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Ginkgo Village »

Trauma and Transformation in Rural China

Authored by: Tamara Jacka
Publication date: June 2024
Ginkgo Village provides an original and powerfully intimate bottom-up perspective on China’s recent tumultuous history. Drawing on ethnographic and life-history research, the book takes readers deep into a village in a mountainous region of central-eastern China known as Eyuwan. In the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, villagers in this region experienced terrible trauma and far-reaching socio‑economic and political change. In the civil war (1927–1949), they were slaughtered in fighting between Nationalist and Communist forces. During the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), they suffered appalling famine. Since the 1990s, mass labour outmigration has lifted local villagers out of poverty and fuelled major transformations in their circumstances and practices, social and family relationships, and values and aspirations. At the heart of this book are eight tales that recreate Ginkgo Village life and the interactions between villagers and the researchers who visit them. These tales use storytelling to engender an empathetic understanding of Ginkgo Villagers’ often traumatic life experiences; to present concrete details about transformations in everyday village life in an engaging manner; and to explore the challenges and rewards of fieldwork research that attempts empathetic understanding across cultures.

The Chinese in Papua New Guinea »

Past, Present and Future

Publication date: May 2024
Papua New Guinean, Chinese and Australian people have long been entangled in the creation of complex histories and political debates concerning the similarities and differences of each group. These debates are fundamental to understanding how a sense of national unity in Papua New Guinea is formed, as well as within analyses of the wider world of strategic power dynamics and influence. The Chinese in Papua New Guinea offers a comprehensive and nuanced examination of the Chinese in Papua New Guinea. Chinese, Papua New Guinean and Australian interactions are analysed in the context of ongoing shifts in colonial power, increased regional engagement with China, and current political instabilities across the Indo-Pacific region. The many ways the Chinese have been defined as actors in PNG’s history and politics are analysed against the backdrop of a rapidly changing global order. The complexity of Chinese experiences within Papua New Guinea is given expression, here, with chapters that stress political and historical heterogeneity, the importance of language for understanding Chinese social relations, and that articulate rich personal experiences of race relations.

Forty Years in the South Seas »

Archaeological Perspectives on the Human History of Papua New Guinea and the Western Pacific Region

Publication date: May 2024
“This edited volume of invited chapters honours the four decades of fundamental research by archaeologist Glenn Summerhayes into the human prehistory of the islands of the western Pacific, especially New Guinea and its offshore islands. This area helped to shape and direct many ancient dispersal events associated with Homo sapiens, initially from Africa more than 50,000 years ago, through the lower latitudes of Asia, into Australia, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and possibly the Solomon Islands. Around 3000 years ago, coastal regions of northern and eastern New Guinea, and the islands of Melanesia beyond, played a major role in the Oceanic migrations of Austronesian-speaking peoples from southern China and Southeast Asia, migrations that have recently attained new levels of genetic complexity through the analysis of ancient DNA from human remains. For the first time, humans of both Southeast Asian and New Guinea/Bismarck genetic origin reached the islands of Remote Oceania, beyond the Solomons. Many of the chapters in this book deal with archaeological aspects of this Austronesian maritime expansion (which never seriously impacted the populations of the New Guinea Highlands), especially as revealed through the analysis of Lapita pottery and associated artefacts. Other chapters offer archaeological perspectives on trade and exchange, and on related topics that extend into the ethnographic era. The research of Glenn Summerhayes stands centrally amongst all these offerings, ranging from the discovery of some of the oldest traces of Pleistocene human settlement in Papua New Guinea to documentation of the remarkable phenomenon of Lapita expansion through Melanesia into western Polynesia around 3000 years ago. This volume is a fitting celebration of a remarkable career in western Pacific archaeology and population history.” ­— Emeritus Professor Peter Bellwood, The Australian National University

Dreaming Ecology »

Nomadics and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, Victoria River, Northern Australia

Edited by: Darrell Lewis, Margaret Jolly
Authored by: Deborah Bird Rose
Publication date: May 2024
In the author’s own words, Dreaming Ecology ‘explores a holistic understanding of the interconnections of people, country, kinship, creation and the living world within a context of mobility. Implicitly it asks how people lived so sustainably for so long’. It offers a telling critique of the loss of Indigenous life, human and non-human, in the wake of white settler colonialism and this becoming ‘cattle country’. It offers a fresh perspective on nomadics grounded in ‘footwalk epistemology’ and ‘an ethics of return sustained across different species, events, practices and scales’. ‘This is the final and most substantial of Debbie’s love letters to the Aboriginal people of the Victoria River Downs. I say this because there is such a sense of reverence, wonder and respect throughout the book. The introduction of concepts of double-death, footwalk epistemology, wild country … are not only organising ideas but characterisations arising from what Debbie hears, sees and feels of herself and Aboriginal others … I think of it in terms of love, if love is care, reciprocal respect, deep connectivity and a strong desire to never make less of the people she chose to commit herself to.’ —Richard Davis ‘This book was a pleasure to read, filled with careful description of people, places, and various plants and animals, and insightful analysis of the patterns and commitments that hold them together in the world.’ —Thom van Dooren

Uneven Connections »

A Partial History of the Mobile Phone in Papua New Guinea

Authored by: Robert J. Foster
Publication date: March 2024
In the first years of the 21st century, economic liberalisation began to transform telecommunications services throughout the Pacific Islands. Government regulators, corporate executives and everyday consumers hopefully imagined that opening mobile phone markets to competition would result in greater access, lower costs and accelerated development. Uneven Connections examines the ways in which liberalisation took hold in Papua New Guinea (PNG) when a unit of the Caribbean-based mobile network operator Digicel Group Ltd. seized the opportunity to compete with the state-sponsored incumbent. The book highlights how mobile phones entered the lives of urban and rural Papua New Guineans after Digicel’s arrival in 2007. In so doing, it describes a moral economy in which companies, consumers and state agents continually negotiate who owes what to whom. In what ways have these various actors invented and negotiated new forms of both freedom and constraint? Uneven Connections advances understanding of how a so-called digital revolution in PNG unfolded, resulting in outcomes that often confounded the expectations of policy makers and ordinary citizens alike. It assesses the extent to which some of the promises of this revolution have been redeemed and identifies the challenges faced by companies, consumers and state agents in establishing and experiencing novel forms of uneven connectivity. The book provides a short and selective history of mobile phones in PNG, ending with the sale of Digicel’s Pacific operations to the Australian company Telstra in 2022.

Grassroots Law in Papua New Guinea »

Edited by: Melissa Demian
Publication date: December 2023
The introduction of village courts in Papua New Guinea in 1975 was an ambitious experiment in providing semi-formal legal access to the country’s overwhelmingly rural population. Nearly 50 years later, the enthusiastic adoption of these courts has had a number of ramifications, some of them unanticipated. Arguably, the village courts have developed and are working exactly as they were supposed to do, adapted by local communities to modes and styles consistent with their own dispute management sensibilities. But with little in the way of state oversight or support, most village courts have become, of necessity, nearly autonomous. Village courts have also become the blueprint for other modes of dispute management. They overlap with other sources of authority, so the line between what does and does not constitute a ‘court’ is now indistinct in many parts of the country. Rather than casting this issue as a problem for legal development, the contributors to Grassroots Law in Papua New Guinea ask how, under conditions of state withdrawal, people seek to retain an understanding of law that holds out some promise of either keeping the attention of the state or reproducing the state’s authority.

Fijians in Transnational Pentecostal Networks »

Authored by: Karen J. Brison
Publication date: April 2023
In Fijians in Transnational Pentecostal Networks, Karen J. Brison examines the Harvest Ministry, an independent Fijian Pentecostal church that sends Fijian and Papua New Guinean missionaries to East Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe and elsewhere. After studying the ministry’s main church in Suva for several years, Brison visited its missionaries and their local partners in East Africa and Papua New Guinea. The result of those visits, this book provides an unusual insight into Pentecostal churches in the global south, arguing that they seldom produce novel visions of Christianity and world inequality. It also offers new perspectives, by situating Pacific island churches within a global community and by examining social class formation, which is increasingly important in the Pacific. Pentecostalism has a consistent culture all over the world, but shared themes take on different meanings in the face of local concerns. In Fiji, Pentecostal churches are part of middle-class projects constructing leadership roles and highlighting transnational ties for a growing group of indigenous urban professionals. In Papua New Guinea, church leaders promote the idea that youths with blocked aspirations are tough and humble and therefore make invaluable missionaries. In East Africa, Pentecostal churches are part of a networking strategy that entrepreneurial individuals see as essential to survival. As these local groups each use Pentecostalism to advance their own agenda, they endorse Euro-American racial stereotypes and ideologies about social evolution and progress.
 

Wehali: The Female Land »

Traditions of a Timorese Ritual Centre

Authored by: Tom Therik
Publication date: March 2023
Wehali defines itself as the ritual centre of the island of Timor. As a ritual centre, Wehali continues to be the residence of a figure of traditional authority on whom, in the 18th century, the Dutch conferred the title of Kaiser (Keizer) and to whom the Portuguese gave the title of Emperor (Imperador). At one time, Wehali was the centre of a network of tributary states, which both the Dutch and Portuguese regarded as paramount to the political organisation of the island. This book is a study of Wehali in its contemporary setting as it continues to maintain its rituals and traditions. Significantly, Wehali is a ‘Female’ centre and its ‘Great Lord’ is considered to be a ‘Female’ lord. Whereas other Timorese societies are organised along male lines, in Wehali, all land, all property, all houses belong to women. Men are exchanged as husbands in marriage. Wehali is thus considered to be the ‘husband-giver’ to the surrounding realms on the island that look to its inner power as their source of life.

Youth in Fiji and Solomon Islands »

Livelihoods, Leadership and Civic Engagement

Authored by: Aidan Craney
Publication date: April 2022
Fiji, Solomon Islands and the wider Pacific region are experiencing a ‘youth bulge’. As such, the livelihoods pathways of youth in these countries will be a key determinant of their social, political and economic futures. This book looks at the cultural expectations of Fijian and Solomon Islander youth, as well as the socio-political positioning of youth activists. It investigates how formal and informal structures – such as education, employment and civil society – affect the ability of youth to achieve their potential and actively engage in their societies. Through this investigation, a recurrent theme develops of the structural minimisation of youth in these countries: they are ‘to be seen but not heard’. But Pacific youth are more than citizens in waiting; they are already important members of their communities, with varying degrees of engagement in critical civil society. More than simply leaders of tomorrow, they are partners for today. Youth in Fiji and Solomon Islands documents and details some of the ways that young people in Fiji and Solomon Islands are forging their way as leaders not just of youth, but of their communities. Whilst the majority of youth are engaging in society in acceptable, social ascribed ways, and the majority of adults resist youth participation as a technique to maintain the social status quo, a small but influential cohort of both youth and adults are creating spaces for today’s young people to help to shape the developmental futures of the Great Ocean States of the Pacific.

Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society »

Women’s lives in the Wahgi Valley

Authored by: Marie Olive Reay
Publication date: January 2022
Wives and Wanderers in a New Guinea Highlands Society brings to the reader anthropologist Marie Reay’s field research from the 1950s and 1960s on women’s lives in the Wahgi Valley, Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Dramatically written, each chapter adds to the main story that Reay wanted to tell, contrasting young girls’ freedom to court and choose partners, with the constraints (and violence) they were to experience as married women. This volume provides readable ethnographic material for undergraduate courses, in whole or in part. It will be of interest to students and scholars of gender relations, anthropology and feminism, Melanesia and the Pacific. The material in this book, which Reay had written by 1965 but never published, remains startlingly contemporary and relevant. Marie Olive Reay was a social anthropologist who did research in Australian Indigenous communities and in the Wahgi Valley in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Employed at The Australian National University from 1959 to 1988 when she retired, Reay passed away in 2004. In 2011 this manuscript was found in her personal papers, reconstructed and edited by Francesca Merlan, augmented here by an additional introduction by eminent anthropologist of the Highlands, and of gender, Marilyn Strathern. Had this manuscript appeared when Reay apparently completed it in its present form – around 1965 – it would have been the first published ethnography of women’s lives in the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Its retrieval from Reay’s papers, and availability now, adds a new dimension to works on gender relations in Melanesian societies, and to the history of Australian and Pacific anthropology.