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  • From the Editors / Note des rédactrices
  • Naomi McPherson and Alicia Sliwinski

Conflict, civil war, strife, loss of life, refugees and more preoccupy our news headlines these days. Anthropologists have long engaged in the study of issues regarding peace, harmony, warfare and conflict in societies around the world. It is thus timely that this issue’s Thematic Section should focus on anthropological analyses of how various South Pacific societies engage with “Ending War and Sustaining Peace.” Several articles speak to conflict, war and peacemaking in Papua New Guinea (PNG), which has a popular, contemporary reputation (not wholly deserved) for belligerence, aggression and tribal wars. From a cache of archives, local memories and her own long-term field work, Kuehling explores three notions of peace in Dobu society to show the need for further theorizing this exceptionally complex concept of “peace.” Lohmann shows how the Asabano, who lived in a pre-colonial situation of endemic warfare, have maintained 50 years of peaceful coexistence among themselves and their neighbours. Roscoe, on the other hand, argues that pre-colonial conflict has never ended in contemporary PNG, rather that the politics of tribal warfare have been transformed into “crime.” Schwoerer argues that choosing active participation through their own agency in cargo cult movements that promised “new things to come” made it possible for all southern Fore groups to curtail war simultaneously.

For Micronesia, Petersen makes his case for thinking about societies as neither peaceful nor violent by considering how pugnacity and aggression may just hide a desire for avoiding conflict. Na‘puti’s study of Guâhan (Guam)—which remains an “unincorporated territory of the United States” and thus, in “political limbo”—lays out a theoretical framework to capture the complex and contradictory intersections between U.S. colonial ideology and Chamoru resistance rhetoric. Among another colonized people—the West Papuans in the Indonesian settler-state of West Papua (or Irian Jaya)—Webb-Gannon explores the concept of Papua merdeka, in the struggle for peace and social justice, which West Papuans understand to be contingent upon political independence from Indonesia.

But peace, social justice, independence and the struggle for identity are not easily won as is demonstrated in the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Canada. Reynaud focuses on emotions [End Page 253] as central to how conflicts happen and are resolved and in recapturing identities long assaulted by colonial authority and assimilation practices. (See also McKinley’s review essay here on “Commissions.”) Robinson explores how a personal and collective sense of Mi’kmaw identity works to resist colonial projects of assimilation and as a counter-discourse to settler notions of Aboriginal rights and what it means to be Mi’kmaw.

The concept of “identity” runs through several articles: Smith and Stavely present their research on mobility, transience and identity among youthful (and rather invisible) workers in the tourism industry in Banff; Asselin’s study of Alberta military brats (which resonates well with this military brat) and oil workers’ children looks at how children create a sense of place and belonging different from what we might expect; and De Burgos explores the relationship between traditional medicine and the process of ethnically distinct identity formation in Nicaragua. Identity is also present in issues of kinship and adoption in Polynesia and China (Leblic, Lockerbie), and, as Migliore and Dorazio-Migliore elicit, is central to a narrative life history of an elderly Canadian Sicilian woman and the impact that social suffering, loss and the aging process have on her identity.

This issue takes the concept of conflict full-on, whether it be tribal warfare in the highlands of PNG, the militarization of Guam, in small islands of Micronesia, in colonized West Papua, on a factory floor in Canada where a new immigrant works to survive in a new country, in Nicaragua where indigenous identity is under threat or at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where First Nations peoples bring their testimonies of abuse, assimilation, acculturation and identity regained as resistance. But so, too, is peace present here, since peace and peacemaking, as Lohmann argues, is “an active, political process rather than … the mere absence of war.” This issue is a richness of anthropological analysis of war and...


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pp. 253-254
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