A look at Solomon Islands: Anthropological fieldwork, Disaster Impact & Recovery, & the Wantok System

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1 A look at Solomon Islands: Anthropological fieldwork, Disaster Impact & Recovery, & the Wantok System Savanna Schuermann Department of Anthropology San Diego State University January 29 th, 2015

2 hem neac tumas iu doem woka blo iu hia.mifala lo edge

3 Bae mi talem iu stori Solomon Islands Fieldwork Disaster Impact & Recovery The Wantok System

4 Solomon Islands: Study Sites Titiana (Micronesian) Relocated under British colonialism Ethnic minority Pailongge (Melanesian)

5 Solomon Islands: Ghizo Island

6 Titiana village Kiribati village ~350 people (75 HHs) Fishing + cash economy Solomon Island Pijin and Kiribati

7 Pailongge village Nearby Melanesian village 3 communities surveyed: Pailongge proper (approx. 10 HH) Suvania (8 HH) Simboro (15 HH) Gardening + some cash economy Pijin and Simbo

8 Solomon Islands Gizo town Watch your step

9 Solomon Islands Pig Feast Banana tree

10 Solomon Islands

11 Iutrifala likam betel nut

12 The 2007 Solomon Island Tsunami April 2, 2007, 8.1 magnitude earthquake Tsunami (6m) Titiana (Micronesian) 13 deaths Pailongge (Melanesian) No deaths

13 The Social Side of Natural Disasters Natural Disaster = Natural Hazard + Socially Vulnerable Pop. (Hoffman et al. 2001; Oliver-Smith et al. 1999; Wisner et al. 2004)

14 Social Vulnerability 3 factors: 1. Solomon Island government (SIG) 2. Regional Melanesian kinship and exchange system (the wantok system) 3. Social marginalization/immigrant (minority) status [Titiana village]

15 Vulnerability & Disaster Recovery Differential aid distribution [Titiana] [Pailongge]

16 Research Goal: How do specific social factors, including the SIG, the wantok system, and minority status, create vulnerability, and how does this vulnerability underlie the differential recovery Titiana and Pailongge villagers experienced following the 2007 disaster?

17 Solomon Islands Research I lived and worked in Solomon Islands in the 2011 & 2012 summers researching peoples recovery from the 2007 tsunami.

18 Fieldwork: Methods Data collection ( ): Household surveys (n=125) Key-informant interviews Focus groups (n=3) Document analysis Participantobservation

19 Disaster Recovery: Results Three underlying social factors created differential recovery in Titiana and Pailongge 1. SIG 2. Wantok (kinship and exchange) system 3. Immigrant or minority status

20 1. Disaster Recovery: The SIG Help, hem no kam stret long gavman Role of SIG in recovery SBD$39 million in aid Special Audit Report: Tsunami and Earthquake Relief Fund (OAG, 2010) Further ramifications: May have resulted in a housing strategy that is underfunded and not fully implemented (OAG, 2010).

21 2. Disaster Recovery: Wantok System SIG s actions reduced overall amount of aid available to victims Remaining aid tended to flow along the kinship, social and political networks outlined within the Melanesian wantok system. Different implications for Titiana & Pailongge s vulnerability and recovery

22 Kinship, social networks, and the wantok system: Defining wantok & wantok system Wantok one-talk Wantok: people united through shared kinship, language, and place (geography)

23 How villagers define wantok :

24 Who villagers identify as their wantok:

25 Wantok: A flexible and shifting concept The way in which people will define or rely upon their wantok is dependent upon and transformative across different contexts and situations EXAMPLES: My introduction to concept of wantok Villager examples

26 The Wantok System Wantok: people united through shared kinship, language, and place (geography) Wantok system: widespread practice of helping and favoring one s own wantok, especially through exchange

27 The Wantok System: hem no save out Reflects system of pre-capitalist Melanesian exchange Inextricably linked to social organization (Mauss 1925; Nanau 2011; Sahlins 1963) Social relationships Personhood Rank and sociopolitical power NOT displaced by formation of Solomon Island nationstate Heavily influenced post-disaster aid distribution favored wantok of those controlling aid distribution

28 Wantok system s influence on recovery Aid distributed in biased way along kin and social networks outlined within SI wantok system Occurred at every level of aid distribution National Regional/provincial NGO Community

29 Recovery: Government Aid Distribution Responses to the Question: Did the wantok system have any effect on the way aid/help/food/infrastructure was distributed by the government following the 2007 tsunami? Explain. Fisher s Exact Test p<0.006 no yes

30 Wantok system s influence on recovery: EXAMPLES National level: both T and P vulnerable Lilo gave solar to Kolombangara but not Ghizo, even though he promised to because Lilo is from Kolombangara. (Pailongge, male, 80).

31 Wantok system s influence on recovery: EXAMPLES Regional (Provincial gov.) level: both T and P vulnerable.. Aid should have come [to informant] but instead it went to other provinces, like Choiseul or Vella because people had wantok in these other provinces (Titiana, male, 31) when aid came in a Ranonga man had the power to distribute this aid in Ghizo and Ranonga, but this man diverted aid to Ranonga (Pailongge, male, 41)

32 Wantok system s influence on recovery: EXAMPLES Regional (Provincial gov.) level: BUT. Pailongge also at an advantage in certain instances; Titiana more vulnerable Relative to Titiana, Pailongge received more aid from Provincial (local) government member if you don t vote for the winning candidate, you must wait until their term is over to receive help (female, 49)

33 Wantok system s influence on recovery: EXAMPLES NGO level: both T and P vulnerable; P also had advantages Oxfam hired local Melanesians who looked for frens : the Solomon Islanders that worked for Oxfam engaged in wantok bisnis (Titiana, male, 43) Whatever help comes in the local staff of NGOs will help their own wantok (Pailongge, male, 46) Negatively affected Micronesians and Melanesians, BUT only Melanesians also benefitted Oxfam office in Honiara [House built by Oxfam, Pailongge]

34 Village Level Material and non-material help Created: Advantages & disadvantages Vulnerability & resilience Context-specific Wantok favoritism at every organizational scale

35 3. Social marginalization: The role of immigrant (minority) status we are Solomon Islanders, yet still they treat us different always second grade It s Melanesian culture for Melanesians to help their wantok. The wantok system is part of their lives. Yes, because we are Kiribati our recovery was different. The wantok system is part of the way of Solomon Islanders. Because Kiribati people are not part of the wantok of the Solomon Islanders our recovery was different.

36 Conclusion Social factors (The SIG, wantok system, and immigrant/minority status) shaped differential recovery Pailongge vulnerable but also resilient Titiana overall more vulnerable Importance of understanding cultural context in which you are working not just for anthropologists

37 Implications Applied dimensions Conceptual contributions, esp. attention to scale Understanding the shifting articulation of the wantok system, scale, vulnerability, and resilience has implications for the future vulnerability and resiliency of Melanesian societies

38 Future Directions Questions of scale Spatial and organizational Temporal

39 Acknowledgements Kerita Teiona Laxton, Pia Qavoso, and everyone the Solomons that made this research possible in so many ways Tangio tumas! Kampesinrapa!

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