Invisible cities? Urban issues in Oceania

Dorothée Dussy, Eric Wittersheim


Why have cities stayed for so long an invisible object for the anthropology of Oceania? What is it to be an urban Pacific islander? What are the fields of interest of the anthropologists working in urban Oceania? Drawing on a review of urban research lead during the last decades in the Pacific archipelagos, this article aims at unfolding these different questions. We will evoke how anthropologists’ attraction for the authentic, the rural world and small indigenous communities have for long prevented any close look at the contemporary urban world. Urban cities are recent and have been created by colonisation; they are made of various populations of migrants whose trajectories have been molded by colonisation and globalization. The study of these recent cities associate various issues such as creolization, informal economy, periurbanisation, circular migration, relations between expatriates and indigenous people, and contemporary uses of tradition or “custom”. Eventually, the paper concludes with the will to claim the right for the anthropology of urban Oceania to find its place among the discipline, among the vast collection of studies evoking the rural and so-called traditional worlds of the region.

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