Alchemy in the Rain Forest

Alchemy in the Rain Forest : Politics, Ecology, and Resilience in a New Guinea Mining Area

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In Alchemy in the Rain Forest Jerry K. Jacka explores how the indigenous population of Papua New Guinea's highlands struggle to create meaningful lives in the midst of extreme social conflict and environmental degradation. Drawing on theories of political ecology, place, and ontology and using ethnographic, environmental, and historical data, Jacka presents a multilayered examination of the impacts large-scale commercial gold mining in the region has had on ecology and social relations. Despite the deadly interclan violence and widespread pollution brought on by mining, the uneven distribution of its financial benefits has led many Porgerans to call for further development. This desire for increased mining, Jacka points out, counters popular portrayals of indigenous people as innate conservationists who defend the environment from international neoliberal development. Jacka's examination of the ways Porgerans search for common ground between capitalist and indigenous ways of knowing and being points to the complexity and interconnectedness of land, indigenous knowledge, and the global economy in Porgera and beyond.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 296 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 15.24mm | 431g
  • North Carolina, United States
  • English
  • 082236011X
  • 9780822360117
  • 852,047

Table of contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I. The Making of a Resource Frontier 21

1. Resource Frontiers in the Montane Tropics 25

2. Colonialism, Mining, and Missionization 49

Part II. Indigenous Philosophies of Nature, Culture, and Place 77

3. Land: Yu 81

4. People: Wandakali 105

5. Spirits: Yama 129

Part III. Social-Ecological Perturbations and Human Responses 157

6. Ecological Perturbations and Human Responses 157

7. Social Dislocations: Work, Antiwork, and Highway Life 199

Conclusion: Development, Resilience, and the End of the Land 229

Notes 241

References 249

Index 269
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Review quote

"Jacka provides a multifaceted examination of gold mining in Papua New Guinea and its social and cultural impacts during the second half of the twentieth century. While highlighting the important conflicts and tensions, the author firmly resists the temptation to embark on a morality tale of evil multinationals dispossessing people of their land and culture. On the contrary, he offers nuanced analysis based on both field-work interviews and historical archives." -- Jose Ramon Bertomeu Sanchez * Ambix * "[Alchemy in the Rain Forest] is an important contribution to environmental anthropology and political ecology. Jacka ultimately argues that the mine's promises of development are as illusive as the alchemists' quest for gold. What is unique about the book is not that ultimate assessment, but its exploration of the ways in which people who bear the greatest social and environmental harms of large-scale mining understand and navigate those changes." -- Jessica M. Smith * Journal of Anthropological Research * "In sum, this book is a valuable addition to the specialist literature on mining and social change in Melanesia, but also written in a clear style that will be of great use in the classroom. I recommend Jacka's accessible, straightforward ethnography to all readers." -- Alex Golub * Anthropology Book Forum *
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About Jerry K. Jacka

Jerry K. Jacka is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
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