- Jonathan Alderman (University of London) email
- Ritu Verma (Royal University of Bhutan & Tarayana Centre for Social Research & Development) email
This panel will examine understandings of collective wellbeing from the perspective of the state, often expressed through development discourse, and individuals and communities with their own conceptions of wellbeing, and the ontological disagreements that may be present as these perspectives meet.
This panel will examine understandings of collective wellbeing from the perspective of the state, often expressed through development discourse, and individuals and communities with their own conceptions of wellbeing who may be on the receiving end of development programmes designed to improving the living conditions of national populations, and bring constituent populations closer to the state. Papers will discuss what happens when the singular perspective of the state meets the multiple ontologies of its constituent peoples. In particular, in postcolonial societies where development, as Arturo Escobar has theorised, has functioned as a continuation of the civilising ideology of colonisation, singular visions of wellbeing have been used by states to justify particular regimes of economic and social development, with the aim of creating citizens of singular nation-states, but in so doing often clash with indigenous perspectives on wellbeing. Conflicts over resources extraction and infrastructural development, such as the construction of a mine, a damn, a road or oil wells often involve ontological disagreements over the identity of lakes, forests, mountains and rivers. Papers may choose to address the political implications of regarding, such entities, following Marisol de la Cadena, as "Earth Beings" imbued with multiple ontological realities, and/or the coalitions that emerge between people with multiple ontological understandings in the defence of them. Papers might also address attempts by states to recognise such multiple ontologies, and how this has manifested in development discourse and practice; or, how state discourses on wellbeing come into contact with local understandings of living well.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Are there desirable long-term forms of dependency? Remote Aboriginal communities and the future
Cultural issues are too troublesome to mention in policy recommendations even where they could undermine the emphasis placed on northern development as a solution to Aboriginal social and economic problems.
In the Politics of Suffering, Peter Sutton has a chapter titled, ‘The trouble with culture’ the purpose of which is to point out that cultural issues that impinge on how things are going in remote Aboriginal communities are too troublesome to mention in reports, government documents and policy recommendations, even though there is widespread recognition of the role tradition and values play in social life. With the current emphasis on developing the north, this wilful blindness to the relevant social and cultural issues raises problems for the future envisioned by policy makers and government for these remote communities. Faced with worlds without work it might be argued that people in remote communities are pre-adapted to the future. That is, we are in an Australian version of the Comaroff’s ‘Theory from the south’ (2012), only it's the north of the country for us, in which as the Comaroffs have argued the future of Europe can be seen in Southern Africa rather that the other way round. Thus for us in settled Australia, is our future being foreshadowed in the north? Are there desirable long-term forms of dependency, forms of dependency that do not demoralise or deprive people of valued purpose in life?
Contestation of measles in Sindh Province of Pakistan
This paper will highlight the meanings and measures, given and adopted by different stakeholders, to deal with measles in Sindh province of Pakistan.
The measles outbreak in 2012-13 in Pakistan witnessed various, however different, stakeholders onboard to deal with measles in terms of definitions, meanings and measures. It shows a contestation between the local standpoint and the biomedical perspectives. On the one hand, there are local people and local healers, who consider measles as a must-come-sacred-illness, draw its aetiology in Hindu mythology and perform certain rituals. On the other hand, the other stakeholders such as state and global 'authorities' (e.g., United Nation, World Health Organization, Gavi alliance) treat measles as an infectious disease caused by a virus. Controlling and eliminating its virus, therefore, is one among the indicators of development to meet the objective of reducing child morbidity and mortality, according to the United Nation's convention on the Rights of the Child. This side includes aid, guidelines, protocols, strategies, reports and a continuous gauging of the progress in statistical ways. The paper is based on my PhD fieldwork conducted in Sindh province in 2014-15, which would encapsulate the wrestling and encounters among these local, state, and global perspectives.
Oil palm expansion and state invisibility in PNG
State perspectives for villager wellbeing in WNB, Papua New Guinea are tied to oil palm expansion. But this runs counter to village ideas of wellbeing focused on spiritual and lineage wellbeing. As natural resources dwindle the tensions between these ontologies place new demands on the state.
Concepts of state and nation are highly fragmented in rural Papua New Guinea. National and Provincial governments are largely unnoticed and the well-being of citizens rests in the hands of indigenous lineage networks, the local government authorities and dominant capital investment corporations. In West New Britain development is driven by the major oil palm companies with their nuclear estates, settler plantings and urban centres. Company visions of citizen well being are focused on their integration into the oil palm industry from which farmers reap some material benefits but, in their integration into this industry, experience ontological challenges to indigenous concerns for a sense of well-being that has both spiritual and relational content. This paper will look at how far state support for capitalist development has affected subject formation in both villager and settler populations dependent on the oil palm industry.
In these situations of increasing vulnerability to world commodity price fluctuations villager and settler communities look to the state to restore their autonomy and sense of well-being by securing the embeddedness of indigenous prosperity in their land, its forest resources and kinship connections, but this continues to run counter to the state's surrender of its responsibilities to capitalist expansion and the financial bonanza this brings the state elites. The paper will examine the extent to which these tensions continue to be played out in land disputes, lineage incorporation, Christian revivalism, and the 2017 elections.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.