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    Social Stratification, Cultural Identities, and Politics of Leadership: The Consolidation of a National Culture at a Papua New Guinean University

    Soren Syndicus, Ivo (2018) Social Stratification, Cultural Identities, and Politics of Leadership: The Consolidation of a National Culture at a Papua New Guinean University. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This thesis explores how students and staff at a university in Papua New Guinea (PNG) experience processes of social stratification and differentiation. In particular, I describe and analyse how students and staff reflect on and enact reciprocal obligations to their kin, how different cultural identities are forged and strengthened at university, and how contemporary politics of leadership become manifest in student strikes. The thesis draws on eighteen months of fieldwork, centred at the University of Goroka in the PNG highlands, including stints at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, and visits to homes of students and staff in different provinces of the country. Archival research was also conducted in the Pacific Research Archives at the Australian National University and the Tuzin Archive for Melanesian Anthropology at the University of California San Diego. Through participant observation, life histories, interviews, and discourse analysis, in this thesis I explore how subjectivities shape and are shaped through experiences of social stratification and differentiation inherent to higher education, institutional politics and contests over styles of leadership, and how they link to broader aspects of a consolidating national culture in PNG today. Following introductory chapters that situate the thesis within concerns of regional anthropological scholarship and contextualise the history of higher education in PNG generally, and in Goroka in particular, ethnographic chapters are organised in two sections. The first section starts with the introduction of a number of life histories of students and staff at the university. I subsequently analyse the reflections and experiences of interlocutors through two different lenses. I first foreground putatively different sensibilities surrounding reciprocity and exchange across the PNG highlands, and then shift focus to analyse these articulations as emergent normative reifications of distinct cultural identities. The second ethnographic section provides a detailed account of a student strike, which I also analyse from two distinct vantage points. First, I focus on the strike as a deliberate harnessing of dynamics of emergent collectivities at the hand of strike leaders to advance their own political ambitions. In a second step, I foreground the perceived lack of recognition of students within the institutional hierarchy of the university, which from the perspective of students leaves few alternatives to the strike for making their grievances heard. In both ethnographic sections I thus follow a specific structure and analytical strategy of first foregrounding one angle of analysis that I subsequently seem to undermine through another angle of analysis. Through this analytical strategy, I wish to present these perspectives as complementary rather than mutually exclusive frames of understanding, as which they often tend to become mobilised in public debate. I thus enact an analytical strategy that mimics the reality of appropriate relating to kin and in institutional hierarchies that is the subject of this thesis: what are appropriate forms of action and relating depends on the perspective through which these are presented or enacted, yet these perspectives, in turn, are subject to challenge and negotiation through the ways specific actions are framed.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Social Stratification; Cultural Identities; Politics of Leadership; Consolidation; National Culture; Papua New Guinean University;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Anthropology
    Item ID: 11011
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2019 10:36
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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