Risk and Renewal in the Pacific [2019-20]

Alternate Mondays, 12.00 - 14.00 during term-time, unless otherwise noted.

Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


The Pacific covers one third of the Earth’s surface, consisting of thousands of islands from New Guinea to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). These epicentres of cultural, biological and linguistic diversity have been central to understanding human socio-political life, the organisation of the natural world, and their dynamic interplay. Geopolitically, the Pacific also occupies a pivotal location: from being a central conduit of early human migration and trade, to a major theatre of war in the twentieth century, to the present, where it is strategically located in the global response to the rise of China and concomitant political and economic ‘pivot to Asia’. In the current age of global existential risk, the Pacific is once again at the frontline of worldwide challenges including those posed by climate change, economic inequality, inter-ethnic conflict, disease epidemics including HIV and tuberculosis, cultural heritage destruction, and language extinction.

This interdisciplinary network will bring together researchers from a range of disciplines within humanities, social and natural sciences to explore the topic of risk in the Pacific. This may include, but is not limited to, work on ecological change, gender relations, indigenous knowledges, religious change and value transformation, shifts in human settlement patterns, society – state relations, cultural heritage management, cosmology and ritual life, food security, inter-ethnic relations, extractive industries, linguistic change, colonial histories, new forms of urbanism, development and infrastructure, global health and epidemiology, education, tourism, and museum collection, exhibition and repatriation. Understanding risk and renewal in the Pacific, and the social and environmental transformations they engender, highlights broader global challenges and allows us to formulate new ideas and responses.



Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk



Tom Powell Davis (PhD Candidate, Department of Social Anthropology)
Dylan Gaffney (PhD Candidate, Department of Archaeology)


Tom Powell Davies is a PhD student at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. His research centres on the spatial and temporal organisation of social relations in ‘small scale societies’, based on extended fieldwork in the Asmat area of Indonesian Papua. Tom holds an MRres in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, a Bachelor of Arts (Advanced, Honours) from the University of Sydney, and has an ongoing role as an advisor at the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress, an indigenous museum located in the Asmat area.


Dylan Gaffney is a PhD student at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. He holds an MA and BA Hons I from the University of Otago in New Zealand and was previously Research Coordinator at Southern Pacific Archaeological Research. Dylan's research focusses on the archaeology of migration, trade and exchange, and social transformation in New Guinea and New Zealand. His current project is based in the Raja Ampat islands of West Papua and examines the nature of human behavioural adaptations in small insular rainforests.


Faculty Advisors

Professor Joel Robbins (Department of Social Anthropology)
Professor Nicholas Thomas (Director and Curator, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)
Emeritus Professor Tim Bayliss-Smith (Department of Geography)
Dr Sujit Sivasundaram (Faculty of History)
Dr Robert Attenbourgh (Department of Archaeology)
Dr Shaun Larcom (Department of Land Economy)
Dr Rupert Stasch (Visual Anthropology Lab Manager, Department of Social Anthropology)
Dr Alexander Cullen (Department of Geography)
Dr Anita Herle (Senior Curator [Anthropology], Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

Programme 2019-20


Risk and Renewal in the Pacific
Yolngu Naming and Forgetting — Managing Risk?
14 October 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT (different date and time today)

Frances Morphy, Howard Morphy (Australian National University)

Ideas and Images of Occult Government in Papua New Guinea
28 October 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT Different date and time today.

Thomas Strong (Maynooth University)

Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk in the Pacific
18 November 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Brendan McCormick Kilbride (Cambridge/Manchester), Emma Liu (Cambridge/UCL), Ilan Kelman (UCL)

POSTPONED Materiality and Ritual: Beyond Symbolism
02 December 2019, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Pierre Lemonnier (Paris)

Manus Island Prison Theory: Displacement, Exile and Knowing in Indefinite Detention
07 February 2020, Cripps Court Auditorium, Magdalene College, 1-3 Chesterton Rd, CB3 0AG

Behrouz Boochani (Journalist) Omid Tofighian (UNSW)

Iconic Heritage and Resilience: Past and Now on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
10 February 2020, Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT

Sue Hamilton (UCL)

CANCELLED: Waarë-Dawulë (‘From above and from below’): Gardens as Generative Surfaces
24 February 2020, New time and date TBA

Ludovic Coupaye (UCL)

Pacific Art Traditions: Risk and Revival
06 March 2020, Seminar Room S2, 2nd Floor, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT. NB Different room and day.

Helen Alderson (Cambridge),  Delyna Baxter (Charles Darwin/Australia)