Nicholas A. Bainton

Nick Bainton is an Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the University of Queensland. He has been studying the social impacts of large-scale resource extraction in Papua New Guinea for nearly two decades. He has written widely on the social and political effects of extractive capitalism in Melanesia and beyond.

orcid https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7571-3679

The Absent Presence of the State in Large-Scale Resource Extraction Projects »

Publication date: 2021
Standing on the broken ground of resource extraction settings, the state is sometimes like a chimera: its appearance and intentions are misleading and, for some actors, it is unknowable and incomprehensible. It may be easily mistaken for someone or something else, like a mining company, for example. With rich ethnographic material, this volume tackles critical questions about the nature of contemporary states, studied from the perspective of resource extraction projects in Papua New Guinea, Australia and beyond. It brings together a sustained focus on the unstable and often dialectical relationship between the presence and the absence of the state in the context of resource extraction. Across the chapters, contributors discuss cases of proposed mining ventures, existing large-scale mining operations and the extraction of natural gas. Together, they illustrate how the concept of absent presence can be brought to life and how it can enhance our understanding of the state as well as relations and processes forming in extractive contexts, thus providing a novel contribution to the anthropology of the state and the anthropology of extraction. ‘The Absent Presence fills a major gap in our knowledge about the relationship between states and companies – at a time when resource extraction seems to be more contested than ever. Bainton and Skrzypek have curated an incredibly impressive volume that should be read by all those interested in exploring corporate and state power, and the ever-present impacts of extraction. A highly recommended read.’ — Professor Deanna Kemp, Director of the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, The University of Queensland ‘Countless books have been written on the sovereign state and how it imposes a particular kind of order on economic and social interactions. What is original and compelling about this collection is the portrait of how two very different states converge when it comes to “extractive ventures”. From the presumption of exclusive sovereignty over mineral resources, to the bargains that are struck with major (often global) corporations, and the relative indifference to environmental impacts, there is a remarkable consistency in the patterns that are referred to as “state effects”. These effects are brought from the background to the foreground in this book through the blending of creative and critical thinking with detailed empirical research.’ — Tim Dunne, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland ‘This brilliant and intriguing title provides a timely contribution to understanding the actual functions and strategies of state (and state-like) institutions in resource arenas. The dialectics of presence-absence and its refractions at different levels and scales of government allow the authors to go beyond stereotypes about the (strong, weak, failed or corrupt) state, highlighting more commonalities than expected between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and even New Caledonia.’ — Dr Pierre-Yves Le Meur, Anthropologist, Senior Researcher, French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, Joint Research Unit SENS (Knowledge Environment Society)

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Unequal Lives »

Gender, Race and Class in the Western Pacific

Publication date: January 2021
As we move further into the twenty-first century, we are witnessing both the global extensification and local intensification of inequality. Unequal Lives deals with the particular dilemmas of inequality in the Western Pacific. The authors focus on four dimensions of inequality: the familiar triad of gender, race and class, and the often-neglected dimension of generation. Grounded in meticulous long-term ethnographic enquiry and deep awareness of the historical contingency of these configurations of inequality, this volume illustrates the multidimensional, multiscale and epistemic nature of contemporary inequality. This collection is a major contribution to academic and political debates about the perverse effects of inequality, which now ranks among the greatest challenges of our time. The inspiration for this volume derives from the breadth and depth of Martha Macintyre’s remarkable scholarship. The contributors celebrate Macintyre’s groundbreaking work, which exemplifies the explanatory power, ethical force and pragmatism that ensures the relevance of anthropological research to the lives of others and to understanding the global condition. ‘Unequal Lives is an impressive collection by Melanesianist anthropologists with reputations for theoretical sophistication, ethnographic imagination and persuasive writing. It brilliantly illuminates all aspects of the multifaceted scholarship of Martha Macintyre, whose life and teaching are also highlighted in the commentaries, tributes and interview included in the volume.’ — Robert J. Foster, Professor of Anthropology and Visual and Cultural Studies, Richard L. Turner Professor of Humanities, University of Rochester ‘Inspired by Martha Macintyre’s work, the contributors to Unequal Lives show that to theorise inequality is a measured project, one that requires rescaling its exercise over several decades in order to recognise the reality of inequality as it is known in social relations and to document it critically, unravelling their own readiness to misjudge what they see from the lives that are lived by the people with whom they have lived and studied. This fine volume shows how the ordinariness of everyday work and care can be a chimera wherein the apparent reality of inequality might mislead less critical reports to obscure its very account. From reading it, we learn that such unrelenting questioning of what makes lives unequal becomes the very analytic for better understanding lives as they are lived.’ — Karen M. Sykes, Professor of Anthropology, University of Manchester

The Lihir Destiny »

Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia

Authored by: Nicholas A. Bainton
Publication date: October 2010
The people of the Lihir Islands in Papua New Guinea have long held visions of a prosperous new future, often referred to by local leaders as the ‘Lihir Destiny’. When large-scale gold mining activities commenced on the main island of Lihir in 1995, many hoped that this new world had finally arrived. The Lihir Destiny provides a nuanced account of the social structural and cultural transformations engendered by large-scale resource extraction. Tracing the history of Lihirian engagement with outside forces, from the colonial period through to recent mining activities, this book brings new light to bear on the bigger question of what ‘development’ means in contemporary Melanesia. The Lihir Destiny explores how Lihirian leaders devised future plans for a cultural revolution based upon the maximisation of mining activities and the influential philosophies of the Personal Viability movement. However, reaching the ‘Lihir Destiny’ is no simple affair, and many Lihirians find themselves negotiating divergent formulations of culture, sociality and economic engagement. The Lihir Destiny will appeal to readers interested in the social impacts of large-scale resource development, the processes of cultural continuity and change and the ways in which modernity is configured in local terms.