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Islands on the edge ? Investigating the geographical underpinnings of crisis discourse

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Item Summary

Title: Islands on the edge ? Investigating the geographical underpinnings of crisis discourse
Authors: Dixon, Susan Lois
Keywords: crisis discourse
geopolitical theory
Issue Date: Dec 2010
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2010]
Abstract: The perception of a peaceful Pacific has changed to that of a region in trouble.
Oceania finds itself once again in the "colonial present" (Gregory 2004). This dissertation utilizes critical geopolitical theory to map crisis discourse and its effects in the contemporary southwest Pacific. Through the recent conflict in Solomon Islands and subsequent Australian-led military intervention, I ask how geographical discourse constitutes crises and leads to outside intervention. My research methods include historical geography, document analysis, and interviews in Australia and Solomon Islands.
I trace subordinating assumptions embedded in conventional geopolitical theory to see how 19th century European views of Melanesia underpin contemporary crisis discourse. I find the 1990s Solomon Islands' conflict framed as "ethnic violence" occurring in a "Pacific arc of instability." Next, Solomon Islands became a "failed state" posing a regional security threat. In 2003, Australia initiated an intervention to "stabilize" the Solomons.
Conventional geographical discourse views crises in state-centric and Eurocentric terms. Unruly spaces need management and intervention. Spatial practices of Othering and scripts of danger position the Other as a threat to modernity and our western way of life. Critical geopolitical theory sees the postcolonial state brokering natural resources to address debt and "development" in ways that clash with the values and needs of many Solomon Islanders. Through the latter lens, I find the causes of Solomon Islands' distress not simply internal or "ethnic," but tied to the "development" imperatives inhering in the postcolonial state.
My fieldwork findings from Australia and Solomon Islands illuminate the intentions and the reception of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The intervention has a neoliberal agenda and continues earlier subordinating, paternalistic attitudes toward Melanesian countries. The intervention itself contains many contradictions in terms of legitimacy by force. Many Solomon Islanders view Australia, through RAMSI, as readopting a pacifying role within a civilizing mission. Discourses of neoliberalism and the global war on terror have justified preemptive intervention in countries such as Iraq and Solomon Islands. Critical geopolitical theory offers an alternative standpoint from which we might escape the unproductive cycle of crisis discourse and military interventions.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Geography

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