Abstract: In this talk, I examine the interaction of multinational resource extraction, intergroup violence related to resource entitlements, and migrations to mitigate El Niño-caused droughts and frosts on people in the west-central highlands of Papua New Guinea. Despite 25 years of mining development in the Porgera valley resulting in severe ecological degradation and massive social dislocation, the uneven distribution of its financial benefits has led many in the region to call for further development. The lack of such hoped-for development has led to internecine conflicts between the haves and have-nots in Porgeran society with large tracts of land rendered uninhabitable and with the potential for an early closure of the Porgera mine. Within a regional, customary system of climate disaster mitigation, Porgera has long served as a refuge when El Niño-caused droughts and frosts destroy the subsistence gardens of their immediate high-altitude neighbors. In 2015 and 2016, however, these migrations did not eventuate due to past resource conflicts and changes in access to social and natural resources in the Porgera valley. This case study provides alternative perspectives to “violent environments” in which the state or multinational corporation often plays a central role and to “accumulation by dispossession” in that it is the local actors who dispossess themselves of the livelihoods and social networks they so strongly desire.
Bio: Jerry Jacka is an assistant professor in anthropology at the University of Colorado Boulder and a faculty associate in the Environment and Society Program in the Institute of Behavioral Science (CU Boulder). His research examines the political ecology of land use and land cover change, resilience and complexity in natural resource management, indigenous knowledge and culture change, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Jerry has a 2015 book, Alchemy in the Rain Forest: Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area (Duke University Press) and is a co-editor of Island Rivers: Freshwater and Place in Oceania (Australian National University Press, in press). He is also on the editorial board of the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research.