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Custom, Power and Ideology in the Papua New Guinean Mining Industry

Dr Nick Bainton, University of Queensland

Monday 18 September at 5.30 pm

The popular characterisation of the relationship between indigenous people and mining companies is often forced into a crude binary where untrammelled capital devastates hapless tribal people, or what has more recently been described as the ‘Avatar narrative’ after the 2009 film of the same name. This paper is partly framed in response to these dualistic accounts which have persisted in the anthropology of resource extraction. Here I attempt to achieve a more satisfactory account of the relationship between mining companies, local landowning groups and other actors in the Melanesian setting. My focus is not resistance per se or simply the centre stage script of company-community drama. Instead I want to focus on some of the backstage processes and how this shapes the psychology of relations between different actors. In the process I will also reflect upon the different positions that I have held as an anthropologist, applied researcher and as a manager for a mining company. In doing so, I argue that a sufficient comprehension of the structure of the relationships between actors in resource extraction contexts sometimes requires researchers to position themselves in different ways that enables access to a more ‘global’ view of these ‘situations of intimate competition’.

Nick is an Associate Professor in the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) at The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. He received a PhD in anthropology from the University of Melbourne, and much of his work has concentrated on the socio-political impacts of resource extraction in the Pacific region. His publications span numerous interrelated topics, including mortuary ritual and exchange, sacred geographies, cultural heritage management, and the political economy of resource development. He is currently developing research programs on human migration around mining projects, and the ways in which mining agreements shape the social aspects of mine closure.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://bainton.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom