Accepted paper:

Conflicts of development: Papua New Guinea's oil extraction sector

Author:

Emma Gilberthorpe (University of East Anglia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the case of the Fasu people, PNG, hosts to a major oil and gas project, to examine the ways indigenous populations respond to the frameworks deployed in the name of ‘sustainable development’ and how dominant development discourses critically overlook the peculiarities of human agency.

Paper long abstract:

The expansion of extractive industries over the past few decades has coincided with the institutionalization of sustainable development discourse within the sector under the banner of corporate social responsibility. Yet, despite the social nature and impact of interventions, the role indigenous actors play in how social responsibility agendas are incorporated and activated remain largely unrecognized. Subsequently, interventions can generate conflict, inequality, elitism and social fragmentation contributing to growing socioeconomic insecurity amongst host communities. This paper considers the case of the Fasu population, a small hunter-horticulturalist group from the fringe highlands of Papua New Guinea who have hosted a major oil and gas project since 1992. The analysis will focus on how the Fasu respond to the frameworks deployed in the name of 'sustainable development' (formal leadership, structured representation, capital generation, private property ownership, all-purpose cash) to show how dominant development discourses defined by economic theories of growth critically overlook the peculiarities of human agency. I examine Fasu kinship, descent and exchange patterns to highlight just some of the impacts of extractive industry on human relations and advance the argument that a comprehensive understanding of diverse cultural nuances should be implicit in the design of interventionist strategies. In so doing, I call for greater recognition of the potentially divisive impacts of current sustainable development interventions in the extractive industry sector.

panel P19
Thinking otherwise at the extractive frontier: conflict, negotiation, translation, and a more equitable conversation