As Basket and Papu: Making Manus Social Fabric

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    Between 2012 and 2019, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, hosted Australia's offshore detention centre for asylum seekers and refugees, known as the Regional Processing Centre (RPC). This paper analyses some of the social impacts of the RPC on Lorengau town, the urban centre of Manus, through the analytical lens of the Manus idiom, as basket (Tok Pisin). Materially this refers to the everyday Manus basket whilst metaphorically, it refers to an individual's or community's social, cultural, political and economic base. First, I examine asylum seekers and refugees as a social category that emerged during this period when they were referred to as papu by locals. Papu is an honorific kinship term for grandfather or elder man; for men who are symbols for family identity, social belonging, and rights to land. Second, I examine the changing materiality of Lorengau's markets as indicative of wider societal transformations and dissonance brought about by the RPC. My ethnographic data are based on long term involvement in Manus, including three recent visits to Lorengau in 2017, 2018, and 2019 where I studied the social impacts and the changing social practices of Manus people in response to the RPC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)86-105
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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