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An Ethnographic Study of the State in Rural Solomon Islands (Lau, North Malaita): A Quest for Autonomy in Global Dependencies


An Ethnographic Study of the State in Rural Solomon Islands (Lau, North Malaita): A Quest for Autonomy in Global Dependencies

Ketterer Hobbis, Stephanie (2016) An Ethnographic Study of the State in Rural Solomon Islands (Lau, North Malaita): A Quest for Autonomy in Global Dependencies. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Solomon Islands capital, Honiara (four months), and in the rural Lau Lagoon, Malaita Province (eight months). It examines how the Solomon Islands state, marked by a recent history of civil conflict and foreign military intervention, becomes visible in the everyday lives of rural and, to a lesser degree, urban non-elites; and how this visibility affects non-elite perceptions of the state as legitimate, dominant governing system. Non-elites are defined as those Solomon Islanders who often have only completed some primary/secondary education, whose first and primary language is their vernacular, and whose affluence is defined by their reliance on slash-and-burn agriculture, non-industrial fishing and micro-economic activities. Theoretically, this thesis draws on literature that defines the state through its ability to become invisible in everyday routines in such a way that state legitimacy and dominance as governing system are rarely questioned, and if they are only during temporary disruptions.

I propose that to understand to what extent and how the Solomon Islands state is integrated into everyday routines it is necessary to focus on mundane encounters with the state, its infrastructures and representatives as well as available alternatives; and to do so by prioritizing the perspective of the non-elites rather than the perspective of the disciplining state and state-focused members of (an urban) civil society. The Solomon Islands case is ideally suited for such an analysis because in this historically, linguistically and culturally diverse country the centralized state has been found to continuously struggle with diverging local conceptualizations of government and governance. My findings highlight that the Solomon Islands state has failed to become integrated into daily routines. Instead it is nearly continuously visible as a disruptive force. As a result non-elites continue to defy state-based unification and instead seek relative autonomy from the state by emphasizing the dominance and legitimacy of village-centric governance. This quest for autonomy is, however, increasingly curtailed by dependency on foreign foods and goods, and therein by a dependency on the state as primary globally-recognized legitimate mediator of economic relations.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Sociology and Anthropology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Ketterer Hobbis, Stephanie
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Social and Cultural Analysis
Date:28 October 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Jourdan, Christine and Friedman, Jonathan
ID Code:981965
Deposited On:01 Jun 2017 13:38
Last Modified:01 Oct 2018 00:00
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