Bougainville Before The Conflict by Anthony Regan, Helga Griffin

By Anthony Regan, Helga Griffin

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The airfall ash deposits from the eruption of Billy Mitchell 950 years ago covered most of the northern half of the island of Bougainville to depths between 10 and 60 centimetres and those from the later eruption affected the centre–north of the island with depths of 10 to 40 centimetres being deposited over a smaller area. In addition a pyroclastic flow from this later eruption covers an area of some 300 square kilometres east from Billy Mitchell to the coast. Even at the coast some 20 kilometres from the source this flow is still some tens of metres thick.

All of the chapters in the fourth group concentrate, in one way or another, on the ways in which particular Bougainvillean societies have responded to change. The essays by Togolo, Tanis and Regan also address this aspect of development. Introduction xxxiii In particular, Togolo examines the impacts of change through the perspective of the history of his own resilient Torau community while Sagir writes of the ‘staying power’ and adaptability of Haku ‘chiefs’. Kenneth adds a perspective on the impacts of economic change on land and on the roles of women of rank in Haku, and reveals hidden dangers in an inherited system of ranked positions that is governed by oral tradition.

The creation of a shared identity for Bougainvilleans is probably in part related to their efforts Introduction xxxvii to manage the impacts of the outside world. But at the same time, long-held identities within Bougainville remain, and there is a strong emphasis on a return to kastomary ways and traditional authority. We are at least confident that the contributions to this book shed light on the questions arising from the conflict and the remarkable processes that led to the building of peace and actual reconciliation.

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