Pacific Futures

Pacific Futures: Projects, Politics and Interests

Edited by Will Rollason
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Pacific Futures
    Book Description:

    The Pacific region presents a huge diversity of cultural forms, which have fuelled some of the most challenging ethnographic work undertaken in the discipline. But this challenge has come at a cost. Culture, often reconfigured as 'custom', has often served to trap the people of the Pacific in the past of cultural reproduction, where everything is what it has always been, or worse-outdated, outmoded and destined for modernization.

    Pacific Futuresasks how our understanding of social life in the Pacific would be different if we approached it from the perspective of the futures which Pacific people dream of, predict or struggle to achieve, not the reproduction of cultural tradition. From Christianity to gambling, marriage to cargo cult, military coups to reflections on childhood fishing trips, the contributors to this volume show how Pacific people are actively shaping their lives with the future in mind.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-351-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction Pacific Futures, Methodological Challenges
    (pp. 1-27)
    Will Rollason

    The contributions to this book are devoted to demonstrating how the activities of Pacific Islanders can be better understood by analysing the future as a field of possibility, action and hopes. We envisage this future as an alternative or creative supplement to interpretations and explanations framed as cultural or social – a positioning which, as I argue in this introductory essay, serves only to locate people in the past. This is the issue which motivates all of the chapters in this volume; each serves, in different ways, to demonstrate how an understanding of contemporary life in the Pacific is advanced by...

  5. 1 Imagining the Future An Existential and Practical Activity
    (pp. 28-47)
    Lisette Josephides

    Hope has been described as being about the sense of possibility that life can offer; its enemy is a sense of entrapment (Hage 2001; see also Hage 2003). This sense of possibility, I argue, is existential. It was certainly experienced and expressed many times by different Kewa people of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea during my long period of fieldwork. In an attempt to elucidate people’s own imaginings and hopes for the future, I consider the relationship between the following concepts and activities: imagining; the future; hope and desire; the existential human condition; and practical activity. I ask:...

  6. 2 The Hanging of Buliga A History of the Future in the Louisiade Archipelago, Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 48-70)
    Will Rollason

    This chapter deals with a hanging that took place at Bwagaoia, the colonial administrative centre of the Louisiade Archipelago, in 1944.¹ The man hanged was called Buliga.² He had been the leader of a millenarian movement, and was sentenced to death for his part in a series of murders associated with it. The sentence was passed by the Australian administration, but carried out by Buliga, who hanged himself in his cell before his ‘official’ execution.³ In this chapter I argue that Buliga’s death was not a ‘suicide’. To treat his actions in good faith we have to understand his hanging...

  7. 3 Why the Future is Selfish and Could Kill Contraception and the Future of Paama
    (pp. 71-95)
    Craig Lind

    Limiting female reproductive capacities using contraception is a contentious subject for ni-Vanuatu (people of Vanuatu), not least so among and in response to Paama islanders – the country’s largest out-migrating community, with a long-established proclivity for permanent urban settlement (Haberkorn 1989). For some, contraception presents a useful means of reducing birth rates so that limited resources can be concentrated on one child, in the hope of ensuring that child a good education, a professional career and an income to afford the comfort of a place in town in the future. Others, however, complain that limiting birth rates amounts to the selfish...

  8. 4 Gambling Futures Playing the Imminent in Highland Papua New Guinea
    (pp. 96-113)
    Anthony Pickles

    In a town called Goroka in highland Papua New Guinea, people have chosen to address daily uncertainties head-on through forms of betting. Card games and their material remains dominate the human landscape of settlements even while gambling remains side-lined in anthropological accounts of the region.¹ As both a present-and a future-oriented activity, gambling requires temporal presence of mind as well as motivations directed towards a future goal. These simultaneous engagements help procure relationships that participants hope will bloom into further transactions beneficial to themselves. At first utilising recent anthropological material on fortune and luck (da Col and Humphrey 2012), and...

  9. 5 The Future of Christian Critique Lost Tribes Discourses in Papua New Guinean Publics
    (pp. 114-132)
    Courtney Handman

    Secular discourses usually imagine Christianity to be anchored permanently in the past. That is to say, from a secular perspective religion is the domain of tradition, bearing down upon innovation through the scriptural limits placed on rational debate (e.g. Mill 1978; or, more recently, Dawkins 2008). Every defence that says, ‘because the Bible says so’ is a further retreat from the horizon of potential change that is the supposed calling card of secular modernity. The fact that Protestantism so easily turns to internal critiques and denominational schisms only solidifies for secularists the fruitlessness of religious discourses that have to remain...

  10. 6 A Cursed Past and a Prosperous Future in Vanuatu A Comparison of Different Conceptions of Self and Healing
    (pp. 133-151)
    Annelin Eriksen

    In this chapter I discuss a widespread concern about curses in Vanuatu. The point of departure is a story about a curse caused by the volcanic eruption in west Ambrym in 1913. I compare two different solutions to this curse, one emphasising social community and the other emphasising individual repentance. In dealing with their ‘cursed past’, people imagine a different future. Looking at conceptualisations and imaginations of the future becomes a methodological avenue into understanding local ideas without taking either cultural continuity or change for granted.

    Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu in the south-west Pacific, has become the scene...

  11. 7 Chiefs for the Future? Roles of Traditional Titleholders in the Cook Islands
    (pp. 152-171)
    Arno Pascht

    In this chapter I will deal with the future of Cook Islands’ society. In doing so I will concentrate on one aspect: the role of holders of traditional titles or ‘chiefs’.² Although I will also address views of Cook Islanders who do not have a title, I will focus on the perspective of the titleholders themselves. The question I shall investigate is: What roles do titleholders in the Cook Islands see for themselves in the future of the society of the Cook Islands? How do they act in the present to bring about this future?³ I will start with a...

  12. 8 A Coup-less Future for Fiji? Between Rhetoric and Political Reality
    (pp. 172-195)
    Dominik Schieder

    In November 1986, during his memorable visit to the Fiji Islands, the late Pope John Paul II coined Fiji’s famous tourist slogan ‘Fiji – the way the world should be’ (Scarr 1988: 6), as a recognition of the fact that the multi-ethnic country’s communities lived in peace and harmony. Fiji was, according to the Pope, ‘a symbol of hope for the world’ (quoted in Garrett 1997: 400). Less than half a year later, however, John Paul II’s vision of a peaceful Fiji was dramatically challenged by the country’s first military coup d’état, followed closely by another one in September 1987. A...

  13. 9 The Devouring of the Placenta The Criss-crossing and Confluence of Cosmological, Geomorphological, Ecological and Economic Cycles of Destruction and Repair in Ruatoria, Aotearoa/New Zealand
    (pp. 196-225)
    Dave Robinson

    In February 2009, shortly before completing my ethnographic field research, I met with Papa Anaru at his home on the outskirts of Ruatoria, a small rural township on the East Coast of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s North Island, where the Māoriiwi(kin group), Ngāti Porou, aretangata whenua, ‘people of the land’. My meeting with Papa Anaru, a Ngāti Poroukaumātua(‘elder’), had been arranged to discuss, amongst many other topics, his perspectives on Ruatoria’s resident group of Ngāti Porou Rastafari, upon whom my ethnographic research centred.

    Having at that time completed nearly twenty-five months of field research among the Ngāti Porou...

  14. 10 The Human Face of Climate Change Notes from Rotuma and Tuvalu
    (pp. 226-236)
    Vilsoni Hereniko

    When I was growing up on Rotuma during the 1950s and 1960s, there was so much food in the ocean that I was practically stepping on it whenever it was low tide and I wandered around on the coral of the lagoon, which was now above water. For me then, the ocean was the equivalent of a well-stocked supermarket, except that everything in it was free. There were beautiful shells of all kinds everywhere I looked, and there were colourful fish stranded in the pockets of water among the coral. With spear in hand, I filled my basket with the...

  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 237-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-248)