Department of Anthropology

Jamon A. Halvaksz- Becoming Farmers: Agriculture and Industrial Gold Mining in Papua New Guinea

Becoming Farmers: Agriculture and Industrial Gold Mining in Papua New Guinea

Mon, March 31, 2014 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM

Comparing ethnographic and agricultural data collected from two neighboring Biangai villages (Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea), one engaged in a small-scale conservation effort and the other stakeholders in a large industrial gold mine, this paper analyzes the linkages between alternative development regimes, agricultural transformation and human-environmental relations. While documenting degrees of difference in subsistence and cash crop production, more dramatic distinctions are noted in how community members ‘work the land’. Working the land is not simply about production, but also about knowing the landscape and its products as nodes in human social relations. Biangai conceptualize garden spaces as intimate markers of contemporary sociality and working them collectively affirms both kinship and relationships with the things and places of ‘nature’. Mining regimes disentangle the multi-species networks experienced in the garden, and reassemble them into other spaces. Thus, in transforming agricultural practices, Biangai are also transforming how they experience their own multi-species community – its past, present and future.


Jamon A. Halvaksz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at San Antonio.  As an environmental anthropologist, he is especially interested in locations of development and change where competing values of nature and resource management practices are at play. Dr. Halvaksz has recently begun a multi-year project examining agricultural changes as a gloss for the sorts of transformations that industrial mining has on land and labor relations and he is also in the early stages of developing research that extends out from his earlier studies both regionally to a wider Pacific and topically to other sites of resource management in South Texas.


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