In Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste there are ways of being and belonging—customary and modern—that are fundamentally different but nonetheless intertwined in dynamic entanglements. These entanglements are being catalyzed by processes of globalization, state- and nation-building, and development. Both Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste are countries where customary forms of connection to land are central to lives, cultures, and identities. Conceptually, the chapter maps key trajectories in scholarly treatments of custom and modernity in anthropology and related disciplines, including recent scholarship on “multiple modernities.” It proposes a theorization of custom and modernity as ontologically distinct forms of social relations that cut across the boundaries of delimited social groups and are drawn into dynamic and shifting configurations. It is in this entangled multiplicity that we can best see the complexity and flux of global processes of social change.
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