Urban Oceania

Exploring Urban Social Change in Oceania


A Pacific Future: The Perspective of a Beche-de-mer Entrepreneur

The Pacific futures research agenda is currently tied to a discursive project that tries to form consensus around and leverage a Pacific way directed towards addressing the unique challenges the Pacific will face in the future. This discursive project has translated into the production of multiple regional frameworks that guide the actions of Pacific nation…

Reading Group Summary: July 11th, 2022

Havice, E. (2018). Unsettled sovereignty and the sea: Mobilities and more-than-territorial configurations of state power. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108(5), 1280-1297.

Reading Group Summary: July 4th, 2022

Dégremont, M. (2022). LSMPA Sovereignties in New Caledonia and French Polynesia: Territorialities, Alliances and Powers in Oceania. Oceania, 92(1), 51-73.

Journal Article Review of Amin, Watson and Girard (2020). “Mapping Security in the Pacific: A focus on context, gender, and organizational culture”

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…

Journal Article Review of Szadziewski, H. (2020). Converging Anticipatory Geographies in Oceania: The Belt and Road Initiative and Look North in Fiji.

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…

Journal Article Review of Scheyvens, et al. (2019), “Business Serves Society: Successful Locally-Driven Development on Customary Land in the South Pacific”.

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…

Journal Article Review of Sheng, F., & Smith, G. (2021). The Shifting Fate of China’s Pacific Diaspora.

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…

Journal Article Review of Klepp and Herbeck (2016) The politics of Environmental Migration and Climate Justice in the Pacific Region.

In the context of global climate change, remote coastal communities are generally regarded as the most vulnerable (Uitto & Shaw, 2016). This observation arises from the combined effects of their low income, high levels of resource dependency and their exposure to sea-level rise, rainfall variability, increase in storm frequencies and intensity (Cinner et al., 2018).…

Journal Article Review of Maclellan, N. (2021) Stable, Democratic and Western: China and French Colonialism 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…

Journal Article Review of Bertram, G. (2018) Why Does the Cook Islands Still Need Overseas Aid?

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…

Journal Article Review of Rooney, M. N. (2021). “We Want Development”: Land and Water (Dis) connections in Port Moresby, Urban Papua New Guinea.

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…

Journal Article Review of Bossen, C (2000). Festival Mania, Tourism and Nation Building in Fiji: The Case of the Hibiscus Festival.

Tourism is now widely acknowledged to be a global phenomenon. The world population has grown rapidly, and improved standards of living have allowed more and more people to participate in tourism. There is a strong hunger for new destinations that require people to travel further, due to loss of authenticity, a desire to be original,…

Journal Article Review of Widmer, A. (2013) Diversity as Valued and Troubled: Social Identities and Demographic Categories in Understandings of Rapid Urban Growth in Vanuatu.

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…

Journal Article Review of Voyer, et al (2018). “Shades of Blue: What do Competing Interpretations of the Blue Economy Mean for Oceans Governance?”

Just like the green economy, the blue economy has a triple bottom line of environmental sustainability, social equity, and economic growth. This broad concept of blue economy is starting to be used by a diverse array of social, political, and environmental actors, across different regions of the world; however what is also clear is that…

Journal Article Review of Tilot, et al. (2021), “Traditional Dimensions of Seabed Resource Management in the Context of Deep-Sea Mining in the Pacific”.

Tilot, et al. (2021), “Traditional dimensions of seabed resource management in the context of Deep-Sea Mining in the Pacific”, provides a level of depth to some of the current issues and concepts concerning deep-sea mining in the Pacific. It analyses how traditional knowledge and values are incorporated, ignored, or misrepresented in emerging deep-sea legal frameworks…

Journal Article Review of Hobbis, S. K., & Hobbis, G. (2021). Leadership in Absentia: Negotiating Distance in Centralized Solomon Islands.

Hobbis and Hobbis (2021) investigate the social divergence of the governing elite of the Solomon Islands with the local villages which they purport to represent. It is a descriptive article that explores the perspectives and opinions of the rural people that the elite stand for, as well as a number of elites themselves. Covering much…

Journal Article Review of Rousseau, B., & Taylor, J. P. (2012). Kastom Ekonomi and the Subject of Self-Reliance.

This week we discussed Rousseau and Taylor’s (2012) article “Kastom Ekonomi and the Subject of Self-Reliance”. This is a particularly pertinent topic to discuss during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oceanic communities disconnected to the rest of the world due to border shut downs have been turning to the traditional economy to get by. For many (although…

Journal Article Review of Ryan (2001), “Tourism in the South Pacific – A Case of Marginalities”

In the public imaginary, Oceania is a remote region of tropical paradise, perfect for a family holiday away from the troubles of everyday life. As much as Oceania’s geographic, political and economic remoteness defines its islands as alluring holiday destinations, Chris Ryan (2001) argues that it is this very remoteness that also defines the tourism…

Reading Group Summary: April 12th, 2021

Trundle, A. (2021). Climate resilience through socio-cultural mobility: Re-framing the Pacific’s urban informal settlements as critical adaptation pathways. DEVELOPMENT BULLETIN, 82.

Reading Group Summary: March 15th, 2021

Article discussed: Farbotko, C., & McMichael, C. (2019). Voluntary immobility and existential security in a changing climate in the Pacific. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 60(2), 148-162.

Reading Group Summary: March 8th, 2021

Article Discussed: Bedford, R. (2016). Pacific migration futures: ancient solutions to contemporary and prospective challenges?. The Journal of Pacific Studies, 36(1), 111-124.

Reading Group Summary: March 1st, 2021

Article Discussed: Leslie, H., & Wild, K. (2018). Post-hegemonic regionalism in Oceania: examining the development potential of the new framework for Pacific regionalism. The Pacific Review, 31(1), 20-37.

Reading Group Summary: February 22nd, 2021

Article Discussed: Dobrin, L. M. (2020). A ‘Nation of Villages’ and a Village ‘Nation State’: The Arapesh Model for Bernard Narokobi’s Melanesian Way. The Journal of Pacific History, 55(2), 165-186.

The Mind-Trick of Participatory Development in Oceania

In this article, we investigate how participatory development programs are implemented in our own under-covered region of Oceania. We investigate how participatory programs do the opposite of what they promote, to subordinate local populations to pre-set foreign agendas. This idea is firstly explored in a discussion on the historical emergence of participatory development as a…

Reading Group Summary: February 1st, 2021

Article Discussed: Foster, R. J. (2020). The Politics of Media Infrastructure: Mobile Phones and Emergent Forms of Public Communication in Papua New Guinea. Oceania, 90(1), 18-39.

Reading Group Summary: January 25th, 2021

Article Discussed: Foale, S. (2021). The Unequal Place of Anthropology in Cross‑Disciplinary Research on Environmental Management in the Pacific and What to Do About It. In Debra McDougall, Nicholas Bainton, Kalissa Alexeyeff and John Cox (Ed.), Unequal Lives: Gender, Race, and Class in the Western Pacific. Canberra ANU Press.

Reading Group Summary: January 5th, 2021

Article Discussed: Daniela Kraemer, « Family relationships in town are brokbrok: Food sharing and “contribution” in Port Vila, Vanuatu », Journal de la Société des Océanistes [Online], 144-145

Reading Group Summary: December 7th, 2020

Article Discussed: Besnier, N. (2004). Consumption and cosmopolitanism: Practicing modernity at the second-hand marketplace in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Anthropological Quarterly, 7-45.

Reading Group Summary: November 30th, 2020

Article Discussed: Cummings, M. Looking Good: The Cultural Politics of the Island Dress for Young Women in Vanuatu. The Contemporary Pacific, [s. l.], v. 25, n. 1, p. 33–65, 2013.

Reading Group Summary: November 23rd, 2020

Article Discussed: Miyazaki, H. (2005). From sugar cane to ‘swords’: Hope and the extensibility of the gift in Fiji. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 11(2), 277-295.

Reading Group Summary: September 28th, 2020

Article Discussed: Presterudstuen, G. H., & Schieder, D. (2016). Bati as bodily labour: Rethinking masculinity and violence in Fiji. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 17(3-4), 213-230.

Reading Group Summary: September 21st, 2020

Article Discussed: Becker, A. E. (2004). Television, disordered eating, and young women in Fiji: Negotiating body image and identity during rapid social change. Culture, medicine and psychiatry, 28(4), 533-559.

Reading Group Summary: September 7th, 2020

Article Discussed: Suliman, S., Farbotko, C., Ransan-Cooper, H., Elizabeth McNamara, K., Thornton, F., McMichael, C., & Kitara, T. (2019). Indigenous (im)mobilities in the Anthropocene. Mobilities, 14(3), 298-318.

Secure Seas and Fisheries: Guardians of the Ocean in the Modern Geopolitical Complex

Epeli Hau’ofa’s highly influential essay, Our Sea of Islands, asserts that the peoples of Oceania, are not passive figures on the regional and world stage as they are so commonly depicted. Rather, he considers Oceanic peoples to be guardians that play a vital and powerful role in the environmental protection of the region’s Ocean resources.…

Vanuatu: The Historical-Social Context of Migration to Port Vila and the Moderating Effect of Kastom on Problems of Urbanisation.

Pacific culture is widely recognised for its rich vibrancy, interwoven social norms, and unique customs. Melanesian culture is viewed and revered by outsiders as a model of collectivised community; the last vestige of the authentic other from a past time. However, increasing globalisation, better access to transport and an insistence by developmental institutions to follow…

Homes of The Island Exile: Experiences of Place

In a previous article I introduced the notion that exile is not an unfamiliar experience in Oceania, and that a new form of tacit island exile is emerging in Oceania. This form of exile is tacit in the sense that some inhabitants of rural islands are encouraged, but not explicitly forced, to migrate to informal…

Homes of the Island Exile: A Historical Perspective

Exile is a word that signifies the forced physical expulsion from a place without the permission to return. For many, the idea of exile conjures an image of being removed from society and being abandoned on an uncharted island as commonly depicted in novels and movies. Exile has come to mean something different in the…

Urban Social Change in Oceania: What is it? Why is it happening? Why is it important?

This website’s primary aim is to track urban social change in Oceania. Urban social change is deserving of academic attention because the ways cities change has implications for the everyday lives of most of the region’s population. It underscores how traditional ways of life are pursued; livelihood activities carried out, conventions of social interaction established,…


  • Lucas Watt

    I am a Post-Doctoral researcher on the ERC-funded TransOcean Project at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Norway. My portion of the project sets out to analyze maritime mobilities, exchange, and conservation, in the increasingly securitised region of Oceania. I graduated with a PhD from the School of Media and Communications at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. My ethnographic fieldwork in Suva Fiji analyses how rural-urban migrants living in “informal settlements” articulate tradition in urban spaces.