Land, Identity and Conflict on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Abstract:This paper examines the recent history of settlement and conflict on Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands and the corollary emergence of competing ‘settler’ and ‘landowner’ identity narratives. Settlers from the island of Malaita were initially able to obtain rights to use customary land on north Guadalcanal but subsequently fell victim to a Guale project of exclusion. This project was informed by the breakdown of social relationships—both between landowners and settlers and within landowning groups themselves—and sharpening socio-economic differentiation amongst Guales along a north–south axis which has seen those from the relatively deprived south coast emerge as important actors. Localised grievances around land and settlement have been mobilised to the larger project of autonomy for Guadalcanal driven in part by a desire to capture a greater share of the benefits that flow from the island's resource industries. Against this backdrop of rapid socio-economic change, two competing identity narratives have emerged—a Malaitan settler narrative and a Guadalcanal landowner narrative—each of which seeks to establish a morally legitimate claim to property rights and economic opportunities on Guadalcanal. I provide windows onto each of these identity narratives and explore their articulation with historical and contemporary struggles over land and resource development.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Crawford School of Economics and Government, College of Asia and the Pacific,Australian National University, Australia
Publication date: June 1, 2012