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In this article we review the edited book “Mapping Security in the Pacific: A Focus on Context, Gender, and Organizational Culture” by Sara Amin, Danielle Watson, and Christian Girard. In this article members of the Urban Oceania Reading Group review three chapters of this edited book offering their additional thoughts. Generally, the articles of the edited book not only consider the diverse and emerging threats to Pacific security, but it effectively considers the globally interconnected nature and theoretical underpinning of these security threats.
Szadziewski (2020) argues that the geo-economic ambitions expressed in Fiji’s “Look North” policy and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has imbued emotion into Fiji’s national landscape. Their geo-economic ambitions have met in Fiji in a way that has imbued national space with a “hope” of economic prosperity. This review analyses the effect of hope that these narratives have created on the national trajectory of Fiji.
Over the last week the Urban Oceania Reading Group came together to discuss an article by Scheyven et al. (2019) “Business Serves Society: Successful Locally-Driven Development on Customary Land in the South Pacific”. We were motivated to discuss and write about this article because our conversations on other academic articles often return to how customary land ownership interacts with local development. Scheyvens et al. (2019) articulates narratives of indigenous entrepreneurs who are able to successfully work within the context of customary land tenure to produce business that are a) economically profitable and b) beneficial for the surrounding local community. Scheyvens et al. (2019) with its focus on local voice is uniquely positioned within the customary land tenure / development debate to consider how customary tenure can be worked with specifically for the betterment of local communities in Oceania. In this article we continue to review how Scheyvens et al. (2019) address this topic adding in our own personal academic knowledge and perspectives.
In this article we review Sheng and Smith’s (2021) chapter, The Shifting Fate of China’s Pacific Diaspora in the edited book The China Alternative: Changing Regional Order in the Pacific Islands. Roxane de Waegh engages with Sheng and Smith’s (2021) material on the founding of a Chinese diaspora in the Pacific in the colonial period through to the independence period. She, like the authors, argues that through competition and gaps in authority in colonial administration of Pacific colonies, Chinese settlers were able to carve out successful trading livelihoods in the region. Lucas Watt assess the degree of migrational continuity of the Chinese diaspora in the Pacific. He argues while there is certainly an under-appreciated migrational continuity of Chinese migration in the Pacific, it is nonetheless a loose continuity. In this review he explores the geopolitical implications of the the perceived and real migrational continuity of Chinese in the Pacific.
Maclellan’s (2021) chapter, Stable Democratic and Western: China and French Colonialism in the Pacific, is part of Smith & Wesley-Smith (2021) edited book The China Alternative: Changing Regional Order in the Pacific Islands. The edited book as a whole brings together a collection of scholars who analyze China’s growing involvement in the Pacific. The edited book is a welcome addition as it approaches the topic in a measured way that contrasts to prior literature that is often hyperbolic and hysterical about Chinese influence. Maclellan’s (2021) chapter is particularly refined in the sense that it analyses Chinese interest in the region in a context of the continued French colonial legacy in the Pacific. This colonial legacy invariably affects how Chinese interest and ambition in the region is pursued in the region. It also affects how Chinese interest is responded to by France, other western states, and Pacific states. Overall, Maclellan (2021) paints a obstructionist and self-interested Francophone picture which Chinese and Pacific Island non-state actors navigate to progress local interests. It puts the notion of a “stable, democratic and western” Pacific into a more critical perspective.
You get exactly whats on the tin for Bertram’s (2018) article, Why does the Cook Islands Still Need Overseas Aid? He asks, in a context where the private sector revolving around tourism is booming(at least prior to COVID-19), why would the Cook Islands require large amounts of Overseas Development Aid (ODA)? In 2018, the Cook Islands received close to 80 million dollars worth of grant aid. Bertram (2018) attributes the need for overseas aid on austerity measures that were enforced onto the Cook Islands in the structural readjustment period of the 1990s. Specifically, the Cook Islands were forced into a policy by the New Zealand government and the Asian Development Bank in 1998 whereby tax revenue should not exceed 25% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This has left the Cook Islands with a very small revenue pool to draw upon to service its expenses which consistently stand at 40% of GDP. Overseas aid is currently relied upon to service this gap in national revenue and expenses which limits what the Cook Island’s can do fiscally, as well as limits their general national autonomy. In this review we explore some thoughts which Bertram’s (2018) article has inspired.
Living in an informal settlement is common in Oceania. High rates of rural-urban migration and poor housing policy forces many to live on customary land on the peripheries of the Oceanic city. There is a great variance in how life is experienced within informal settlements in Oceania, however, informal settlement residents across the region have experienced some form of infrastructural exclusion in some form. What we mean by infrastructural exclusion in informal settlements is that one or more of the formal infrastructural services like water, electricity, garbage disposal, access to education and healthcare, are not provided to residents by their national governments. Anthropologists have begun to argue that denial to infrastructural services is akin to a denial of urban citizenship (Ranganathan, 2014; Rodgers & O’Neill, 2012; Von Schnitzler, 2008). Here we review the latest addition to this literature by Rooney (2021) and her article We Want Development”: Land and Water (Dis) connections in Port Moresby, Urban Papua New Guinea.
Shock demographic statistics about population growth and rural-urban migration in the Pacific are continuously being presented in academic debate. Widmer’s (2013) article, Diversity as valued and troubled: social identities and demographic categories in understandings of rapid urban growth in Vanuatu, gives us an opportunity to analyses how demographic information is engaged with by urban populations and governance institutions in Vanuatu. It analyses how a defined demographic crisis is experienced locally, as well as how it is leveraged in political process. Greg Watt discusses the question how Ni-Vanuatu navigate kastom and modernity in this context of demographic flux and categorization. Lucas Watt discusses how demographic information is used as a political tool to paradoxically unite citizens under a national identity, as well as divide along rural-urban lines in favor of more global cosmopolitan identities. Overall, Widmer’s (2013) article provides a unique perspective that directly focuses on responses to the process of demographic defining and categorization that dominates the region.