Reconciling Kastom and Modernity in Contemporary Vanuatu
Mahit, L. G. L. (2016). Reconciling Kastom and Modernity in Contemporary Vanuatu (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10740
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10740
Drawing on fieldwork data and relevant anthropological literature, this thesis examines how potential tensions between the categories of modernity and kastom are reconciled in contemporary Vanuatu. Following an outline of how the category of kastom emerged through colonial encounters, the contemporary ‘mix’ between the indigenous and non-indigenous categories is considered. This research further considers the breakdown of an ‘indigenous/exogenous’, ‘old/new’, or ‘past/present’ dichotomy, and shows how the juxtaposition of these concepts offers a new way of understanding the world - not necessarily in opposition, but not always in agreement. The analysis is presented in four stages. First is the use of kastom in Vanuatu’s governance systems, highlighting its origin in traditional leadership systems, to its repression in the colonial Condominium era, followed by its integration into the new state at independence (Lini, 1980). Second is the investigation of the use of kastom today, highlighting the ‘wrong’ and ‘unacceptable’ ‘mixing’ in Port Vila. This leads to the third, involving a demonstration of a sort of ‘mixing’ of indigenous and non-indigenous practices in parliamentary politics. The case study of MP Ralph Regenvanu and his recent land reform package is presented and discussed in terms of ‘indigenous cosmopolitanism’ (Goodale 2006), and as an exemplar of a ‘Janus-faced’ approach to modernity in Vanuatu (Taylor 2010). In the Conclusion, the research is considered in relation to the analysis of kastom by White (1993) and Lindstrom (1992) to show the multiple ways in which kastom can be tied together with things ‘not-kastom’ in contemporary Vanuatu.
University of Waikato
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- Masters Degree Theses