Melanesia's violent environments: Towards a political ecology of conflict in the western Pacific

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    This paper draws upon Michael Watts's work on governable spaces and " economies of violence" in the Niger Delta (2004a,b,c) and Colin Filer's concept of the " ideology of landownership" in Papua New Guinea (1997) to explore how resource capitalism has been at the heart of violent conflict in post-colonial Melanesia. This schema of the political ecology of violence is elucidated with reference to three governable spaces - landownership, indigeneity, and nationalism; four different resource-industrial complexes - mining, oil and gas, logging, and oil palm; and the region's three most serious conflicts to date - the Bougainville conflict, the Solomon Islands 'ethnic tension', and on-going violence in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, particularly in Enga and Southern Highlands provinces. It is argued that in each of these places the story of violent conflict is ineluctably one of resource capitalism and its engagement with local socio-political contexts. In sharp contrast to the resource determinism, state-centrism and ahistoricism of much of the 'resource conflict' literature, attention to governmentality and scale highlights the highly contextual and contingent nature of resource-related violence in Melanesia. The diverse experiences of different regulatory approaches to the encounters between resource complexes and governable spaces across time and space are also examined, giving rise to policy implications for governing resource conflict in Melanesia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)152-161
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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