Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Assembling Resistance against Large-Scale Land Deals: Challenges for Conflict Transformation in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Assembling Resistance against Large-Scale Land Deals: Challenges for Conflict Transformation in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In times of climate change and a combined energy, food, and financial crisis (McMichael, 2013; Ross, 2014), access to and control over land and certain resources are increasingly contested (Hall et al., 2015, p. 467). Although far from being a new phenomenon, the nature of contemporary commercial land and resource acquisitions indicates a shift towards new spatial-temporal dimensions (Wily, 2012). Ever-larger tracts of land or forests are leased for 50 up to 99 years to corporations mainly from BRICS countries, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Most host governments offer a variety of economic and legal incentives, while investors, in turn, promise employment opportunities, infrastructure development, technological transfer, and contributions to local or national food security (Anseeuw et al., 2012; Bloomer, 2012). However, displacement, long-term environmental damage, and socio-cultural as well as political marginalization give rise to increasing resistance against large-scale land acquisitions and land grabs1 in the global South. Following the development in Sub-Saharan Africa (Hall, Scoones, & Tsikata, 2015), a large number of land transactions have taken place in Southeast Asia in recent years. Despite certain risks to acquire vast areas for agriculture, mining, or carbon offsetting purposes, profitable conditions increasingly attract investors in post-conflict countries (Tripathi, 2011).2 Countries as diverse as Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Papua New Guinea, or the Philippines, while struggling to stabilize after years of violent conflict ranging from genocide to anti-regime and secession wars, face a contemporary rush on their lands, forests, and mineral resources (Land Matrix, 2015). At the surface, these developments may seem promising in terms of reconstruction and economic prosperity (Anseeuw et al., 2012; FAO, 2013; Locher & Müller-Boker, 2014). However, they may also entail risks for reconciliation processes and long-term peace prospects due to changing formal and informal land ownership and the often unjust distribution of negative externalities and benefits.

This article refers to the specific situation of reconciliation, land acquisitions, and resistance in post-war Bougainville. Selecting the case of Bougainville, as yet an autonomous province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is interesting for two reasons. First, armed resistance against the negative socio-ecological impacts of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville triggered a decade long civil war (1988-1998) - referred to in the earlier period of peace as the "world's first successful eco-revolution" (Rotheroe, 2000). Second, the independent state of Bougainville (the referendum is expected to take place until 2020) will certainly depend on revenues from foreign direct investments (Kangsi & Damana, 2014, p. 14). Due to the worsening economic situation, the autonomous government is already under pressure to seek (external) financing opportunities such as in the mining or agricultural sector. Taking these recent developments in Bougainville into account, the article aims to conceptualize the impact of resistance against large-scale land deals on socio-economic and political conflict transformation dynamics.

Drawing on Deleuze's and Guattari's (1987) poststructuralist assemblage approach, I analyze territorialization processes (e.g., dynamics of land tenure shifts, displacements, and reconciliation) that strengthen or destabilize the identity and capacities of assemblages. Assemblage thinking takes socio-spatial relations into account and permits an expanded understanding for the processes and interactions on different levels and between heterogeneous actors and the environment. The article is organized as follows. I briefly review the existing literature on land deals, conflict transformation, (liberal) peacebuilding, and resistance. Building upon a brief introduction of the assemblage perspective, I develop the theoretical framework. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.