- Annual General Meeting of The Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS), 10 May 2013
- Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung returns to the Mariana Islands
- Vote buying prevalent in Indonesia and the Pacific
- The end of the Pacific? Sea-level change and Pacific Island livelihoods
- Politics, development and security in Oceania
- Kago, Kastom and Kalja: The Study of Indigenous Movements in Melanesia Today (Cahiers du Credo) (Volume 2)
- In conversation with Sir Mekere Morauta
- Engendering objects: Dynamics of Barkcloth and Gender among the Maisin of Papua New Guinea by
- Another Port Moresby community bulldozed
- Reflections on the PNG Budget Forum: Can devolved funding be effectively utilised
- European Investment Bank backs remote aviation investment in the South Pacific
- Lifting skills in the Pacific: using infrastructure procurement for skills transfer
- Fiji constitutional referendum? Unlikely
- CDI Policy Paper: Comparing Across Regions: Parties and Political Systems in Indonesia and the Pacific Islands
- SSGM’s ‘State of the Pacific’ Conference (25-26 June 2013)
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Category Archives: Profiles
In this post, Prof. Alan Rumsey and Prof. Francesca Merlan summarise their latest research project, one of several ANU-based ARC-funded projects for 2013 with a focus on the Pacific.
[Left: Children at play near Kailge, Western Highlands Province, where the project will be based.]
One of the biggest mysteries about the human species is that of child language acquisition – how children manage to learn, in a few years, systems so complex that no computer can yet model their use, but using a set of skills that is flexible enough to let them learn languages of widely differing structures. Another big mystery is the development of intersubjectivity – the uniquely human capacity for sharing and exchanging intentions and perspectives with each other. In this project we will help to improve the understanding of both language acquisition and intersubjectivity by studying them in relation to each other, in a region where neither has been systematically studied before – the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Studies of the relation between language acquisition and intersubjectivity have been very limited in the range of evidence they drawn on. They have been done almost entirely with children in North America, Europe and Australasia, speaking a narrow range of the world’s languages. This has led to overgeneralization based on false assumptions about the universality of particular linguistic structures and understandings about how the mind works. We will help to make up for those shortcomings by close study of the relation between language learning and intersubjectivity in a setting where the language and the people’s ideas about human psychology and personhood differ greatly from those where most of the research on this topic has been done.
The project will be conducted by Prof. Alan Rumsey of the Department of Anthropology, College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU, in collaboration with Prof. Francesca Merlan, of the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU. The field research will be based in the Ku Waru region of the Western Highlands Province, where Rumsey and Merlan have been studying other aspects of the language and culture since 1981. They will work in collaboration with field assistants John Onga and Andrew Noma, who will be making audio and video recordings of Ku Waru children’s interactions on a regular basis, and helping us to analyse them. Assistance with computerization and further analysis of the material at ANU will be provided by Research Assistants Dan Devitt and Tom Honeyman. The project is funded by a grant from the Australian Research Council and will run from 2013 to 2016.
by Assoc. Prof. Colin Filer, RMAP.
Sad to report that Peter Worsley died last week. I cannot imagine that he ever attended an Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) meeting, but that is not surprising because he was forced to abandon his career in anthropology after the British and Australian intelligence services conspired to prevent him from doing fieldwork in Africa or the former Territory of Papua New Guinea during the early 1950s because of his left-wing sympathies. Although he would be best known to ASAO members for The Trumpet Shall Sound (1957), he had already become a sociologist at the time it was published, and ‘cargo cults’ (or proto-nationalism) had not been the subject of his proposed fieldwork when he was a PhD student at the ANU.* Siegfried Nadel had instead proposed to send him up to Goroka as one of the pioneers of New Guinea highlands ethnography, and one cannot help but wonder how his career might have turned out if the colonial authorities had allowed him to go there. The thought of Peter instigating an anti-colonial uprising amongst the Asaro mudmen or their neighbours now seems rather quaint, but perhaps he would have turned out to be a British equivalent of Maurice Godelier instead of becoming something more like a British equivalent of Eric Wolf.
For those of us left-wing Brits who started their academic careers in the 1970s, it still looked as if social anthropology – at least in Britain – was still mired in its colonial legacy, and the sociology of development appeared to be a rather more attractive disciplinary practice. This was in no small measure due to the example which Peter had established, not only in The Trumpet, but also in The Third World (1964). Oddly enough, having followed his example myself, albeit without being banned from PNG, I only got to know Peter towards the end of his life. That was after Christin Kocher Schmid persuaded him to write a concluding chapter to her edited collection, Expecting the Day of Wrath (1999), in which he commented on the latest evidence of Melanesian millenarianism confronting a real millennium. There he reiterated his argument that ‘cargo cults’ have only ever been one local variant of Melanesian millenarianism, which has itself been only one regional variant of a global phenomenon which is no more irrational than a bunch of other ideologies. And in his autobiography (2008), he pointed out that The Trumpet was originally intended to be a survey of the global phenomenon, but the book got out of hand and the publishers persuaded him that Melanesia was more than enough.
[* Worsley completed his PhD at the Australian National University in 1954 with a thesis on 'The changing social structure of the Wanindiljaugwa' (an indigenous group from Groote Eylandt, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, North Australia). He is one of the academics featured in Alan MacFarlane's outstanding series of interviews with anthropologists (and sociologists) as part of the World Oral Literature Project hosted by the University of Cambridge and Yale University. The image above, a reproduction of "The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch" (by Henry Raeburn, c.1790), is taken from the cover of his autobiography 'Skating on Thin Ice' .]
New website for “Engendering Persons, Transforming Things: Christianities, Commodities and Individualism in Oceania”
Professor Margaret Jolly’s ARC Laureate Project Engendering Persons, Transforming Things: Christianities, Commodities and Individualism in Oceania has a new website.*
This project “addresses a profound and long-debated question about the historical interaction between Oceanic and western constructs of the person and contemporary controversies about the role of Christianity in the emergence of modern individualism. It is distinctive in linking the gender of persons with gendered things. It critically evaluates the role of Christianity in relation to processes of individuation emergent from the commoditisation of land, labour and consumption, biomedical systems of health and introduced legal regimes. It will significantly enhance Australia’s research capacity as well as its cultural understanding and delivery of development assistance in the region, with particular regard to gender justice, law and health.”
The team of staff and students is working across the region in Vanuatu (Margaret Jolly, Latu Latai); Papua New Guinea (Katherine Lepani, Latu Latai); the autonomous region of Bougainville and Solomon Islands (Anna-Karina Hermkens); Banaba and transnational Oceania (Katerina Teaiwa); Samoa (Latu Latai); New Zealand (Areti Metuamate) and Hawai’i (Marata Tamaira).
[* read more about the photo (above) on the new Laureate site.]
by Assoc. Prof. Andrew McWilliam, Anthropology, CHL.
Pyone Myat Thu (pictured here with her friend Atifa, while on fieldwork in Timor Leste) was awarded her Phd in March 2013 for her dissertation entitled ‘Negotiating Displacement: A Study of Land and Livelihoods in Rural East Timor’.
One of the enduring legacies of the 24 years of Indonesian occupation of East Timor has been the impact of widespread forced displacement and resettlement of rural populations. Independence brought with it the possibility of return to origin settlements but reduced circumstances and long term acculturation to new settlements complicates decision making. The thesis offers a fine grained comparative exploration of this under-researched topic. Pyone anchors her study in extended case studies of two displaced communities in the rural hinterland of East Timor, highlighting the diverse ways that Timorese have transformed their relations to place through the experience. Access to land in the new settlements is gained through customary land rights based on social, economic and ethno-historical ties with customary ‘hosts’. Negotiating an existence resulting from displacement requires thoughtful attention to the intricacies of local histories and cosmologies as the communities come to lead multi-local livelihoods, and at the same time, activate multiple ‘belongings’. Her study is an important ethnographic contribution to our understanding of post-conflict livelihood restoration and the significance of customary land attachment.
Since submitting her Phd, Pyone has taken up a 2 year appointment with the State Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) contributing to a growing research focus on East Timor (Timor-Leste) within the College of Asia and the Pacific. We congratulate Pyone on her achievements and look forward to her further scholarly accomplishments in the future.
And the final word to Pyone:
“I wish to express sincere gratitude to Dr Andrew McWilliam. Andrew served as a crucial sounding board for many ideas and provided valuable feedback on my draft chapters. I am deeply grateful for his mentoring, patience and the wisdom he has imparted through the years. I also benefitted from the guidance of Dr Bryant Allen and Professor Katherine Gibson from the former Human Geography Department in RSPAS who encouraged and challenged my work in the early stages of my candidature. Finally, my thanks to interlocutors in East Timor; without their generous time and consent this work would not have been possible.”
The Pacific Institute has produced a Japanese language video in which Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki and Dr Keiko Tamura reminisce about The Late Hank Nelson, former Professor of Pacific History at the ANU. The video may be viewed on the ANU’s Youtube channel – http://youtu.be/YvYh9QvpCzo.
This video aims to raise awareness of Hank’s pioneering research and of the Hank Nelson Memorial Endowment. The Pacific Institute would like to express its gratitude to Dr Tamura and Professor Morris-Suzuki for their enthusiastic involvement with this video and Jamie Kidston for media support.
Lindsay Cameron is a new PhD student in the School of Culture, History and Language. He currently lives in Melbourne and drives to Canberra once a month for campus events and library research. His research topic is “The Convergence of British and American Methodism in the South Pacific.” Dr Vicki Luker is the Chair of his supervisory panel.
Lindsay’s research is particularly relevant to the study of South Pacific history today as it is almost two hundred years since the first Methodist missionary arrived in Australia (1815). From Australia, Methodism spread to New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and other Islands of the Southwest Pacific. 2015 will mark the beginning of rolling bicentennial celebrations across the Pacific islands and will generate a heightened interest in the work of those early Methodists.
Lindsay is an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, a branch of the global Methodist family with its roots in North America (most Methodists in the South Pacific follow a Methodist tradition that is British in origin). In 2012, a new regional conference was formed for the Wesleyan Methodists in the South Pacific, initially incorporating four South Pacific national churches. Some of these churches have British heritage and others have American heritage. The key question being posed by these Methodist communities now is “What factors are still present in Methodism in the South Pacific that have resulted in the abiding identity as Methodists and the ready desire to belong to a wider Methodist affiliation?”
by Assoc. Prof. Chris Ballard, Pacific History, ANU.
Karina Taylor, the archivist for the ANU’s Pacific Research Archives (PRA) since its inception in February 2007, is leaving us for an exciting position at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand. The Pacific Research Archives is housed within the ANU Archives at the Menzies Library, and has already assembled a substantial collection of research materials on the Pacific, in addition to the major foundation collections of Burns Philp and CSR Ltd. The University Archivist, Maggie Shapley, has already indicated that the Pacific Research Archivist position will be retained and filled as quickly as possible.
During the past six years Karina has collected, arranged and described the papers of some 40 ANU Pacific scholars (including those of geographer Gerard Ward, linguist Stephen Wurm, anthropologist Marie Reay, and historian Brij Lal); significant collections from a further 15 individuals (including early British Solomons administrator C.M. Woodford, and dietitian Nancy Hitchcock); and the archives of about 10 different ANU departments and centres (including Pacific and Asian History, Linguistics, and Human Geography).
Karina has developed an impressive array of public interfaces for the archive, establishing a web-presence for the PRA (pacificarchives.anu.edu.au), producing brochures, delivering seminars and tutorials to graduate and undergraduate students, and mounting three exhibitions (CSR in Fiji; Pacific Health Programs, and For the People: Pacific Resources). She has also provided archival training to colleagues at the University of Papua New Guinea (pictured left with staff from UPNG’s Library), and presented aspects of her archival work and the collection at a string of major international conferences.
The full extent of Karina’s legacy will be evident in mid-2013, when lists of the collections of the Pacific Research Archives will be available on the new ANU Archives online database. Pacific scholars at the ANU and beyond are indebted to Karina for her achievements, and to the ANU Archives for its continued support for Pacific studies at the ANU. We wish Karina, Brent and Micah all the best for their move and their re-establishment as Kiwis, and we fully expect to maintain our ties with them in the future.
The Pacific Institute congratulates ANU Master’s graduates Ana Lautaimi Soakai (Crawford School) and Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (College of Law) and who were among 30 Pacific students studying in Australia to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific-Australia (PMPA) Award last Thursday (6 December 2012). Here we offer extracts from an interview with Ana about her work and what she hopes to achieve with her PMPA Award. [Read more about Tauvasa and his PMPA in an earlier post to Outrigger.] Click the photo of Ana (top left) to see her with The Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor of the ANU (standing to her left) and Prof. Tom Kompas, Director of the Crawford School at her graduation ceremony last Friday.
Ana Lautaimi Soakai was born in 1984 and raised in the Ha’apai island group, Tonga where she attended a local primary school (GPS Pangai/Hihifo). She then moved to Tonga High School (THS), Nuku’alofa, and was Head Girl Prefect in her final year. After completing Form 7, she passed a bursary program and was awarded a scholarship from NZAID to study a Bachelor of Economics and Information Systems at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. She completed her degree in mid-2007 and immediately began work in the Revenue Services Department (RSD) of the Kingdom of Tonga. The following year, she became a senior economist with the Project and Aid Management Division, in the Tongan Ministry of Finance. In late 2010, she received news that her application for an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) was successful and in early 2011, she commenced a Graduate Diploma in International Development Economics (IDEC) at the ANU’s Crawford School. This year she completed her Masters in International Development Economics.
Ana’s Prime Minister’s Pacific Award (PMPA) will enable her to spend three months in Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PITI), the ‘region’s lead export facilitation, investment and tourism promotion agency.’ PITI is a part of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat, and as such is responsible for promoting international industry and business opportunities for all of the 14 PIF member countries. Ana has met with staff from PITI and is already impressed by their professionalism. She is excited about her PMPA placement and believes her time with PITI will give her valuable new insights and a better understanding of issues related to economic development in the region. We are sure that her colleagues at Pacific Islands Trade and Invest will enjoy their time with her.
Ana has made a big impression at the ANU. Like her fellow ANU PMPA Awardee Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee, she has made significant contributions to mentoring programmes for Pacific Islander youth in Australia run by Pasifika Australia. This year, in addition to her other activities and her Masters program, Ana was also President of the Toad Hall Resident’s Advisory Committee. She has loved her time as a student at ANU, particularly her time in residence at Toad Hall, where she has enjoyed the strong sense of community among postgraduate students from very diverse backgrounds. She has also greatly appreciated the support of her Pacific brothers at Toad Hall (from Samoa and Fiji) – most recently for the meals they cooked for her throughout her final exam period.
Ana’s sense of gratitude is infectious. In reflecting on her time at ANU, she expressed her appreciation for her fellow students and residents, but also for her extended family in Canberra and at home in Tonga, who have supported her emotionally and financially with her studies. Ana believes this inclusive and intimate approach to extended family is as fundamental to Pacific islands cultures as it is to her own wellbeing – it kept her from feeling isolated, lonely and homesick during the two years she lived in her small room in Toad Hall, away from her immediate family.
On Friday, 14 December 2012, in a graduation ceremony at the ANU’s Llewellyn Hall attended by her parents and members of her extended family (pictured left), Ana’s two degrees were conferred. For Ana, this was a moment for profound gratitude. One of seven children, her parents went to great efforts to ensure she and her siblings received a good education (she is the only university graduate in her family). Her Dad worked for 33 years as a linesman with the main electricity utility in Tonga (TPL) to pay for the children’s education. Her older brother worked as a fruit picker in the Emerald region of Queensland for 7 months earlier this year (under the Australian Government’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Scheme) to buy his own land in Tonga, but also set money aside each month to pay for Ana’s parents to come to Australia so they were able to attend her graduation. Ana’s gratitude for these and other blessings is ultimately to God. She believes “we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.”
The Pacific Institute congratulates ANU Master’s students Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (College of Law, pictured left) and Ana Soakai (Crawford School) who were among 30 Pacific students studying in Australia to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific-Australia (PMPA) Award last Thursday (6 December 2012). Here we offer extracts from an interview with Tauvasa about his work and what he hopes to achieve with his PMPA Award. [We profile Ana Soakai in a post to Outrigger on 15 December 2012.]
Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (pictured above) was born in 1982 and raised in Port Moresby where he attended an international primary school, Tokarara High School, Port Moresby National High School and then the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). He graduated from UPNG with a Bachelor of Laws degree with Honours in early 2005 and was admitted to the PNG Bar at the end of that same year after completing training at the PNG Legal Training Institute. In early 2006 he joined the Office of the Solicitor General, in Papua New Guinea’s Department of Justice and Attorney General. In 2011, he was awarded an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) to pursue a Master’s degree in Law specialising in Government and Commercial Law. Tauvasa completes his degree at the end of this year and will return to PNG to re-commence his work as Deputy Solicitor General (State Defence) in the Office of the Solicitor General.
Tauvasa is passionate about his profession and hopes that the experiences he will gain through work experience supported by the PMPA scheme will help him make a significant contribution to efforts to improve the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice and Attorney General as a whole. With around 20 lawyers and an average load of around 400 cases per lawyer, lawyers in the Office of the Solicitor General need all the help they can get. Tauvasa notes “with charging and recovering costs that his office simply cannot cope with the current caseload and that they at times brief out matters to private law firms through the Attorney General often at great expense.” He is particularly concerned with workloads caused by serial litigants with often vexatious claims. Tauvasa feels keenly the responsibility of his office and recognises that “every time we lose a claim, we lose taxpayers’ money – money that could be spent on development, on improvements to peoples lives and livelihoods, especially in the rural areas where basic services and infrastructure are much needed.” He strongly believes that by working for the state (the primary client of the Office of the Solicitor General), he is working for the people of Papua New Guinea. He aims to help create a Government Legal Enterprise in PNG (an entity akin to the Australian Government Solicitor), which may advise and represent the Government of Papua New Guinea in courts and tribunals and help to de-politicise the work of his Office and that of the Department of Justice and Attorney General in the country.
Tauvasa is dedicated to his work in Papua New Guinea, even though the rest of his family live in Samoa. A citizen of PNG, he is one of a growing number of young Pacific Islanders whose familial connections span the Pacific Ocean. His Mother is from Central Province (with family from Baluan Island, Manus Province) and his Father is of chiefly Samoan (Tanuvasa from Manono) and Chinese ancestry. Tauvasa knows that this mix of culture, tradition and identity can be confronting for some, but for him it is about recognition of family and, as one Samoan saying goes, “People have more roots than trees.”
[See a media release about the 2012 PMPA awards on the AusAID website.]
Dr James Flexner will be joining the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the ANU early in 2013, where he will be a postdoctoral fellow. James recently received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to fund his research on the archaeology of the first Christian missions to the islands of Erromango, Tanna, and Aniwa in southern Vanuatu. The goal of this project is to use archaeological evidence, local oral histories, and archival records to understand the ways that religion shaped colonial encounters in Island Melanesia, from the perspectives of both local people and foreign missionaries. [See this earlier post to Outrigger on ARC awards for Pacific-related research in 2013.]
James is coming to the ANU from Washington and Lee University in Virginia in the United States, where he was a visiting lecturer for the last three years. Before that, he received a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Archaeology from the University of Virginia, and a Master’s and PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.
James got his start in archaeology as an undergraduate student, working periodically for the Department of Archaeology at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation. James first started to learn about and become interested in Oceania during a semester spent at the University of Otago in New Zealand. As an undergraduate, he also worked on an excavation project on Pemba Island, Tanzania, which became the subject of his senior honours thesis.
For postgraduate study, James combined his interests and experiences by developing a project in Polynesian historical archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley. His doctoral research focused on the historical archaeology of Hansen’s disease (also called leprosy) in Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Moloka‘i Island, Hawaii. Documenting the landscape in Kalaupapa, James was able to show the ways that traditional Hawaiian settlement patterns and practices shaped everyday life in Hawaii’s first experiment with institutions of isolation. As a graduate student, James was also lucky enough to join his colleagues on archaeological digs elsewhere in Hawaii, California, and the Central Amazon of Brazil.
Since graduating from Berkeley, James has been teaching full time, and doing summer fieldwork in Vanuatu, laying the groundwork for his current ARC-funded project. This is a collaborative project involving the ANU, the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, and local communities in Vanuatu’s southern province of Tafea. James hopes to continue doing public archaeology while in Australia, since this has always been an important part of the discipline for him, and welcomes questions from students and the general public about his work (you can contact him on email@example.com). James will work closely with Prof. Matthew Spriggs, among others, while at the ANU.
Dr Mike Bourke (SSGM, ANU) and Dr Mike Cookson (ANU Pacific Institute) have just sent another consignment of books to PNG. This shipment consisted of approx. 300 kg of books, many from the professional collection of the Late Malcolm Levett (1949-2010).
Malcolm Levett was born and raised in Kent before moving to London to commence a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Chemistry at the University of London. Soon after hte completion of his B.Sc., he moved to New Zealand to take up a PhD scholarship at Lincoln University in Christchurch. He completed his PhD in 1978 and married shortly before moving to PNG to take up a position in 1981 with the Department of Primary Industry (later the Department of Agriculture and Livestock). A few years later he and his wife moved to the Laloki Research Station (now part of the National Agricultural Research Institute, NARI). They moved again in 1986 so Malcolm could take up a new position at the Highlands Agricultural Experiment Station at Aiyura. In late 1987, he and his (growing) family moved to the Lowlands Agricultural Experiment Station at Keravat (now also part of NARI) and not long after transferred to Vudal College*. In late 1989, Malcolm and his family moved to UPNG, where he became Head of the Department of Geography and ran Unisearch. In mid-1997, he left UPNG but continued his work in PNG with the Swiss firm SGS. In January 2010, afflicted with a debilitating motor neurone disease, Malcolm left PNG with his family and moved to Cairns. On 28 April 2010, Dr Malcolm Levett passed away. He is survived by his wife Linda and their four children.
We would like to express our sincere condolences to the Levett family and our gratitude to them for their generous gift. Dr Mike Bourke has arranged for these books to be donated to the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Keravat, along with other books from retired academics at ANU and elsewhere. The library collection at NARI Keravat is being rebuilt after a fire destroyed its original collection two years ago. The latest consignment also included books for several academic departments at UPNG (Social Work and Anthropology) and some remaindered copies of a book co-edited by Levett, Changes in Food and Nutrition in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the first Papua New Guinea Food and Nutrition Conference. A limited number of copies of this book are available from the ANU (Dr Mike Bourke – firstname.lastname@example.org) or if you are in PNG, from the UPNG Bookshop (email@example.com).
[* Vudal College was established in 1965. In the early 2000s it became Vudal University and is now known as the PNG University of Natural Resources and Environment.]
In November 2012, Simon Haberle was appointed Professor of Natural History in the Department of Archaeology and Natural History (ANH), ANU. Simon has a long association with the Australian National University, completing his undergraduate degree here in 1986 before continuing with a PhD which considered the long-term agricultural history of the Tari Basin, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. After completing his PhD in 1994, he spent several years traveling and researching in various places including Panama, Brazil, Chile and numerous islands in the Pacific with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of the impacts and interactions that people have had on their environments through time. His latest expeditions to islands in the Indian Ocean will also open up this region to a greater understanding of past environmental change.
Simon’s research interests focus on how and why the environment has changed over the recent and deep past (from tens to thousands of years ago). He believes that one of the major barriers to gaining a better understanding of future environmental change is the lack of understanding of the long-term history of environmental dynamics, which includes the impact of agriculture and fire on landscapes, rates of species migration in response to climate change, and the introduction and extinction of species due to human agency. Simon believes that research into these areas can tell us much about the reasons why the world we live in is as it is today. Nowhere is this more true than in the Pacific, where the rate of environmental change continues to have major consequences for many island communities. Simon’s work on the remote eastern Pacific islands of the Juan Fernandez Archipelago and the Galapagos Islands demonstrated the profound changes that occurred after the initial period of human settlement within the last 400 years. This contrasts with the much deeper time landscape transformations that occurred in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, where evidence shows thousands of years of human interaction and transformation of these regions.
As Professor in Natural History at the Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Simon will build on the earlier work of Emeritus Professor Geoff Hope and Foundation Professor Donald Walker to promote a diverse and vibrant research and training environment where researchers and students can focus on reconstructing responses of ecosystems (species, families, communities, landscapes) to past environmental change (e.g. fire, climate change, human impact, sea-level rise) on timescales ranging from tens to thousands of years. Full details of his ongoing research projects can be found on the PalaeoWorks and ANH websites. Simon will also continue in his role as Chair of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific Reconciliation Action Plan which is intended to bring focus to and prioritise initiatives in the College that advance the broader aims of reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of Australia.
by Alison Fleming, ANU graduate in Pacific Studies.
It’s a Thursday morning and as the first purple rays of sunlight creep over the horizon, I find myself on a wharf, making out faint shapes in the water, pulsing and throbbing to the sound of kundu drums and ritual chanting. I was privileged to be invited to see the Tambuan dancers of clans around Rabaul come into shore, worshiping and celebrating the lives of the Catholic nuns in the month of the Virgin Mary. As the sun rose it revealed five flotillas of dingys, each tied together with an outrigger that held their clan’s Tambuan, or in some cases three or four. These incredible masked dancers rose and rocked as the sound of the drums reverberated from the mountains. For me, this was yet another day in the office.
As Senior Project Officer with the International Heritage Section, Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, I have an opportunity to work on a range of projects that help support effective management as well as promoting and celebrating heritage in our region. These include supporting Chief Roi Mata’s Domain World Heritage Area in Vanuatu and engaging with our regional bodies such as Pacific Islands Museum Association and UNESCO to support them to work with heritage managers within our region. Today I am writing this blog from Papua New Guinea, where we have just concluded the Sustainable Cultural Tourism Conference in East New Britain. This is part of the Kokoda Initiative, a program delivered in a partnership between the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments, working towards sustainable development of the Owen Stanley Ranges and the Kokoda Track Region.
It doesn’t take long when working in the Pacific to realise that this particular part of the world functions on relationships – people to people connections. While in Canberra, position and pay scales seem to be the point of introduction for most public service events; within the Pacific we ask, “where do you come from” and “what is your story?” As one of ANU’s original Pacific Studies undergraduates, I had the opportunity to know and understand the region in ways which are inaccessible for many graduates. Through Pacific Studies, and working with Pasifika Australia, I was able to work with Pacific Youth, attend the Festival of Pacific Arts in 2008 and read the writings of Pacific scholars about their own region. This grounding in the rich and varied cultures of our closest neighbours has opened doors into some truly amazing experiences.
In 2009, I worked as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in Mangaliliu Village, North Efate, Vanuatu. My job was to work with the Lelema World Heritage Committee, supporting them in site management and expanding and developing the tourism business. To begin with, I took part in two weeks of workshops, conducted in Bislama by a team of consultants from Stepwise Heritage and Tourism. A baptism of fire for a young volunteer, but having just completed the PASI linguistics course in Melanesian Creoles, I could not only understand the workshop but also facilitate sessions. It was a little shaky at first but I got the hang of it by the end. Throughout the year my position morphed and changed, I worked on everything from tourism to land use planning. This role marked the beginning of a close relationship with two truly inspiring communities and a team of people that I continue to work with. I have watched the Chief Roi Mata’s Domain World Heritage Project blossom and grow, supported by an an ever increasing alumni of devotees and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have contributed in some way to progressing the protection and sustainable development of this region.
Field experience with its incredible highs and devastating blows, can teach lessons, both professional and personal more quickly than any academic learning, but I was well equipped with fundamental skills and insights through Pacific Studies to undertake this work with the people and communities of the Pacific.
In my daily work, connecting with people comes through culture, not through the bureaucracy of paperwork. More can be achieved in an afternoon under a mango tree than months over emails.
Cara Heaven has recently joined State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program (SSGM) as a PhD candidate (under Assoc. Prof. Richard Eves). Cara has a BA (Hons) from the University of Wollongong and an MA in International Relations from the University of New South Wales. She is interested in how modern Western political concepts such as liberal democracy, the state, and “good governance” are interpreted and implemented in developing countries and explored this in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa in her masters research, entitled “Building Democracy? A Critique of Democracy Assistance Strategies in Kenya”. She will be pursuing these issues further in her doctoral research which will focus on Australian governance aid in Papua New Guinea.
This month, Dr Matthew Allen returned to the ANU to take up his new position with the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) program. From 2008 until mid-2012, Matt was based in the Resource Management in Asia-Pacific (RMAP) program. He is “delighted” to have taken up his new position with SSGM and looks forward to pursuing his research interests in resource conflict, rural development, local-level governance, and peace, conflict and intervention. He is particularly enthusiastic about building on his existing research and teaching collaborations with SSGM staff and students as well as developing new collaborative projects. To the delight of us all, Matt will continue his fine work as Co-Convenor of Pacific Studies at ANU.
Kylie McKenna was awarded her PhD in October 2012 for a sweeping work entitled “Interdependent Engagement: Corporate Social Responsibility in Bougainville and Papua”.
Her PhD was the result of a journey through nine countries, witnessing and documenting the lessons of eighty diverse stakeholders, ranging from multinational resource company executives to local landowners, about how businesses can amend their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices to facilitate peaceful development. The thesis makes deft use of case studies of Bougainville and Papua to analyse the effectiveness of CSR responses amongst major resource companies to respond to threats to peace that arise from the issues of most concern to locals. The analysis reveals that despite a commitment to CSR (or one of its synonyms), Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), Freeport and BP (British Petroleum) failed to resolve local grievances related to their business practices in Bougainville and Papua. Often, they made things worse. In response, the great contribution of the thesis is to develop a framework of ‘Interdependent Engagement’.
Interdependent Engagement addresses the limitations of CSR to resolve conflict flashpoints associated with extraction of natural resources. Based on principles of mutuality, reflexivity, engagement and flexibility, Interdependent Engagement is a model of CSR transformed. It is a sophisticated alternative CSR less likely to aggravate conflict, more likely to facilitate peaceful development of natural resources. The model will be of practical use in assisting corporations to be more responsive to the consequences of their business practices and relationships on the societies and environments in which they operate.
Since submitting her PhD, Kylie has been teaching the Sociology of Third World Development at the ANU and working with Prof. Neil Gunningham on the “Energy Governance and Climate Change: Towards a Low Carbon Economy” project at RegNet. She has been much loved in RegNet and we look forward to her future achievements.
The Pacific Institute welcomes Ivo Syndicus as a Postgraduate Visitor from the Department of Anthropology, National University of Ireland Maynooth. Ivo is visiting ANU on his way to the University of Goroka where he will be conducting field research for his PhD project entitled “Culture, Development, and Higher Education in Papua New Guinea”.
Ivo had been a visiting student at the University of Goroka in 2010 and his time there informed the design of his current research on the tension between a globally institutionalised agenda of development through education, and the recognition of culturally diverse ways of knowing and being. His research proposes to explore ethnographically the politics of knowledge in which university education is embedded and engaged, and to consider how subjectivities and reflexive notions of the self shape and are shaped by the experience of higher education in PNG.
While at ANU, Ivo is reviewing library and archival resources and is consulting with numerous scholars about the history and contemporary perspectives on university education in PNG. He is collecting reports on higher education in PNG and would be grateful to hear of any further material held in private hands (he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Ivo will be giving a seminar in the Anthropology series on the scope of his research on Wednesday 7 November, 9.30 am, in Coombs Seminar Room A.
Susan Dixon has recently joined the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) as a Research Fellow. She moves to ANU from the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she earned her PhD in geography. Susan will be working, in part, on a new undergraduate major in CAP: peace, conflict and war studies. She is currently creating a new class on conflict management and conflict resolution that she will be teaching in the second semester, 2013.
Susan’s interests in peace, conflict and war and her interests in Asia and the Pacific have dovetailed throughout her graduate and undergraduate career. Her dissertation mapped crisis discourse and its effects in the contemporary southwest Pacific. She used the recent conflict in Solomon Islands and the subsequent Australian-led intervention there as a case study to understand how geographical discourse constitutes crises. Her research included fieldwork in Solomon Islands and Australia, where she was a Departmental Visitor at ANU’s Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (precursor to the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific). Her master’s thesis investigated Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program to Pacific Island countries. As part of her bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies, Susan wrote a 90-page senior thesis, “Satyagraha and Nonviolence: Gandhian Theories for Creating Social Change,” at the Gujarat Vidyapith (or ‘place of learning’) that Gandhi founded in Ahmedabad, India.
Susan became deeply interested in peace, conflict and war during her experience on a yearlong academic study abroad program focusing on “The World Politics of Peace and Conflict.” The program was led by Johan Galtung, who is widely considered the founder of peace studies as a science. Along with 35 other students from 10 countries, Susan travelled to hotspots on four continents. Through site visits and meeting with political leaders, university professors, and other people from all walks of life, she gained a more holistic understanding of different problems facing the world and of ways to address these problems.
Susan is excited to be at the ANU and looks forward to meeting other Pacific scholars!
In October, the ANU approved the award of a PhD to Jack Corbett for his thesis “Practising Politics in the Pacific Islands: Insider Perspectives.” Jack was based in the School of Culture, History and Language and supervised by Prof. Brij Lal.
Jack’s thesis, which drew on in-depth interviews, published life histories and observation-based research, provides a collective portrait of politicians in the Pacific Islands. In contrast to the speculation and intrigue that political figures attract, and the sense of corruption or perversion their conduct tends to generate, he focuses on the views and reflections of politicians themselves; their stories and experiences. What emerges from this portrait is a picture of a group of people undertaking a job that is both functional and intrinsically meaningful. Jack argues that popular negativity directed at politicians in the Pacific Islands stems from the distinctive nature of post-independence which generates unfavourable comparisons between contemporary politicians and a valorised first generation of political leaders; and pejorative comparisons between the practice of politics in the Pacific and ideal leadership models, particularly ‘professionalised’ politicians and recently ‘mobilising’ or ‘developmental’ leaders. More generally, he argues that attempts to define the value of politicians in political theory tend to focus heavily on the figure of the politician, rather than the people themselves, and by extension dehumanise political practice and devalue the importance of endeavour to the purpose and function of politics and its associated institutions. Building on the findings of similar politician-centred studies from elsewhere, he concludes that revaluing endeavour, defined by the willingness of politicians to be involved, deepens our understanding of political life and allows us to reclaim respect for the people who occupy public office.
On submitting his PhD Jack has taken up a position with the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia (SSGM) Program as a Postdoctoral Fellow where he will continue his research on political leadership and biography.
In July, the ANU approved the award of a PhD to Rebecca Monson for her thesis “Hu nao save tok? Women, men and land: negotiating property and authority in Solomon Islands”.
Rebecca’s thesis focuses on gender relations as a critical lens for understanding land tenure in Solomon Islands. It examines the ways in which claims to land are negotiated and performed in two sites, one rural and one peri-urban, and pays particular attention to changes in land tenure and social relations arising from processes of colonisation, missionisation, and the commodification of land and other natural resources.
Rebecca’s case studies demonstrate that claims to land in Solomon Islands are not only shaped by norms and institutions that might be described as “state-based” and “customary”, but that Christianity has also had a profound influence on the ways in which people claim access to and control over land. Furthermore, while there are multiple pathways for negotiating access to and control over land, people are differently positioned to make and approve of claims as they occur across different arenas. Rebecca argues that property and authority are mutually constitutive, and that this has worked to consolidate control over land in the hands of a small number of men, while reproducing state norms and institutions as a (hyper)masculine domain. This means that contests over land not only reflect local social differentiation but that they also have implications that extend far beyond the local contexts in which these land disputes initially arise.
Rebecca’s thesis makes an important contribution to scholarly and policy debates about land tenure in the Pacific, where the gendered nature of land relations have received less attention than they have elsewhere in the world. However her work also links policy debates about land to broader debates about the nature of social, political and economic transformation in Solomon Islands and elsewhere in Melanesia. Importantly, while her Rebecca’s thesis is grounded in the detailed study of land tenure in two sites in Solomon Islands, she also draws on the broader literature on Melanesia and sub-Saharan Africa. Rebecca’s work therefore provides insight into a range of issues that are of interest to scholars working on land relations elsewhere, in particular the ways in which “local” disputes are linked to broader processes of state formation.
Rebecca is continuing her work at the ANU as a lecturer in the College of Law, where she convenes the Master of Laws program in Law, Governance and Development. She also convenes the ANU-wide Law, Governance and Development Initiative [read the program from the inaugural conference].
After three and a half years in our department as a Visiting Fellow, Alex François will have to leave us at the end of July, to return to his CNRS position in France. The connections created during these past few years will continue, and hopefully more occa-sions will arise for him to visit Australia and the ANU again in coming years. Or we can visit him at LACITO (Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale) – in Paris. It’s not far!
In his latest fieldwork (mid-May), Alex was invited to join a team of geologists for a 10-day sea trip to Vanikoro, an isolated island of the eastern Solomons (read more about their work in a recent article in Der Spiegel – The Mystery of the Sinking South Pacific Islands). It was the occasion for him to catch up with the people he had first met in 2005, and hand them copies of his book of traditional stories in the main language Teanu (Buma). The two other languages of the island, Lovono and Tanema, have now come down to one speaker each – the father and the son! – and were thus given priority during this short trip. In parallel, Alex seized this opportunity to take notes on a number of other languages spoken in the Temotu province (Tikopia, Asubuo, Tanibili, Äiwoo, Natügu…). This province of Temotu is puzzling in its lin-guistic diversity, and certainly hosts some key elements in the history of Oceanic languages.
[This post has been adapted from a note in the latest CAP Linguistics newsletter.]
The State, Society & Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) recently welcomed Carol Pitisopa on board as a short term Pacific Visiting Fellow. Carol is from Choiseul Province in Solomon Islands and currently resides in Honiara.
Carol came to the ANU earlier this year as an awardee on SSGM’s Pacific Research Colloquium program.
Carol has a legal background and her recent work has seen her undertake field research for the Justice Delivered Locally (JDL) program. JDL is a World Bank supported initiative of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Justice, involving research and consultation across numerous provinces, looking at issues of local level access to justice, the legitimacy of formal justice systems in the local sphere, and interactions between indigenous and formal systems of justice.
Carol’s field research has seen her undertake qualitative data collection and local level consultations with communities in remote areas throughout the country.
During her 6 week visit to the ANU, Carol will write up a report on her recent research, focusing specifically on women’s views and perceptions of justice, women’s interactions with the formal justice system, and women’s feedback on means for improving local access to justice.
Carol will work with a number of researchers from ANU during her visit, including Dr Sinclair Dinnen, Rebecca Monson, Dr Nicole Haley and Dr Matthew Allen. She will give a seminar on some of her recent findings from her research on JDL (for more information on Carol’s upcoming seminar, contact email@example.com).
Dario has followed an unusual path from Palermo, Sicily, to Pacific History at the ANU. A solid grounding at high school in classical history, philosophy and literature led him first to a BA at the University of Palermo, where his thesis in the History of Religions program was on “Medea’s Myth: Identity and Alterity in Ancient Greece”. Combining his historical and anthropological interests, he then took a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology, Ethnology and Linguistics at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. Archival and library research for his thesis on “The Goaribari Affair: Violence and Knowledge in Colonial Papua” brought him (self-funded) to the ANU for two months in 2009, and the experience convinced him that he wanted to return here for his PhD. He was able to win a highly competitive International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS) and returned to Canberra early in 2012 to begin his PhD on the historicity of Kerewo-speakers of Goaribari (Dopima) Island in Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea. After a first year spent combing all of the possible archival sources in Australia, he plans to spend 12 months from early next year working with Kerewo people at Dopima and in Port Moresby.
This month we welcome Dr Matthew Tomlinson to the community of Pacific scholars at the ANU. Matt joins ANU Anthropology from Monash University, where he has worked for the past 7 years. He moves to ANU to commence a four-year Future Fellowship funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).
Matt’s Future Fellowship research project is called ‘Divine Power in Indigenous Christianity: Translation, Theology, and Pacific Politics’. He plans to conduct ethnographic and archival research at theological colleges in New Zealand and Samoa to explore how Christian theologians understand relationships between divine and human power in their societies.
Matt was born in New Jersey, USA, and attended Rutgers College. At college he found anthropology “the most fun” and it soon became his major. He continued with postgraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia) where he pursued his interest in analysing intersections between religious and secular politics. He first undertook fieldwork in Fiji in 1996, where he spent most of his time in rural areas of Kadavu Island – which meant “learning to speak Fijian and drinking a lot of kava.”
After receiving his PhD in 2002, Matt spent three years as a visiting assistant professor at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Ten foot high snowdrifts intensified his longing to return to Fiji (and have helped to make Canberra’s winter seem balmy).
His first book, In God’s Image: The Metaculture of Fijian Christianity (based on his PhD thesis), was published in 2009. He has also co-edited three volumes in the anthropology of religion. The most recent, Christian Politics in Oceania (co-edited with Debra McDougall), will be published by Berghahn in November this year.
Matt is “very happy to be here at ANU with its great scholarly community.” His recent monograph will be the focus of the ANU Oceania Discussion Group* meeting on 25 July.
Photo: One of the more interesting titles on Matt’s bookshelves – Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab with the Golden Claws in Tahitian (left).
[* Since 1996 there has been an informal interdisciplinary discussion group at ANU called the 'Melanesia Symposium'. In keeping with the broad Pacific interests of the group, it was recently renamed the 'Oceania Discussion Group'. As before, the group meets regularly to discuss recent publications of interest and work-in-progress by members of the group. Anyone interested in joining the group should contact Alan Rumsey (firstname.lastname@example.org).]
Joe Foukona comes to Canberra with considerable experience in his chosen field of land legislation and reform in the Pacific. With a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws from University of the South Pacific (USP), and a further Master of Laws from Victoria University (Wellington), Joe is also an experienced teacher, lecturing at USP’s Emalus Campus in Port Vila since 2004. In 2008, Joe came over to Canberra on SSGM Pacific Visitor Program, and participated in the Asia-Pacific Week workshop, and this inspired him to apply for a doctoral scholarship through AusAID’s Australian Leadership Award.
Joe’s research focus matches closely his keen personal interest in finding solutions to the seemingly intractable problem of the alignment in Melanesia between customary land tenure systems on one hand and state legislation, land administration and commercial demands on the other. He has been very active as a facilitator of land awareness programs in his own home community on Malaita, Solomon Islands, and working with the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission on low and high water mark legislation. Joe now plans to look in some detail at the history of land reform programs in three Melanesian countries: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Why have these programs been so unsuccessful, both in the colonial era and since independence in all three countries? Might we reach a better understanding of the terms for success by better understanding these histories of failure?
Joined recently by his wife Lucya, who has graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from USP, he plans to spend the rest of this year trying to get across the vast archive of published and unpublished material on land reform in Melanesia, as well as publishing a couple of papers (on how landowners sign up to agreements, and on the future of land tenure under the conditions of global climate change).
The Pacific Institute at the Australian National University is delighted to announce the creation of the Hank Nelson Memorial Endowment. This Endowment celebrates the pioneering and enduring contribution of Hank Nelson to the study of the history, politics and society of Papua New Guinea.
Hank arrived in PNG in 1966 to teach at the Administrative College, moving in 1968 to become a lecturer in history at the newly established University of Papua New Guinea. In 1973, he took up a research position in Pacific History at the Australian National University, where he remained for the rest of his life. Throughout his career, Hank worked through his teaching, writing, and commentary to promote a better understanding and knowledge of PNG and its peoples. While his interests were varied, his work on PNG remained the hallmark of his academic career. In 2008, he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of more than four decades service as a teacher, mentor and scholar.
The Hank Nelson Memorial Endowment, established within the ANU, will promote Hank’s lifelong passion for Papua New Guinea. Initially, it aims to support an annual award for the best Higher Degree Research (HDR) thesis submitted by any student, internationally, on any aspect of PNG’s history, politics and society. The Endowment will be managed by a group of Pacific scholars.
Your support for the Hank Nelson Memorial Endowment will help promote better understanding and knowledge of Papua New Guinea – its past and its future.
You may make a tax-deductable donation to the Endowment at this secure site:
A tribute to Hank by Ian Howie-Willis can be downloaded free (for a limited time) from the current issue of The Journal of Pacific History. Other online tributes to Hank have been collated on the Pacific Institute’s Outrigger blog.
For further information, or to make a gift over the phone, please contact Dr Michael Cookson, Executive Officer, ANU Pacific Institute on + 61 2 6125 0188 or email email@example.com.
I chose to study Pacific studies at ANU after discovering a poster for the ‘Learning Oceania‘ course in my second year of an International Relations degree. Having spent time in Solomon Islands as a child I had always felt a connection with the Pacific and was very interested in a degree that could potentially lead me back to the region in a professional capacity. I swapped from a BA to a BAPS (Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies) in 2009 with majors in Pacific Studies and Pacific Languages. In 2011, I returned to ANU after a six month break to undertake a BAPS Honours year.
The trans-disciplinary approach to learning that Pacific Studies offered allowed me to expand my knowledge base from a purely political viewpoint to include elements of anthropology, history, linguists and development studies. This was most useful while writing my Honours thesis on the viability of Community-based Tourism in Melanesia. During my Honours year, I was lucky enough to gain a small grant as part of Margaret Jolly’s ARC Laureate Engendering persons, transforming things: Christianities, Commodities and Individualism in Oceania which allowed me to undertake fieldwork in Solomon Islands that proved to be invaluable to the overall argument of my thesis.
Through my Pacific Studies degree I realised my passion for the Sustainable Tourism Industry and was able to gain an assignment with Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) which I began in April 2012. I am currently spending a year in Lamap, Vanuatu working as an eco-tourism development officer with local tourism operators. I hope that this experience and the knowledge I have gained through the Pacific Studies degree will help me to gain future employment in the industry and the region.
Christine Stewart will be awarded a PhD at the graduation ceremonies on 13 July 2012 for her thesis Pamuk na Poofta: Criminalising Consensual Sex in Papua New Guinea. She compares how two acts of consensual sex between adults – selling sex and homosexuality – have been criminalised by state laws against ‘prostitution’ and ‘sodomy’ first introduced in the colonial period and persisting little changed to the present, despite valiant efforts at law reform.
Through a consummate integration of archival research in case law and newspaper reports with contemporary ethnography and interviews in Port Moresby, Christine shows how both police and judges have contributed to the harmful social stigmatisation of sex workers and homosexual men, fuelled by the HIV epidemic and fundamentalist forms of Christianity. She deploys Foucauldian theories of biopower to interpret class distinctions in the sexual culture of contemporary PNG and notions of intersectionality to explore how a subject’s race, class and sex is configured by law. Hopefully this pathbreaking study will influence debates about the decriminalisation of consensual sex in PNG, catalysed by Dame Carol Kidu. This research draws on Christine’s long experience of PNG: after graduating in anthropology from the University of Sydney she completed her Law degree at UPNG just after Independence in 1975 and went on to work in projects of law reform and to draft the exemplary legislation against discrimination on the basis of HIV in PNG – the HIV/AIDS Management and Protection Act (HAMP Act) of 2003.
Christine is presently a Visiting Fellow with the ARC Laureate Project Engendering Persons, Transforming Things and is revising her thesis as a book for publication and writing summaries of its conclusions for government agencies, donors and NGOs engaged in these issues. She is the co-editor (with Margaret Jolly and Carolyn Brewer) of the book Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea, soon to appear from ANU E-Press.
At the ANU graduation ceremony in December 2011, Hilary Howes was awarded a PhD for her thesis entitled “‘The Race Question in Oceania’: A.B. Meyer and Otto Finsch between metropolitan theory and field experience, 1865-1914’”. This highly original work combines the history of science with the ethnohistory of encounters and was much praised by her examiners. Hilary focusses on the written, visual and material products of the late 19th-century New Guinea field experience of two German physical anthropologists. She thereby traces the impact of personal encounters with actual Indigenous people on fieldworkers’ shifting understandings of human difference and the embodiment of such knowledge in varied mediums and genres – written texts, sketches, photographs, plaster busts, and anatomical collections. She locates this discussion in relation to both the metropolitan science of race and broader debates, probing the complex politics of audience reception, publication and scientific employment. Though Meyer’s and Finsch’s material collections were admired by influential metropolitan colleagues, their field-induced doubts about the validity of craniometry and the science of race were largely ignored, thanks to professional rigidity, jealousy, and ideological essentialism.
Since leaving the ANU, Hilary has lived in Germany and works as Executive Assistant to the Australian Ambassador in Berlin. She is currently converting her PhD thesis into a monograph which has been accepted for publication in the series Germanica Pacifica by the publishers Peter Lang GmbH. Hilary hopes to undertake further academic research and is applying for postdoctoral positions both in Europe and in Australia.
In March this year, the ANU approved the award of a PhD to Brett Baker for his thesis, ‘Indigenous-driven mission: reconstructing religion change in sixteenth-century Maluku’.
The thesis is a bold attempt to reverse the conventional view that indigenous people in what is now eastern Indonesia adopted Christianity for essentially material, instrumentalist reasons (access to protection from the Portuguese, possibly also bribes in the form of rice, gold or other supplies). Whereas the conventional view has implied that indigenous people were largely insincere in their conversion, Brett’s thesis presents a strikingly different picture. Using religious writings of the time, he shows that the initiative for conversion more often than not came from local people, and that it followed a close examination of the theological principles of Christianity. Priests were waylaid and plied with questions about Christian doctrine. When their answers were judged satisfactory, the priests were commanded to follow conversion rituals and to perform masses.
Brett’s thesis also questions the myth that communities converted as a whole, generally following the lead of their rulers. Instead he paints a picture of considered individual conversion, undertaken by people who knew that adopting a new religion would have consequences for their social positions. Converts often held tenaciously to their new beliefs, despite threats from supporters of the old religions or from Muslims, whose influence was expanding at the time time and evidently in much the same way.
Reaching these conclusions required Brett to master sixteenth-century Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Latin, not to mention the Dutch of the scholars who first wrote about this period.
It is a fascinating thesis and a major contribution to our knowledge of the conversion process on the western rim of the Pacific.
[Ed: Brett completed an MA in Southeast Asian studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison (in history and Indonesian language/literature) before commencing his PhD at ANU. He is now working as editorial assistant to The Journal of Pacific History (JPH). He hopes to publish a monograph based on his thesis and will also make his thesis available online through the ANU in the near future. He is, as rumoured, learning Samoan and aims to be conversing in it by the end of the year.]