“We want development”: Land and water (dis)connections in port moresby, urban papua new guinea

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This article examines development practices of residents, who are also migrants and citizens, living in informal settlements in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Using the analytical frame of the nexus between development and land, I problematize PNG’s national development discourse in the urban context. By examining the connections and disconnections between local practice and national and international development discourse, I highlight how informal processes, development discourse, and land discourse in PNG intersect to spatialize development practices and outcomes in urban spaces. Citizens who informally occupy state land are trapped by the legal fault lines of state land tenure, and, consequently, their efforts to obtain services are rendered informal or illegal in development policies. The outcomes of their efforts to secure services and their relationships with state actors are in turn characterized by disconnections and connections according to their ability to meet policy conditions and engage with the state actors. Urban space in PNG is a construct of a colonial legacy of property. It is also coconstructed by contemporary policies that spatialize development services in the urban context and by Indigenous social values and collective responses to overcome systemic and structural impediments to achieving development goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalContemporary Pacific
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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