Monday, June 30, 2008

State of PNG's Forests

The rate and extent of deforestation in Papua New Guinea has recently been highlighted through the work of scientists at the University of Papua New Guinea's Remote Sensing Center and Australian National University in a recent report (Shearman et. al. 2008) and further reported on in several news articles (see listing below which has been compiled by Robin Hide). The topic of deforestation and the role of forests is also highlighted in the recent issue ofScience (13 June 2008).

The first detailed assessment of PNG's forests, the report is an informed summary of the state of PNG forests and usefully places them in a global perspective. The report reminds us that PNG possess the sixth most extensive
mangrove forest in the world and the island of New Guinea possess the 'largest area of semi-contiguous
mangroves in the world' (Sherman et. al. 2008: 21). However as many reader's know PNG's forests are under extensive pressure by industrial logging (both legal and illegal) and agricultural projects (oil palm, etc.). Though the report relates news such that almost 60 percent of the forests of eastern islands are accessible to logging and that by 2002, 63 percent had been logged or degraded, the report also relates that 70 percent of PNG
is still forested (counting intact and re-growing forests). The highlight of the report, and what the media has picked up on, is how Sherman et. al. have utilised satellite imagery to
document the extent of transformations in PNG's forests.

Reactions to the report can be found on Science in the Public website. Colin Filer (Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program in RSPAS at ANU), who has for a long time now written about issues around PNG's forests and logging industry, notes the author's unfortunate conflation of deforestation and degradation lead the authors to erronously conclude that ' "half of PNG’s forests will be gone within 13 years". This is a gross exaggeration which might serve some rhetorical or political purpose, but anyone who flies around PNG on a regular basis and can be bothered to look out of an aircraft window must seriously wonder how this change could actually come about.'

Shearman, P.L., Bryan, J.E., Ash, J., Hunnam, P., Mackey, B., Lokes, B. (2008).
The State of the Forests of Papua New Guinea: Mapping the extent and condition
of forest cover and measuring the drivers of forest change in the period 1972-2002
University of Papua New Guinea.

Forest area near Milne Bay in 1990, top,
and 2005.
(University of Papua New Guinea; Image appears in the New York Times 3 June 2008).

Friday, June 27, 2008

NEW WEBSITE: The Melanesian

The Melanesian is an editorial news site committed committed to a serious engagement
with issues affecting
peoples living in Melanesia. These issues may include, but are not
limited to: the environment(mining, petroleum,
logging, etc); health (HIV/AIDS, etc);
(corruption and the criminalisation of the state, NGOs and civil society
movements etc); rule of law and human
rights; and issues of sovereignty (Free West
Campaign, etc).

The site, co-founded by Andrew Moutu and Justin Shaffner, is newly created and still
undergoing construction. The
editorial board will expand to include a diversity of
expertise and experiences.

Please visit
The Melanesian at to air views and circulate your
insights. If there are ways you would want to have this site developed, please let us

Monday, June 23, 2008

RESEARCH NOTES: Landowners at Marengo and Ramu Nickel (Dr. Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi)

On 14 July 2008 at the National Research Institute (Port Moresby)
at 10:00 a.m. Dr. Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi (former MIG chair) will
be discussing her recent work at the Marengo mining prospect
95 kilometres south west of Madang) and how landowners there are
connected to landowners at Ramu Nickel (mostly one and the same!).
Both the Marengo and Ramu Nickel prospects are in the Gende people's
home territory in southern Madang Province. Laura has carried out most
of her ethnographic research with the Gende since 1982, her focus
being social and political aspects of economic change (or not) and
the Gende's long involvement with the global economy. Since Laura
has just completed a large survey/census in a number of Gende villages,
her "talk" will be more discussion than formal presentation. Laura is
a research affiliate with both the National Research Institute and
Bryn Mawr College. Her most recent publication is "Its not about women only"
in Pulling the Right Threads (edited by Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi and
Jeanette Dickerson-Putman).

Laura will send an update after she discusses her research at NRI

For further information see:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

CONTRIBUTIONS SOUGHT: Austronesian Soundscapes - Performing Arts in Oceania and Southeast Asia

Call for contributions to an edited volume

To be published as volume no. 4 in the IIAS book series, University of
Amsterdam Press. Estimated publication: summer 2009. Editor: Birgit Abels,
International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, Netherlands. Series
editors: Max Sparreboom & Paul van der Velde.

Austronesia (the area where Austronesian languages are spoken) stretches
over a large and mainly oceanic area: from Madagascar in the west, to
Easter Island in the east. Customarily, Austronesia is roughly divided into
Formosa/Taiwan, the Malay Archipelago, and the Pacific islands of
Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. The music of some Austronesian areas
has yet to be described and analyzed in publication. This is particularly
lamentable given the value (beyond musicological contribution) a study of
local and regional music, grounded in cultural theory, could have. Some
parts of the region have aptly been described as "laboratories of social
and cultural change," and music plays a decisive role in both the expression
and construction of identities, i.e., with regard to key factors driving
social and cultural transitions.

"Austronesian Soundscapes. Performing Arts in Oceania and Southeast Asia"
seeks to combine analyses of Austronesian music in a single, edited
volume. To that end, the editor is calling for papers focusing on specific areas
of Austronesia, describing and explaining performing arts in their cultural
context(s) and transcending disciplinary frontiers within the humanities
and social sciences. The articles should present studies of individual
cultures through the "lens" that music offers.

The volume will collate the material and will draw together contemporary
cultural studies and musical analyses. "Austronesian Soundscapes. Performing
Arts in Oceania and Southeast Asia" aims to fill an important research gap,
and to demonstrate, at a methodological level, how these two disciplines,
cultural studies and music studies, can strengthen, complement and enrich
each other; how a cultural study of music (rather than an "ethnomusicology"
or a "comparative musicology") such as this, can create new vistas for
understanding the challenges faced by Austronesian cultures in a globalized

The editor encourages contributions which devote rigorous analytical
attention to traditional musical styles, and also to emergent popular music
and styles. Music is fundamental to the organization of society, and vice
versa. It is central to the generation of meaning; yet at the same time,
sound already carries meaning. Because of this subtle and complex
relationship, the musical analyses should be deployed to leverage a deeper
understanding of the cultural contexts that bring the music about. How do
the culture carriers themselves conceptualize the meaning that is
expressed and renewed through their music-making? The articles should
not ask Gayatri Spivak's groundbreaking question of the late 1980s -
Can the subaltern speak? They should ask instead, how it speaks
through music?

Please submit your abstract (300–400 words) and a short bio electronically
as a Word file e-mail attachment by August 15, 2008, to Birgit Abels,
International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), at
austronesiansoundscapes*@* (please remove the asterisks before
and after the "@"). You are invited to consult with Birgit before developing
your research article, and early notification of interest would be greatly
appreciated. Final submissions should be 5,000–8,000 words in length and
are due by January 31, 2009.

Dr. Birgit Abels
International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)
Postbus 9515
2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CALL FOR PAPERS: Directions in Oceanic Research (DOR)

Call for Papers Directions in Oceanic Research (DOR)

Call Deadline: Friday 15 August 2008
Dates: 9-11 December 2008
Location: University of Newcastle, Central Coast Campus,
New South Wales
Contact: Bill Palmer
Meeting email:
Meeting website:

Meeting Description:

In recent years research attention in linguistics has to some extent
moved away from Oceanic languages, towards eastern Indonesia and Formosa
in Austronesian, and towards Papuan. While these are significant areas
for research, this trend raises questions about the extent to which
Oceanic languages retain continuing significance for wider linguistic

This conference explores the place of Oceanic language research in the
wider agenda of linguistics by focusing on two themes. One is concerned
with aspects of Oceanic, from broad issues in Oceanic grammar to
specific phenomena in individual languages, that hold continuing
significance in informing a wider understanding of language. The second
theme relates to the interaction and integration of successive layers of
linguistic research in investigating Oceanic, particularly the core
layers of documentation, description, typology and formal theory.

The interaction and successful integration of these layers is crucial to
linguistics’ core research agenda of modelling the language faculty.
Modelling language is the function of formal theory, but to successfully
do so, formal theory depends on thorough descriptions of individual
languages and broadly based typologies of phenomena to model. Typology
in turn also depends on detailed descriptions, while descriptive
linguistics depends on adequate documentation. These four successive
layers of research activity are interdependent and each essential to the
overall research program. This conference explores the interaction and
integration of multiple layers in investigating Oceanic.

To address these themes the conference brings together key scholars
representing each of these core layers of research within Oceanic.

The conference will be hosted by the newly-formed Pacific Languages
Research Group at the University of Newcastle (Australia). It will be
held at the Central Coast Campus of the University of Newcastle, in
Ourimbah, New South Wales.

Invited speakers:
Frantisek Lichtenberk (Auckland) Description
Diane Massam (Toronto) Formal theory
Claire Moyse-Faurie (LACITO-CNRS, Paris) Typology
Nick Thieberger (Hawai’i) Documentation
René van den Berg (SIL PNG) Integrating research

Call for papers:
Abstracts are invited for 30 minute talks (20 minute presentations + 10
minute discussion) on any topic relating to Oceanic, in the following
overlapping areas:

• The interaction and integration of multiple layers of linguistic
research in the field of Oceanic languages.
• Aspects of Oceanic languages with continuing wider significance.

We welcome papers in one or more of the following areas, particularly
those integrating more than one area:

• documentation;
• description;
• typology;
• formal theory.

We also welcome papers relating to the wider significance of Oceanic in
other subdisciplines, including:

• language change;
• language and prehistory;
• language, culture and cognition;
• anthropological linguistics;
• language endangerment;
• language maintenance;
• language acquisition.

Abstracts should not exceed one A4 page with a 2.5cm margin on each side
and in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, with one additional page for data
and references. IPA data should use Doulos SIL font if possible.

Abstracts should be submitted in two versions. One version should be in
Word, consisting of the title, followed on separate lines by the
author(s) name(s), affiliation(s), and email contacts. The second
version should be fully anonymized, and submitted preferably as a pdf,
or in Word.

All abstracts should be sent as email attachments to Submission deadline is Friday 15


Registration details will be announced in due course. Registration will
be A$100, or A$50 for students/unwaged.

Dr Bill Palmer
Pacific Languages Research Group
School of Humanities and Social Science
University of Newcastle
Central Coast Campus
Chittaway Rd
Ourimbah NSW 2258
ph 02 4348 4050