Accepted paper:

Embodying Underdevelopment: Phenotype, Cosmopolitan Aspirations and Underdevelopment on Simbo, Western Solomon Islands


Christine Dureau (University of Auckland)

Paper short abstract:

Many Tinoni Simbo aspire to participate in a developed global culture, while claiming racial inferiority and unworthiness. The resulting openness to and withdrawal from global engagement reflect the disappointments of independence and local aspirations to become the clients of international patrons.

Paper long abstract:

On Simbo, Western SI, many people aspire to participation in an idealized global culture of development, which is typically envisaged as entailing material plenty and reciprocal exchanges with Europeans. Simultaneously, however, they express a sense of racial inferiority, implying that underdevelopment is somehow inherent in "blackness". The resulting contradictory positions of openness to and shamed withdrawal from global engagement draw upon colonial discourses of racial ranking and Christian fellowship between equal souls as well as state discourses of economic journeys towards development. They also reflect the disappointments of a vexed nationhood, striving to go past the nation-state to more direct connections with former colonizing societies. Entangled in these various accounts are themes of abandonment by, and nostalgia for, former colonizers. In this paper, I consider the dialectic between dreams of reincorporation, with their implications of betrayal, on the one hand, and self-damning claims of inferiority and unworthiness, on the other. I draw upon the literature on "last places"—remote societies whose members describe themselves as last to receive any benefits of state economic policies. But understanding this self-denigration requires looking beyond issues of nationhood and state socioeconomic management. I suggest that we also need to conceptualize Simbo understandings in terms of experiences and memories of the colonial Solomons (1896-1978) and, vitally, of local cultural models of sociality characterized by patron-client relationships of reciprocal, unequal, generosity and loyalty. Crucially, Tinoni Simbo aspire to positions of clientage in their idealized global community.

panel P13
Senses and citizenships: contestations over national and global identities, resources, and forms of belonging