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.
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.
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, or a longing for escape. Tourists have become much more demanding, expecting higher accommodation standards and engaging in increasingly energy intensive activities. Societies around the world have transformed into consumer-based entities, and international tourism often means that cultural differences are part of the attraction, and that cultural items are the center of the tourist gaze (Urry, 1990). Furthermore, the global tourism industry suffers from planned obsolescence – a condition in which a consumer good rapidly becomes obsolete and thus constantly requires replacement, or frequent changes. But what happens when this consumer good is a host country’s cultural identity, and the tourist product is consumed at the place it is produced?
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 depending on who is using or applying the term there is also a diverse array of emphasis on which one of these objectives are the most important in relation to the others. It is this context of conceptual variability that different actors emphasize within the term we analyze Voyer et al (2018), “Shades of Blue: what do competing interpretations of the blue economy mean for oceans governance?”.
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 which mining companies must navigate. This review analyses how Tilot, et al. (2021) characterize and bridge the relationship between traditional knowledge/values and legal frameworks applied to the ocean.
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 form of governance. We secondly analyze how such participatory development projects have been implemented in the Fijian Sugar Industry and in Community Based Fishery Management across Oceania. Lastly, we discuss the potential of Oceanic governments to break free of the mind trick of participatory development, and to reclaim the Oceanic development agenda.
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. This article contextualizes the changing geopolitical complex occurring in Oceania with the entrance of Asian power and influence. It analyses the increased importance of Oceania for Asian countries, and specifically how the increased presence of aid and Asian fishing vessels in the region is challenging the predominately western geopolitical complex in the region. This article ends with notes on how Oceanic people perceive the Ocean, and their role in it as guardians, in this changing geopolitical complex. Most importantly I ask, how is Hau’ofa’s guardian narrative achieved in this over-saturation of foreign influence?
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 settlements in urban areas because of a lack of available rural land and opportunities. In this form of exile, they are not shunned by their kin living on their home islands, but they are also not welcome back. In this article I will further focus on how tacit island exiles’ experience of home is different from other exiles’ experiences of home, and the implications of this difference. I argue that the indeterminable relationship tacit island exiles have with home, along with the insecure position they hold within the urban informal settlements they have migrated to, affects how they perceive home and place in unique unprecedented ways. In particular, tacit island exile re-frames Fijian concepts of person-hood which has traditionally been highly attached to land.