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Mobility in Melanesia: bigman bilong circulation

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Abstract:

Murray Chapman's reputation as a researcher on population movement in Melanesia is enormous – in the parlance of Melanesians, he is undoubtedly a ‘bigman bilong circulation’. This paper traces Chapman's journey into Melanesian mobility and outlines some of the major contributions he has made to our understanding of population movement in what was known until the late 1980s as the ‘Third World’. The journey begins with Chapman's own recollections of intellectual challenges he faced at the University of Auckland as a graduate student writing a thesis in 1960 and then as a Junior Lecturer in Social Sciences at the Victoria University of Wellington. The debates between Cumberland and Buchanan about the nature of geography were to have a profound influence on Chapman – he was to become a severe critic of attempts to impose a ‘western’ logic and way of thinking on processes which were at the heart of the livelihoods of peoples who had very different belief and value systems. This paper does not contain a critique of Chapman's arguments and findings; its purpose is to celebrate those contributions which have come into print so far from a geographer who has really tried to ‘make geography matter’ in the discourses about population movement and development.

Keywords: Melanesia; circulation; mobility

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Division of Cultural and Environmental Studies, School of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. E-mail: rdb@mailserv.waikato.ac.nz

Publication date: 1999-04-01

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