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Panel 20: Political landscapes in Melanesia today


Priscila Santos da Costa, Ivo Soeren Syndicus

Session presentation

Melanesia is witnessing major changes through ongoing processes of nation-building, urbanization, and globalization. The political landscapes that correspond to these fields of action, however, have attracted little ethnographic attention. Theorizations of the practice of politics have long remained specifically place-based, or have revolved around regional models of leadership and how these transform in articulation with changing contexts. Here, we instead wish to ethnographically explore the broader political landscapes of contemporary Melanesia in their own right, and inquire into the forms that politics take in these. This comprises both the everyday and seemingly mundane practice of politics in varied spaces and polities, and the broader imagery, historicity, and outlook on the future that informs political action. What are the particular characteristics in the conduct of national politics, democratic processes, urban social movements, religious activism, or other initiatives and projects that address a public realm beyond confined notions of place? How do political actors in Melanesia envision roles of the state and civil society? What are the ideologies that legitimize leadership in projects or spaces that can be considered political? What about gender relations, and racial or other identities in political processes? And how are politics mediated through language?

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