Becoming LandownersEntanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste

Becoming LandownersEntanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste

Victoria C. Stead

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780824856663

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

Becoming Landowners: Entanglements of Custom and Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste examines the impact of modernising processes of change—globalization, “development,” state- and nation-building—on customary land tenures, and customary communities, in two Pacific countries. Moving between multiple sites, scales, and forms of collectivity, Becoming Landowners explores the entanglements of custom and modernity that emerge from these processes. These entanglements are deeply ambivalent, giving rise to competing cartographies of power. They lend themselves to the diminishing of local autonomy but also, importantly, create new possibilities for reasserting that autonomy, and for rearticulating the forms and sites of authority to which customary connection to land gives rise. Pacific peoples are becoming landowners, the book argues, both in the sense that modernising processes of change compel forms of property relations, and in the sense that “landowner” and “custom landowner” become identities to be wielded against the encroachment of both state and capital. In places where customary forms of land tenure have long been dominant, deeply intertwined with senses of self and relationships with others, land now becomes a crucible upon which social relations, power and culture are reconfigured and reimagined.