Place, Time and Scale: Reconceptualising Governance and the State in Melanesia
Kate Higgins (U Queensland)
|Date||Wednesday, 31 May 2017, 5:15 pm – 6:45 pm|
|Location||SFB 1199 | Strohsackpassage | Nikolaistraße 6-10 | 5th floor | 04109 Leipzig|
The Melanesian region consists of thousands of villages, or places, spread across chains of islands in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. People in these places have been negotiating and adapting governance practices for centuries because governance concerns the fundamental realities we all face, such as how people live together; manage resources, tasks, and territories; deal with strange and not-so-strange others; and handle a myriad of intersections and interactions with worlds known and unknown. However, in much academic and policy discourse, understandings of governance in Melanesia continue to be viewed through the frames of a “developing” state and assessed as “weak” or “fragile”. At the same time, critiques of this discourse are often still trapped within underlying assumptions about what an ideal “developed” state should look like. To move beyond these frames, and employing case studies from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, this paper proposes an alternative conceptual and methodological approach, which seeks to explore the spatial and temporal nature of social and political order. Firstly, this research project employs place as the entry point in exploring mutually constitutive forms of governance embedded within the landscape (regardless of their “state” or “non-state” status). Secondly, given that Melanesian epistemological constructions of time are not always “linear”, I explore localised political projects that reconstruct the past in the present with the aims of asserting autonomy over land and resources. Thirdly, in the here and now, I explore the everyday regularity of social order so as to highlight the priorities of governance as they are defined by those living together in a particular place themselves. Finally, I distinguish between “levels” of governance – commonly envisioned in terms of a global-national-local political hierarchy – with scales so as to examine the ways forms of governance, which have emerged from various scales, are manifesting and merging in places, creating connections outwards as they do so. Thus, the aim of the approach outlined in this paper is to displace both narrow definitions of governance and, ultimately, narrow conceptualizations of the state in order to better understand the nature of governance and the ways in which we think about social and political order in Melanesia.
Kate Higgins (University of Queensland, Australia)
Kate Higgins is a PhD candidate at the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. She has over 10 years of experience working and researching in the South Pacific at both grassroots and national levels. Her doctoral research explores governance in Melanesia. Prior to beginning this research project, she worked as the Pacific Program Manager for an overseas development NGO, and recently has been working alongside the Solomon Islands Government on initiatives which seek to improve relationships and networks between government and localised forms of village governance.