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National identity in fragile states: insights from tertiary students in Melanesia and Timor-Leste
journal contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Michael Leach, James Scambary, Matthew ClarkeMatthew Clarke, Simon Feeny, Heather Wallace
The challenges of nation building in Melanesia and Timor-Leste have often been neglected in the regional focus on state-building challenges. High levels of ethno-linguistic diversity, combined with an array of regional, historical and cultural divisions, continue to present obstacles to the creation of a cohesive sense of national political community leading these nations to be labelled ‘fragile’. This paper presents the findings of a comparative study on the attitudes of tertiary students in Melanesia and Timor-Leste to national identity and nation building. A strong pan-Melanesian pattern of group identification was identified, common to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The ongoing importance of traditional authority and custom in informing conceptions of political community and identity was evident in all four case study sites, but was in each case matched by indicators of respect for modern state authority. The survey also reveals some significant gender differences in key attitudes towards national identity, including the role of traditional authorities. Most importantly, the study reveals high degrees of national pride, and faith in democratic principles and citizenship; but conversely, low levels of pride in contemporary democratic performance and inter-group tolerance.