Informal Session: Possessing the Pacific City: A Comparative Dispossessions Working Group
Organizers: Jennifer Day and Benedicta Rousseau
For decades, Pacific people have persisted in possessing the city, despite colonial exclusion, the necessity of building lives on land owned by others, and disagreement about their belonging in the city. In recent years, horrific mass evictions have plagued the Pacific cityscape. At the same time, moral assertions of tenure, customary arrangements, and government institutions provide some tenure security for the large majority of city-dwellers. There are secure places to live in the city, it seems, until the mechanisms that support them break down.
People have many strategies for securing their place in the city. There are also many technologies that have been effective in dispossessing people of those places. Across the Pacific, there is a fundamental tension between a sense of nationhood grounded in customary tenure, and a sense of the city as a place that to which everyone in the nation (or province) have a right. As urbanisation increases, these tensions may become increasingly difficult to manage.
We are assembling a team of Pacific scholars interested in understanding urban evictions: in how Pacific cities are possessed, and how people are dispossessed of their places there. Land management and insecure tenure are at the core of many conflicts over how to adapt cities for climate and disaster resilience, the need for which is central to current donor funding and aid programming for the Pacific. Public officials, landowners, and community members alike are distressed by the evictions happening in Pacific cities. We envision a project that will enable these city-builders to talk to each other about why tenure works and how it fails for some claimants. We seek to build a team with the deep contextual expertise required to understand individual Pacific cities. We imagine also comparative analysis conducted in collaboration with regional bodies.
This hybrid-informal session will lead to a working collaboration on urban evictions and an edited volume over the longer-term. This year, no paper is required, but we invite submission of working papers if you wish. The format is as follows:
Part 1 (50min). How Possession Looks. Presentation of at least three empirical papers on evictions in Honiara, Port Vila, and Fiji, all with Q&A. Let us know if you wish to submit a paper.
Part 2 (50min). How Possession Works. Three panel members will describe how their current work lends itself to a study of possession. At least three scholars will each describe their setting and questions they have about evictions. Then, participants will be invited to contribute their own possession stories or ask questions of the panel. The panel will speak about topics such as:
Part 3 (50min). How Possession Compares. We will turn the discussion away from single-setting descriptions toward the comparative. We will seek to generate ideas toward our core goal: a comparative study of possession and dispossession. A discussant and then panel and audience members will answer a question such as,
Part 4. Next Steps as a Group (30 min). We will summarise the synergies and lessons from the previous discussions, and will invite people to propose the next steps for the working group.
For more information, please contact Jennifer Day, The University of Melbourne, <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Benedicta Rousseau <email@example.com>