History of anthropology in the Pacific Islands – New publication

Why does the University of the South Pacific (USP) not offer anthropology as a study programme? This paper in The Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA) investigates for the first time anthropology’s past and present status at USP.

Title
Anthropology at the University of the South Pacific: From past dynamics to present perceptions

Abstract
The Pacific Island region is a key context in the history of anthropology. Yet, while much has been written about how anthropology of the Pacific Islands contributed to Anglo‐American anthropology, the discipline’s institutional history in the Pacific Islands has received very little attention. This paper is the first to explore the history of anthropology at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Research findings demonstrate that anthropology lacked practical meaning in an institution established to modernise Pacific Island states. Fieldwork conducted at USP suggests that current perceptions of anthropology held by academic staff are strongly linked to the discipline’s classic era. I argue that the anti‐colonial version of the Pacific Way from the 1970s onward, coupled with the hegemony of political economist and anti‐culturalist approaches among the USP teaching staff in the 1980s, inhibited a meaningful engagement with the Writing Culture debate at USP. This may explain why there has been little influence by the discipline’s postmodern transformation over the past thirty years on current perceptions of anthropology at USP.

Reference: Kessler KA. Anthropology at the University of the South Pacific: From past dynamics to present perceptions. Aust J Anthropol. 2021;00:1–21. https://doi. org/10.1111/taja.12388

Many thanks to all research participants!

USP Laucala Campus 2021 (photo taken by Kim Andreas Kessler)

 

DevNet 2020 Conference Award Kim Kessler

DevNet 2020 Conference Awards: Kim Kessler was awarded best PhD presentation.

DevNet 2020 Conference

The Aotearoa New Zealand International Development Studies Network (DevNet) 2020 Conference is on at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Research Project: Natural Hazards, Disaster Risks and Coping in the Pacific Islands

Approach: A Case Study of Post-Disaster Management after Cyclone Pam (March 2015) is conducted in Vanuatu.

Goal: This research project looks into natural hazards in the Pacific Island region, concentrating on Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Cyclone Pam has been one of the worst natural hazards that ever hit the Pacific Island region. More than a quarter of the country’s population had to seek protection in emergency shelters and standing crops in the fields were destroyed to more than 95 percent. More than 166,000 people – which is more than 60 percent of the country’s population – were in need of food distribution.

Fieldwork: This is a collaborative research project by the University of the South Pacific. In June 2018, I  conducted research in several villages on Tanna Island. My part of the research focusses on two main researach questions:

1) What are Tannese peoples’ most urgent needs three years after cyclone Pam?

2) What role does traditional housing play in disaster risk reduction?

Tanna Island (Vanuatu), June 2018

In January 2018, Dr Frank Thomas and Dr Manoranjan Mohanty went for research to Vanuatu to investigate generally into knowledge and practice regarding to disaster risk reduction (Dr Thomas) and the policy environment (Dr Mohanty). In 2017, Dr Eberhard Weber conducted fieldwork on traditional cyclone shelters.