The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Comparative Ethnographic Studies on Conflicts in Post-independence Oceania

Joint Research Coordinator NIWA Norio

Reserch Theme List


conflict, violence, Oceania

Major Objectives (Extract of Application 5-1 Objectives)

Since the end of the Cold War, ethnic conflicts have been increasing in the Third World. Recent years have seen a change in the appearance of a new type of conflict, namely, the low-intensity conflict. At the same time, in the broad sense anthropological research concerning conflicts has increased along with interest in such applied research, as scholars attempt to construct theories and analyze examples from new perspectives, such as human security and peace-building. This research intends, based on such theoretical research, to compare ethnographic research on conflicts from the standpoint of regional research on Oceania. In particular, where Oceania is concerned, following a period of political stability in the wake of the political struggle of the colonial period, since the second half of the 1990s, we have witnessed the eruption of various political problems, escalating from violence and ethnic conflict to the level of coup d’états. Research has been inadequate concerning how to understand the various problems related to political instability in Oceania, indeed even how to describe and analyze the problems from an integrated standpoint. In this research, we take these various problems as conflicts in the broad sense, and consider the conflicts and their management as well as the restoration of normal conditions in the manner of comparative ethnographic investigation to review from a comprehensive standpoint. At the same time our objective will also be to devise new ethnographic proposals concerning conflict that will incorporate the viewpoint of the relationship between the describing side and the society being described.

Research Results

During the 42-month life of this project, 11 meetings were held at which 20 individuals made presentations.

Project results included the publication by the Showado of Niwa Norio and Ishimori Daichi (eds.), GendaiOseania no “funsō”—Datsu-shokuminchikiikōno fuiirudokara [Conflict in Contemporary Oceania from the Postcolonial Field]. With contributions from six project members and three additional authors, this book examines from the post-independence historical perspective the kinds of political conflicts that have arisen in contemporary Oceania.

Other results include a workshop and a symposium. The former was the regional research consortium workshop entitled “Interregional comparative study of contemporary conflict—case studies from Africa and Oceania” organized by Fujii Shinichi and held at Minpaku on December 9, 2012. By comparing conflict in Oceania with that in Africa, the region on which most conflict research had focused, this workshop provided much guidance for future research. An international symposium, entitled “Cargo Cults and Contemporary Conflicts in Pacific Societies: Seeking a Path of Coexistence in the Age of Globalization,” was organized by the research project coordinator and held at Minpaku on January 26, 2013. Top-ranking researchers from overseas were invited to participate in a discussion of continuities and differences between contemporary conflicts and religious social movements that arose during the colonial era. This symposium made clear the fundamental role of hopes and feelings as a perspective in linking these two social phenomena, as well as the importance of gender differences in their analysis.