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Reflections on Violence in Melanesia

Reflections on Violence in Melanesia

Edited by Sinclair Dinnen and Allison Ley


This collection of studies from commentators, academics and activists from throughout the region examines the diverse meanings of violence in Melanesia. It shows that the nature and level of violence varies widely across different Melanesian contexts, with some of those contexts experiencing extraordinary levels of violence.

Through the reports the meaning of the categories used in Western law is challenged. Forms of oppression that were more important in the West centuries ago are still important in Melanesia, and while the cultural patterns of violence are local and plural, there are also global currents and paradoxes of political economies and restorative justice. This is not just a book for Melanesianists, but for all who are concerned about violence and healing it.


Foreword by John Braithwaite


Images of violence in Papua New Guinea: whose images? whose reality?
Maev O'Collins
'The Gospel came … fighting is ceasing among us': Methodist representations of violence in Fiji and New Britain, 1830-1930
Christine Weir
Fighting as savagery and romance: New Caledonia past and present
Bronwen Douglas
The production of social disorder: the example of the daily press in New Caledonia
Alaine Chanter

The gender of violence

Contextualising sexual violence: rape and carnal knowledge in Papua New Guinea
Cyndi Banks
Sexual violence in perspective: the case of Papua New Guinea
Anou Borrey
Domestic violence in Vanuatu
Merrin Mason
Women as peacemakers: a case from the Nebilyer Valley, Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea
Alan Rumsey

Non-government organisations and domestic violence

Struggles of women and girls - Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea
Sarah Garap
Breaking the Silence, speaking out truths: Domestic violence in Solomon Islands
Afu Billy
The Family Support Centre, Solomon Islands
Christine Ramosaea
Domestic violence in Port Moresby
Maxine Anjiga Makail

Violence and identity

Violence as continuity: violence as rupture - narratives from an urban settlement in Vanuatu
Jean Mitchell
Social change, contradictions, youth and violence in Fiji
Michael Monsell-Davis
Fighting for ples in the city: young Highlands men in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Michael Ward

Violence and the state

Three urban village courts in Papua New Guinea: some comparative observations on dispute settlement
Michael Goddard
Razor wire and riots: violence and the mining industry in Papua New Guinea
Glenn Banks
Violence, internal security and security stakeholders in Papua New Guinea
Karl Claxton
Indonesian state terrorism: the case of West Papua
Otto Ondawarne
'Traditional' leaders and conflict resolution in Bougainville: reforming the present by re-writing the past?
Anthony J Regan


Further reflections on violence in Melanesia
Margaret Jolly

References/ Index


This is a treasure trove of a volume, with current state-of-the-art papers by anthropologists, historians, psychologists, criminologists, political scientists, lawyers, journalists and local activists. … It is organised in five sections (Representations, The Gender of Violence, Non-Government Organisations and Domestic Violence, Violence and Identity, and Violence and the State) with an introduction by Dinnen and an epilogue by Margaret Jolley. The historical accounts blend colonial and missionary activity, exposing the different representations of violence according to whether it is indigenous, colonial or missionary. …
Some of the most disturbing discussion concerns rape and domestic violence. … Most of the papers not specifically concerned with gendered violence concentrate on the activities and affairs of men. They consider important problems attendant on modernization and nation-building, such as violence from the perspective of failed security measures, whether those of a mining company … or a state … In a nutshell, this collection is informative, useful and thought provoking, and essential reading for anyone interested in Melanesia.

The Contemporary Pacific , Fall 2001

One of the achievements of the book is to give the reader a more realistic understanding of violence in Melanesia. The media images of armed men stalking and attacking each other are balanced by the book's heavy emphasis on violence against women. The media emphasis on 'stranger danger' is balanced by the accounts and analysis of violence within the family. The single chapter on West Papua is about state violence perpetrated by Indonesia against its Indigenous peoples, and one chapter analyses how a transnational mining corporation actually creates conflict and, indeed, inter-personal violence, in the locality it mines. The relevance to violence to governance is an underlying theme …
[The book] should be of interest to readers concerned about violence generally, not just specialists in Melanesia …

Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Vol 12(2), November 2000

This volume shows what a tragedy it is that Western scholars of restorative justice are not learning from the Melanesian experience.

John Braithwaite, the Foreword


Published February 2000
Publisher Hawkins Press
ISBN 9781876067137

Out of print

Criminology & Policing - Criminology
Pacific Islands Studies
Indigenous Studies
Criminology & Policing - Restorative Justice

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