Closing the Frontier, Opening Doors
Local Cash Crop Production, Large-Scale Resource Extraction, and Shifting Resource Frontiers in Pomio, Papua New Guinea
In this article I examine a recent communal cocoa planting project in a Wide Bay Mengen community in East Pomio, Papua New Guinea in relation to histories of resource extraction. I discuss how the community members modeled the current planting of cocoa in accordance with earlier forms of agriculture, namely copra production and swidden horticulture. The cocoa planting project is linked to a longer history of labour and resource extraction in Pomio. I analyze the cycles of labour recruitment, logging, and oil palm expansion through the framework of the frontier, by which I mean a spatio-temporal process through which certain areas are portrayed as having abundant resources, which are made available for extraction. The cocoa planting project was a local response to these conditions and intended to be a source of income based on inalienated labour and local landholding and a spatial strategy of establishing points of access to other places, called 'doors' by the community members. My aim in this article is twofold. First, I argue that the frontier understood as a spatio-temporal process helps us to conceptualize cycles of resource extraction. Second, I show how people living in areas understood as frontiers form their own analyses and responses to the conditions under which their land, labour, and resources are made available to others.
Keywords: cocoa, commodification, frontier, infrastructure, natural resources, oil palm, Papua New Guinea, place, territorialization
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Copyright (c) 2021 Tuomas Tammisto
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