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La Mélanésie, la géographie et le développement. Une introduction critique

Abtract :
Although it is ancient, the geographical, historical and anthropological entity made up by Melanesia is rather hard to characterize. This paper offers a regional geography approach centered around three willfully provocative questions.
The first question deals with whether Melanesia actually exists. Cutting up divisions and territories on the map is always a construct. Can this region, which was named by Europeans in the nineteenth century, claim to represent a geographical “reality” likely to be relevant in the early twenty-first century ? Melanesia is a perfect example of how individualizing and establishing boundaries for a region remain actions which are performative in nature, and we can wonder endlessly about its limits. Political boundaries, mapping, historical and linguistic facts, geographical and anthropological approaches are at variance when it comes to this group whose etymology may not be racist but racialist or race-based, to say the least (from Greek Mela, “black”, and Nesos, “islands”, Melanesia is the “black islands.”) In addition, for decades, Melanesia was associated with negative images. While the thing “Melanesia” is not self-evident, it is essential to realize that nowadays it has been revisited and reinvented by the Melanesians themselves : they claim and recognize Melanesia as a component of their identity and unity.
The second question aims at challenging a theory which is widespread although it is most probably naïve : Melanesia is purportedly a region burdened with unsolvable problems, an accursed region. It allegedly accumulates difficulties—the violence linked to lands subject to major natural hazards and the difficulties linked to political fragility and underdevelopment (“the curse of natural resources”.) This notion is a mainstream disparaging notion which tends to turn into an unspoken assumption casting a pall of desperation on many studies dealing with the region. Without downplaying the huge difficulties which Melanesian lands have to face, it is fair to say that natural, economic, political and geographic fatalities do not exist. Each situation is specific, and in some projects, positive externalities which must be taken into account are added to negative externalities ; besides, we should add that Melanesian societies are highly adaptive and resilient.
The third and final question is consubstantial to the previous one in the face of a despairing rhetoric : Is Melanesia doomed ? While economic, political or social problems occur in a forcible way, one can find reasons for optimism through certain features such as biodiversity, linguistic diversity and cultural diversity. Thus, despite situations which may sometimes be troubled, Melanesian lands are not devoid of assets which help confront the future.
Melanesia is neither accursed nor doomed : it does exist, and it is even still a “new idea.” “Democracy” may be poised to experience the same fate as “Melanesia,” which was devised by Europeans, but is now re-devised by Melanesians
.

Axe de recherche : Dynamiques, gouvernance et durabilité des territoires insulaires

  AuteursPestana, G.
  Titre du livreDiversité de la démocratie. Théorie et comparatisme : les pays de la Mélanésie
  Auteurs ayant dirigé l'ouvrageFaberon, F.
  Année de publication2016
  ÉditionClermont-Ferrand
  Maison d'édition / ÉditeurCentre Michel de l'Hospital (Université d'Auvergne) - LGDJ
  Pages95-120
  ISBN9782912589491
 
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Pestana, G. (2016). "La Mélanésie, la géographie et le développement. Une introduction critique ", Diversité de la démocratie. Théorie et comparatisme : les pays de la Mélanésie, , Clermont-Ferrand, Centre Michel de l'Hospital (Université d'Auvergne) - LGDJ,95-120 p., , ISSN: 9782912589491RIS,BibTeX
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