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Accepted Paper:

Reflections on becoming a 'Melanesianist'  
Olivia Barnett-Naghshineh (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

I reflect on the moments of anxiety I had around becoming another anthropologist in and of Papua New Guinea and evaluate the extent to which decolonial research methods can be effectively applied there and what these might look like based on diverse reflections from people in PNG.

Paper long abstract:

Going straight into a PhD in social anthropology with no prior experience of Melanesian ethnography, I had an instinctive reaction that Papua New Guinea must be 'crawling' with anthropologists. These feelings of discomfort between the discipline and its extractive theorising about Papua New Guinea in particular, never left me. However other literatures outside of anthropology helped me delve deeper into these feelings of discomfort and piece together a more critical perspective on the politics of knowledge production within anthropology. Drawing on critical race theory, intersectionality and indigenous perspectives that I read alongside writing my PhD thesis, I reflect on the dilemmas of producing a 'Melanesianist' ethnography. Based on the work of Linda Tuhi-Wai Smith and the writings of afro-pessimist theorists work on anti-blackness, I question the epistemological groundings of Melanesian anthropology. After reflecting upon my own research process and that of other anthropologists with my interlocutors in Papua New Guinea, I share some of the diverse reflections on anthropology from both 'the field' of people working with researchers in PNG and people from PNG working as researchers. Finally I consider the difficulties of using decolonial research methods in Papua New Guinea as a western researcher and evaluate what I could have done differently in my own research, and thus what I can pass on as lessons learned to others in the classroom.

Panel D08
The global challenge of decolonising anthropology: how do our critical pedagogies lead to shifts in research praxis?
  Session 1 Friday 6 September, 2019, -