource development has the potential to integrate local communities into the global economy in beneficial ways. Often, though, this is not the case, as small factions of landowners control the bulk of development proceeds. In this article, I examine the development of a coffee growing scheme adjacent to the world-class Porgera Gold Mine, intended to help local people who are marginal to mining benefit streams. Tragically, however, instead of engaging in coffee production, many disenfranchised young men in Porgera prefer to work in the “life market”—a term they use to describe tribal warfare in which groups not receiving benefits attack benefit-receiving groups in the attempt to extort monetary payments. Not only are individuals' lives at stake in the life market, but so too are the economic conditions—coffee and gold mining—that allow the life market's very existence.

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Joshua A. Bell

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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Steffen Dalsgaard

In sociological literature, the most commonly accepted meaning of 'the state' is based on a spatial definition that describes it as an entity exercising sovereignty within a bounded territory. However, the state is also made present in time, and state forms have a profound impact on the temporalities of social events and interaction, for instance, through rhythms and schedules. Consequently, this article discusses how the state in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, can be understood with reference to temporality as much as to spatiality and materiality. Here, the state is seen as being personified in its politicians, who are in control of its resources. In this understanding, the state is both facilitated and limited by the presence, attention, and duration of the politicians, who are obliged to recognize personal relationships through which kin or acquaintances can challenge bureaucratic control of space and of time.

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Glenn Banks

The size and dramatic impact of the large-scale mines of Melanesia make a useful case study of the effects of economic globalization on local communities, particularly in terms of poverty and inequality. In the context of debates concerning globalization and poverty, this article examines the processes around large-scale mining at both the national and local scales. It argues that the issue of scale is critical to discussions of the links between poverty and globalization, with no evidence that large-scale mining has reduced poverty at the national level in Papua New Guinea over the last thirty years. Evidence is given from the Porgera mine of the effects of mining development at the local scale, with absolute poverty down but inequality increasing. Ethnographic detail helps to situate these processes in the dynamics of the local society. It is these locally grounded attributes that account for the production of inequality far better than generalized accounts of the 'culture of globalization'.

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“I am a dead woman”

Embodying and resisting dependency among women living with HIV in Papua New Guinea

Holly Wardlow

, I first trace a few ways in which the theme of dependency permeates discourses about the AIDS pandemic across a range of locations. Then, turning to the Papua New Guinean context, I examine how the state's dependency on both donor organizations and

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Keir Martin

This paper explores some accusations of wrongdoing in Papua New Guinea in the early 2000s. These accusations illustrate an ambiguous encouragement and discouragement of different kinds of perceived dependence as Papua New Guineans struggled with a growing disenchantment with their nation‐state and the withdrawal rather than expansion of state services and assistance. The paper explores the dynamics by which these accusations brought particular dependencies, cast as legitimate and illegitimate, in and out of view, and compares these with other instances in other parts of the world. Ascriptions of ‘dependence’ are shown not only to shift with context but also to be highly performative, being a central means by which persons engaged in highly entangled interdependent relations attempt to re‐shape the nature of those entanglements.

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Learning to Be a Kanaka

Menace and Mimicry in Papua New Guinea

Neil Maclean

Self-identification as a kanaka is a common rhetorical ploy in highlands Papua New Guinea, used to emphasize both a sense of economic and political marginalization, and a continued identification with tradition. However, I argue that the figure of the kanaka is not simply that of the villager, but of that terminated project of education, the ‘school leaver.’ I juxtapose the reflections of one such ‘school leaver’ on his exclusion from the educational trajectory with the celebrations and rhetoric surrounding the opening of a new village school. This throws into relief a village perspective on education, and what it means to be a citizen of the nation-state of Papua New Guinea. Bhabha’s (1987) analysis of colonial ‘mimicry’ informs my identification of the contradictory quality of this perspective. As a critique of the legacy of postwar education policy from the perspective of a contemporary generation of village leaders, the article is also intended as a response to Pels’s (1997: 178) call for “more ethnographies of decolonization.”