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Land, power, change : entanglements of custom and modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste

Stead, Victoria 2013, Land, power, change : entanglements of custom and modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, Ph.D thesis, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, Design and Social Context, RMIT University.


Title Land, power, change : entanglements of custom and modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste
Author Stead, Victoria
Institution RMIT University
School School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, Design and Social Context
Degree type Research doctorate
Degree name Ph.D
Thesis advisor Grenfell, Damian
Humphrey, Kim
Date submitted 2013-04
Keyword(s) land
Papua New Guinea
Timor-Leste
modernity
power
Notes This thesis develops a critical account of encounters between customary and modern forms of relationship to land in two Melanesian countries, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. Specifically, it asks: what are the implications of these encounters for relations of power? In both Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, customary land tenures provide the dominant mechanism for the organization of land. Nevertheless, processes of globalization, state- and nation-building are catalysing the extension of modern forms of connection to land, anchored in an understanding of land as property and as an economic resource to be utilized within capitalist, and specifically neoliberal, relations of production and ‘development’. As different forms of connection to land intersect, so too are differing forms of identity and belonging, differing visions of the world and of the self, brought into contestation. Across the thesis, entanglement is developed as a core theoretical concept, speaking to the dynamic and ambivalent nature of this contested social field. Through a metaphor of entanglement, the customary and modern are conceptualized as ontologically distinct patterns of practice and meaning; forms of social relations that cut across the boundaries of social groups rather than being synonymous with them. The thesis argues that the entanglement of customary and modern forms of connection to land destabilise structures of power in ways that create multiple possibilities for their reconfiguration. At a level of generality, there is a dominant tendency towards the diminishing autonomy of local communities, as power and decision-making capacity shifts to the sites, agents and processes of the state and globalising capital, and as customary ways of life—including forms of connection to land—are ideologically and normatively devalued. In theoretical terms, the abstracted nature of modern social relations lends them a coercive capacity over less abstracted, customary ones. Nonetheless, customary forms of sociality are also able to accommodate a considerable degree of abstraction. Entanglements, then, also generate new possibilities for the rearticulation and reassertion of customary connection to land, and of the forms of power and authority to which that connection gives rise.
Language eng
Field of Research 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
Socio Economic Objective 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
Copyright notice ©The author
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30059458

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