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Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm

Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm: Identity and Development in Vanuatu

William F. S. Miles
Copyright Date: 1998
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    Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm
    Book Description:

    The South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu simultaneously experienced the two major types of colonialism of the modern era (British and French), the only instance in which these colonial powers jointly ruled the same people in the same territory over an extended period of time. This, in addition to its small size and recent independence (1980), makes Vanuatu an ideal case study of the clash of contemporary colonialism and its enduring legacies. At the same time, the uniqueness of Melanesian society highlights the singular role of indigenous culture in shaping both colonial and postcolonial political reality. With its close attention to global processes, Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm provides a fresh comparative approach to an island state that has most frequently been examined from an ethnographic or area studies perspective. William F. S. Miles looks at the long-term effects of the joint Franco-British administration in public policy, political disputes, and social cleavages in post-independence Vanuatu. He emphasizes the strong imprint left by "condocolonialism" in dividing ni-Vanuatu into "Anglophones" and "Francophones," but also suggest how this basic division is being replaced (or overlaid) by divisions based on urban or rural residence, "traditional" or "modern" employment, and disparities between the status and activities of men and women. As such, this volume is more than an analysis of a unique case of colonialism and its effects; it is an interpretation of the evolution of an insular society beset by particularly convoluted precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial fractures. Based principally on research conducted in 1991 and, following a key change in Vanuatu's government, a subsequent visit in 1992, the analysis is enriched by regular comparisons between Vanuatu and other colonized societies where the author has carried out original research, including Niger, Nigeria, Martinique, and Pondicherry. Extensive interviews with ni-Vanuatu are integrated throughout the text, presenting islanders' views of their own experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6168-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps, Tables, and Figures
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Kirk W. Huffman

    It is a great pleasure to offer a few introductory words to Professor William Miles’Bridging Mental Boundaries in a Postcolonial Microcosm. The University of Hawai`i Press is to be congratulated for being in the forefront of recent academic publications regarding this most fascinating archipelago, following on Lamont Lindstrom’sCargo Cult(1993) and Joël Bonnemaison’sThe Tree and the Canoe(1994).

    In spite of almost being wiped off the face of the earth—from an estimated precontact population of 600,000 down to as little as 40,000 in the late 1920s—the people of Vanuatu have bounced back with vigor and...

  5. Preface: Choosing Vanuatu
    (pp. xv-xxiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Boundaries, Juridical and Mental
    (pp. 1-28)

    Were it not for the clear demarcations imparted by international boundaries, we would all have a hard time making sense of the world. Boundaries impose merciful limits on our finite capacities to understand the global jigsaw puzzle into which our planet is divided. Bombarded from infancy with unfiltered stimuli, faced with the need to learn the essentials of survival, content to pursue the pleasures of life when granted the privilege, we narrow our cognitive range to that political space which is of greatest importance to us. Astronauts may enjoy the occasional luxury of perceiving Earth as a unified, undifferentiated mass,...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Mental Rivalries and Condocolonialism
    (pp. 29-58)

    The Condominium which governed—or neglected—the New Hebrides for so long, and whose stamp is still very much felt in contemporary Vanuatu, has had no dearth of detractors. It has been the butt of some very acerbic, but also literary, thrusts. Edward Jacomb invoked Cato and Carthage in 1914 (“Delendum est Condominium” [It must be destroyed]), excoriating the Condominium as an “experiment . . . based on a negation of all previous political experience.”¹ Mocking the tricephalous (British, French, and Spanish), character of the Condominium’s highest judicial tribunal, the Joint Court, Jacomb later wrote a play entitled theJoy...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Nationalism, Kastom, and Other Boundaries of Identity
    (pp. 59-86)

    Painted with the broadest strokes, the evolution of nationalism in the New Hebrides mirrors that of struggles for independence elsewhere in the Third World. A cluster of peoples that a century before may have had only the remotest glimmer of solidarity—indeed, who may frequently have been at war with each other—now found themselves united in opposition to some colonial power. This sense of unity was both natural and contrived: It was natural in that colonial political structures, and often a colonial language, institutionalized economic exchange, regular communications, and general interactions among discrete sets of colonial subjects; but it...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Religious Boundaries Constructed and Bridged
    (pp. 87-118)

    Even before the new nation had settled on its name, ambivalence about the religious character of Vanuatu had been constitutionally enshrined. On the one hand, crafters of the constitution wanted to ensure a democratic and secular polity, at least in the sense that there would be no officially sanctioned state church and that religious freedom would be guaranteed. On the other hand, as the preamble clearly shows, most ni-Vanuatu also wished to be defined as a Christian people. Such a dichotomy reflects both the deep penetration of European-exported Christianity into Melanesian society and a sensitivity to parallel divisions, animosity, and...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Language, Education, and National Identity
    (pp. 119-154)

    This vignette, reconstructed from an actual school visit on Tanna island in 1991, illustrates how closely language can be linked to politics. Although by constitution French is an official language on the same par as English, Francophone ni-Vanuatu had reason to believe that in the decade following the nation’s independence in 1980 the government in fact pursued a discriminatory policy to reduce, if not eradicate, French influence (political, cultural, linguistic) in the nation. Throughout the educational system, from local community to school district, classical fault lines resurfaced along rival, if not antagonistic, linguistic lines. Unification did not eliminate competition between...

  11. CHAPTER 5 New Boundaries in Space, Time, Law, Gender, and Race
    (pp. 155-183)

    Previous chapters have stressed the mental boundaries separating Anglophone from Francophone, Protestant from Catholic, andkastomfollower from Christian believer. Nation building has contributed to the blurring of these boundaries and the gradual formation of a ni-Vanuatu identity. However, other boundaries are also shifting—boundaries that are spatial, temporal, economic, legal, sexual, and racial in nature. Successful management of these other boundary shifts are just as important to Vanuatu development as that of the political, linguistic, and religious ones (see Figures 5 and 6).

    Social geography impels us to examine the significance of people in space. Despite its being an...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Global Boundaries in the Microcosm
    (pp. 184-198)

    Writing about the new world disorder that has succeeded the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of global East–West bipolarity, Ken Jowitt stresses the fragility of those familiar borders and identities that germinated during the Cold War. Particularly for the Third World, geographical boundaries, ideological identities, and directions of foreign aid were a by-product of the struggle between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. Wars over would-be annexation in the Persian Gulf and ethnic borders in the former Yugoslavia show how unsettling the dissipation of these old frames of reference and demarcations (capitalist West versus communist East, with...

  13. Appendix A: Excerpts from the Convention Establishing the New Hebrides Condominium
    (pp. 199-200)
  14. Appendix B: Excerpts from the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu
    (pp. 201-204)
  15. Persons Interviewed
    (pp. 205-212)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 213-238)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  18. Index
    (pp. 257-271)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-272)