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Vanua as Environment: Conservation, Farming, and Development in Waitabu, Fiji

Lin, Hao-Li (2015) Vanua as Environment: Conservation, Farming, and Development in Waitabu, Fiji. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the idea of “environment” in Waitabu, an indigenous Fijian community on Taveuni Island, and how it influences the community’s participation in contemporary development projects. My main argument is that vanua (a Fijian concept often translated as “land” but which also encompasses people, community, and custom) is an important framework through which the community negotiates social and biological changes through time. In other words, it is an “environment” in its totality. I also argue that contrary to common understanding, vanua is a dynamic entity shaped by historical events rather than a set of rigid customary protocols, thus creating different trajectories of engagement with development projects. Two particular cases are analyzed here: 1) the “Waitabu Marine Park” conservation and ecotourism project; 2) the grassroots cash-cropping schemes and subsistence farming in the village.

This study treats vanua as an “entangled environment” that involves historical configurations of indigenous identities and politics, as well as foreign contacts and colonial governance. This historical perspective allows for a more holistic and dynamic view of how rural development projects operate in seemingly simplistic and isolated places today. As projects introduce new ways to manage natural resources, the historical and cultural connotations of the environment are being evoked and realigned in response to these engagements. For example, for Waitabu villagers, the marine park is seen as not just a conservation project, but a way to recapture their marginalized identity. In the grassroots cash-cropping schemes, vanua plays a crucial role in keeping the community together in the face of challenges from globalization, while individual farmers are able to pursue their own export business opportunities.

With a focus on vanua as an environmental framework, this dissertation links anthropological theories of environment with the emergent literature of “entanglement.” The “environment” is seen as an open-ended site where interactions between different ideas and agencies are constantly taking place. While many studies highlight the dimensions of conflict and collision, here I argue that different values and events have long been intertwined in an “entangled environment” that provides the capacity for flexible arrangements and negotiations in response to contemporary development issues.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lin, Hao-Lihal25@pitt.eduHAL25
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairScaglion, Richardscaglion@pitt.eduSCAGLION
Committee CoChairStrathern, Andrewstrather@pitt.eduSTRATHER
Committee MemberMusante, Kathleenkmdewalt@pitt.eduKMDEWALT
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Date: 5 October 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 March 2015
Approval Date: 5 October 2015
Submission Date: 7 July 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 348
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fiji, Conservation, Agriculture, Development
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2015 20:08
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:29


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