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Indigenous responses to colonialism in an island state: a geopolitical ecology of Kanaky-New Caledonia

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Abstract

In this chapter we relate New Caledonia's geopolitical history to key themes in political ecology. This small island territory exemplifies many of the problems experienced by the world's few decolonized states. Recent referendum results on independence from France conceal a geopolitical ecology of struggle going back to the mid 1800s, one that led to the slow reorientation of a mineral rich colonial island territory towards devolution of political power, but not yet to independence. The colonial period led to land dispossession, forced labour and genocides imposed on indigenous Kanak clans. But the lesson for political ecologists is not the usual one of oppressive colonial regimes discriminating against an indigenous minority, with capitalist firms overriding indigenous territory and culture and pillaging natural resources. This happened in abundance in the past, but today it has been possible for an indigenous Kanak minority to turn natural resource wealth some way to its own advantage. Nowhere else in the world does an indigenous group, working through its provincial government and a shell company called SMSP, control the majority shares in a mining enterprise on the scale of Koniambo. There are tensions between the local negative effects of mining, indigenous participation in global capitalist commodity chains, and geopolitical struggles to reclaim and celebrate indigenous identity.