Fractured encounters between locals and Chinese migrant workers in Papua New Guinea: Political economies and post-colonial imaginaries

Event details

SSGM Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 04 March 2014


Lecture Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU
ANU Canberra


Victoria Stead and Sophia Loy-Wilson


Louana Gaffey
+61 2 6125 8244


As China's presence in the Pacific Islands region is intensified through expansions of investment and resource extraction, the lives of Papua New Guineans and Chinese developers, merchants and migrant workers are being increasingly intertwined, even as encounters between the two groups are often marked by pronounced cultural and linguistic disconnect. This seminar brings together theoretical insights from history and anthropology to examine the formation and deployment of narratives about Chinese presence in PNG, paying particular attention to the interface of collective memory and contemporary political economy. Drawing on a close analysis of both Chinese and Papua New Guinean blog-spheres, as well as on oral history interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, we argue that contemporary Chinese presence is read in PNG through the lens of past colonial encounters. In important ways, we suggest, China, Australia, Germany, America and Japan occupy a common €œoutsider slot€ in PNG imaginaries. At the same time, debates amongst both Papua New Guineans and Chinese about China's presence in the Pacific mobilise competing narratives of citizenship, modernity, identity and nation-hood.

About the Speakers

We are an anthropologist and an historian working together to research and theorise encounters between locals and Chinese migrant workers in Papua New Guinea. Sophie Loy-Wilson is a Lecturer in Australian Studies at Deakin University where she writes and researches about the history of Chinese migration to Australia and the Pacific. Victoria Stead is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University. Her research in PNG is concerned with local negotiations of processes of social and cultural change, including changes to customary land tenure, €˜development', and patterns of insider-outsider relations.

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