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Stranger in one's own home: Kanak people's engagements with a multinational nickel mining project in New Caledonia

CollectionsANU Resources, Environment & Development Group (RE&D)
Title: Stranger in one's own home: Kanak people's engagements with a multinational nickel mining project in New Caledonia
Author(s): Horowitz, Leah
Keywords: land
Kanak people
New Caledonia
nickel mining
natural resources
ecological pollution
ancestral spirits
economic development
customary landowner
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP), Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School for Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP) Working Paper: No. 30
More than perhaps any other form of economic development, large-scale industrial resource extraction activities clearly threaten to turn customary landowners into ‘strangers’ on their own lands by acquiring rights to the natural resources that the lands contain and radically altering the surrounding environment. However, local communities are neither homogenous entities nor helpless, static victims of powerful manifestations of global capitalism. In this paper, I discuss my research in a few New Caledonian villages near a potential mining project. I analyze the diversity of individuals’ responses to industrial activities, the intra-community conflicts that this development triggers, and local people’s sources of power in relation to mobilizers of global capital. I argue that, through their interactions with the mining company, what many if not most of these villagers primarily seek is respect of their social positions and control of their own destinies. They especially aspire to determine what happens to their land, the source of their identity and dignity – the only place where they feel completely ‘at home’.


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