Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Vol 50, No 1 (2011)

VANUATU MIGRANT LIVES IN VILLAGE AND TOWN

Lamont Lindstrom

Abstract


Significant rural-urban migration has characterized the postcolonial Melanesian states, including Vanuatu. Over the past 30 years, most people who once lived in Samaria village (Tanna Island) have moved to squatter settlements that ring Port Vila, Vanuatu's capital. Life histories narrated by migrants who live in Port Vila’s Blacksands and Ohlen neighborhoods, and by men and women who remained home on Tanna, reveal migrant agency and pride in their ability to navigate urban challenges including wage-labor, mobile telephony, religious organization, town conflict, gender transformations, and village nostalgia. Tanna migrants celebrate their powers to model their urban settlements after island homes as they also remake the island village with new urban experience and resources. Islander power to remake urban spaces draws on the “partibility” of place—one “distributed” site comprises elements of others so that places travel alongside their people.

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