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Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands

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Volume 6

ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology

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Engaging with Strangers

Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands

Debra McDougall

308 pages, 24 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-020-9 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (January 2016)

ISBN  978-1-78920-761-3 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (February 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78533-021-6 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“…a remarkable contribution to Solomon Islands studies. The book is significant for furthering our understanding on issues of ethnicity, hospitality, land tenure, conflict and conflict management… I find the personal experiences of the author throughout the book captivating, and helpfully illustrative when discussing complex themes. The accessibility of McDougall’s prose makes for an easy read, especially for non-native speakers of English. A book of this quality is a valuable addition to the historical and anthropological narrative of a country so small yet so complex in its socio-cultural, political and economic composition.” • The Journal of Pacific History

“McDougall’s ethnography is thoughtful and composed in relatively accessible prose. It presents a useful example of a broader problem in the postcolonial Pacific, not to mention, the wider developing world, which one can see as a kind of double alienation, one that is constituted in terms of both indigenous and modern estrangements.” • Pacific Affairs

“Clearly the argument put forward in Engaging with Strangers has relevance well beyond Solomon Islands or even the Pacific Islands. While it is sure to take its place in the canon of must-read works for Solomon Islands studies it also deserves attention in the widest circles of anthropology and indigenous studies.” • Anthropological Forum

“A thoughtful study of the tradition of migration, mixing, and encountering ‘the other’ on one’s shores—and of being ‘the other’ on someone else’s shores—offers a salutary critique of ‘tribalism’ and ‘descent groups’ in Oceania and a message of empathy for peoples around the world today who are pressed to welcome others or to seek welcome from others.” • Anthropology Review Database

"Renowned social anthropologist Debra McDougall’s magnificent new book brings to the fore of contemporary Austronesian studies renewed attention on strangers and hospitality, with incisive analysis and ethnographic breadth ... I highly recommend this well-argued text full of historical insight and ethnographic exegesis with focus on kinship, land, Christianity, post-colonialism and migration, and cannot stress its importance too highly." • Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale

"A remarkably rich, insightful, and vital ethnography that deserves to be widely read and discussed, including especially by scholars of religion." • Religious Studies Review

"Using a combination of rich ethnography collected over 15 years of fieldwork on the island of Ranongga, Western Province Solomon Islands, McDougall beautifully illustrates the ways Ranongan hospitality specifically, and Solomon Islander hospitality more generally, serves to transform strangers and newcomers (missionaries, international logging companies, migrant labourers etc.) into kin and community."The Australian Journal of Anthropology

"This is more than just a fine contribution to the growing literature on the predicament of place making and relationships in the Solomon Islands. Since McDougall does not take intimate knowledge of the region for granted and also writes in a delightfully unpretentious style, keeping jargon to a minimum, the book invites a readership far beyond Pacific specialists." American Ethnologist

“In this compelling and often entrancing ethnography, McDougall analyzes what she calls ‘stranger sociality’–that is, how the people of Ranongga, Solomon Islands have embraced and incorporated outsiders over the course of 200 years.” • Holly Wardlow, University of Toronto

“An excellent book. Its high quality is multifaceted, and it will be of great interest to a number of important audiences, most obviously anthropologists, historians, natural resources specialists, government policy-makers, NGO planners, and, importantly, Solomon Islanders… To my mind, this is the best ethnography to come out of the Western Solomons in a good long while.” • David Akin, managing editor of Comparative Studies in Society and History


The civil conflict in Solomon Islands (1998-2003) is often blamed on the failure of the nation-state to encompass culturally diverse and politically fragmented communities. Writing of Ranongga Island, the author tracks engagements with strangers across many realms of life—pre-colonial warfare, Christian conversion, logging and conservation, even post-conflict state building. She describes startling reversals in which strangers become attached to local places, even as kinspeople are estranged from one another and from their homes. Against stereotypes of rural insularity, she argues that a distinctive cosmopolitan openness to others is evident in the rural Solomons in times of war and peace.

Debra McDougall is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Melbourne. She co-edited Christian Politics in Oceania with Matt Tomlinson (Berghahn, 2013) and has published chapters and articles on religion, politics, and sociality.

Subject: Anthropology (General) Peace and Conflict Studies
Area: Asia-Pacific


List of Illustrations
Notes on Language, Orthography, and Names

Introduction: On Being a Stranger in a Hospitable Land

Chapter 1. Ethnicity, Insularity, and Hospitality
Chapter 2. Ranongga’s Shifting Ground
Chapter 3. Incorporating others in violent times
Chapter 4. Bringing the Gospel Ashore
Chapter 5. No love? Dilemmas of Possession
Chapter 6. Estranging Kin: Contests over Tribal Ownership
Chapter 7. Losing passports: Mobility, Urbanization, Ethnicity

Conclusion: Amity and Enmity in an Unreliable State


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