Within and between: change and development in Melanesia

Rachel Shah (Durham University)
Paul Sillitoe (Durham University)
Science Site/Engineering E005
Start time:
5 July, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

We invite ethnographically grounded papers which explore the experiences of Melanesian individuals who, through processes of social change, live with conflicting sets of concepts, assumptions and expectations. We ask what the consequences of this position are for them and their communities.

Long abstract:

Melanesia has seen rapid and dramatic social change over the last century and introduced institutions such as schooling, clinics, churches and government offices have been an important part of this change. There is also much evidence of Melanesian people resisting change and choosing not to adopt or adapt to foreign concepts and practices. An important and needed insight into these processes of change is understanding the experiences of individuals, indigenous to the group in which change is being initiated or imposed, who adapt to foreign concepts sooner or more fully than others. Susceptibility, necessity and exposure - often through immersion in mission, NGO or government institutions - can all account for why this happens (Smith, 1982). The consequence is that these individuals are exposed to and have to deal with conflicting sets of concepts, assumptions and expectations. If, for example, they are embedded both in a foreign-run institution and in their own kin networks, they may find themselves living within and between seemingly incompatible cultural worlds. This panel invites ethnographically grounded papers which explore the experiences and roles of such Melanesian individuals. How do they conceive of their position? What are the consequences of it for them, and for the institutions and communities they connect to? How powerful are the different influences on them? What kind of pressures do they face and how do they navigate them? What role has "development" played in their lives, and what in turn is their role in social change?