Valuing destabilisation, resistance, and agency in a continuing and changing Papua New Guinean anthropology
Michelle Rooney (Australian National University)
Vanessa Uiari (Divine Word University)
Stephanie Lusby (La Trobe University)
Hancock Library, room 2.27
Tuesday 3 December, 14:00-15:45, 16:15-18:00

Short abstract:

We invite participants to consider how Papua New Guinean scholars exercise agency within the hegemonic structures of anthropology. How can we recalibrate our practise to better value Indigenous epistemology? How can these processes be used to amplify Indigenous scholarship?

Long abstract:

Papua New Guinean scholar, Steven Winduo (2000), argues that Oceania is a contested space in which colonial and Indigenous scholarly discourses compete but in which the colonial erasure of Indigenous self-representation and culture amounts to epistemic violence. In this roundtable we look toward an anthropological practice in Papua New Guinea that acknowledges its own hegemonic norms and systems as violent, including through complicity in the erasure and disenfranchisement of Indigenous scholars. Our questions focus on Papua New Guinea because as subjects, Papua New Guineans have shaped canonical ethnographies that inform key theoretical themes in anthropology such as gift exchange and gendered personhood. These scholarly texts have also shaped the historical and contemporary portrayals of Papua New Guineans. Academic and policy discourses in Papua New Guinea are deeply rooted in colonially and anthropologically shaped scholarly apparatus. However, and despite an awakening in recent years of Papua New Guinean scholarship and writing more broadly, there remain lacunae in how these writers are recognised and amplified. In this discussion, we ask what might it look like to destabilise and recalibrate accepted anthropological practice in ways that are better grounded in an acknowledgement of the tensions between colonial/western and Indigenous scholarly discourses? How do we value and prioritise questions of agency, legitimacy, access and Indigenous epistemology in these processes? Finally, how do these questions open spaces for scholars to reflexively consider race, gender and ongoing processes of colonialism and efforts toward decolonisation in anthropology, and more broadly?