Life in the Village is Free
Socially Reproductive Work and Alienated Labour on an Oil Palm Plantation in Pomio, Papua New Guinea
In this article I examine how Mengen working on and living near to a newly established oil palm plantation use the distinct categories of ‘village’ and ‘plantation’ to refer to different sets of relations and historical processes associated with the places. For the Mengen workers the plantation is simultaneously a place of hard and controlled labor, a site of earning sorely needed monetary income, and a place to momentarily escape relations in the village. The vast majority of Mengen workers are oriented towards village life and channel substantial amounts of their income back to the village. By examining the circulation of things and people between the plantation and surrounding villages, I look at how the two places, and the larger orders they represent, are in a direct, unequal, and complex relation with one another. While the surrounding villages subsidize the plantation and provide cheap labor, for the Mengen workers, the plantation is a place for reproducing village life and a generative place of forming new social relations. As both an oppressive and generative place, it is for the Mengen highly ambiguous, as are the larger orders it materializes and stands for.
Copyright (c) 2019 Tuomas Tammisto
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