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Accepted Paper:

Permanence, Decay, Restitution: Baining Land Claims and Flows of Development through Oil Palm Infrastructure   
Inna Yaneva-Toraman (Heriot-Watt University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper illustrates how the Baining of Papua New Guinea understood plantation-style oil palm agriculture as infrastructure that can reveal, reclaim, and safeguard their customary land. It explores the link between agriculture, infrastructure, and development through the notion of permanence.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how the Baining of Papua New Guinea understood the link between development, agriculture, and infrastructure. After years of colonial resettlement programs, land reform, and piecemeal encroachment in the Baining region, many local communities were displaced, dispossessed, and left to live at the fringes of economic development with little or no access to essential goods, services, or infrastructure. Reflecting on the uneven geographical development of the province, the Baining understood their position as one of lack and exclusion, whereby the only way they could bring development to themselves was by reclaiming their customary land. This paper shows how with the ineffectiveness of land title deeds to remove the squatters and provide land access to the Baining, they turned to agriculture as a form of vegetal assemblage that could finally reveal and restore their land claims.

First sought in cocoa, and later in oil palm, their dreams of development have contributed to their transition from shifting cultivation in non-bounded ancestral ranges, to petty commodity production of bounded plots, and finally, to rentier economy characterised by ecological and social change. The paper traces how Kairak-speakers participated in and understood this process through the lens of visibility and invisibility, and permanence as opposed to decay. It illustrates how development was associated with "permanent" things and itself required permanent infrastructure. Similarly, the paper argues that for Kairak-speakers, the permanence of plantation-style oil palm agriculture characterised its potentiality to deliver restitution of their land and inward flow of development.

Panel Irre09b
Agricultural infrastructures in a failed ecology II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -