Invisible cities? Urban issues in Oceania

  • Dorothée Dussy CNRS/Centre Norbert Elias, Marseille, France
  • Eric Wittersheim IRIS - EHESS, Paris, France


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.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Dorothée Dussy, CNRS/Centre Norbert Elias, Marseille, France

Dorothée Dussy is Directrice de Recherches at CNRS – Centre Norbert Elias, Marseille. Through various fieldwork and several books, Dorothée Dussy works on the gap between rhetoric and actual social practices. She initially investigated the urban world, in Noumea (New Caledonia). She showed how Kanak people were excluded from the colonial city project, and how they conquered a right to be, by building informal housing districts on spaces fallow, surfing the wave of political agreements along the process of self-determination to independence (Nouméa, ville océanienne?, 2012). In a second main survey, in anthropology of the family, she has tried to describe the functioning of incest situations and their staggering banality (Le berceau des dominations. Anthropologie de l’inceste 1, 2013). In a new project, she explores the human-animal relationships by focusing on the disappearance of bees.

Eric Wittersheim, IRIS - EHESS, Paris, France

Eric Wittersheim is maître de conférences at EHSS and director of IRIS (Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Enjeux Sociaux). His main research interests concern state-building, elections and political transformations in postcolonial Melanesia (New Caledonia and Vanuatu). Through several books (La Présence kanak, de Jean-Marie Tjibaou, ed. with Alban Bensa, 1996; Après l’indépendance. Le Vanuatu une démocratie dans le Pacifique, 2006 ; Des Sociétés dans l’Etat. Anthropologie et situations postcoloniales en Mélanésie, 2006) and prize-winning documentaries (Grassroots, Those who Vote, 2003 ; The Poet’s Salary, 2009) he tries to show a contemporary Oceania, far from essentialistic views. He has also conducted research, in France on neo-ruralism and football supporters (Supporters du PSG. Une enquête dans les tribunes populaires du Parc des Princes, 2014).

How to Cite
Dussy, Dorothée, and Eric Wittersheim. 2016. “Invisible Cities? Urban Issues in Oceania”. Anuac 5 (1), 245-67.