Community development in Ok Tedi, Papua New Guinea: the role of anthropology in the extractive industries

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Expansion of the extractive industries over the past few decades has been dominated by intensified sustainable development discourse within the sector and subsequent community development programmes. Yet, despite the social nature and impact of interventions, the role played by various indigenous actors in the way contemporary discourses and practices of extractive industry are perceived and integrated remains largely ignored in policy development. Whilst recommendations by economists and political scientists dominate policy discourse, the capitalist principles of individualism, entrepreneurship, private property and the independent pursuits of wealth they employ not only conflict with the rural landscapes in which they are applied, but also with the discourse of ‘communality’ and ‘community’ that shapes corporate agendas. As such, development programmes are often inappropriate and ill-conceived. In this article, I show how anthropological data can shed light on the negative social impact of current development models. Using Papua New Guinea's Ok Tedi mine as a case study, I advance the argument that a comprehensive understanding of the diverse cultural nuances activated by cultural actors with varied access to the opportunities provided by extractive industry should be implicit in the design of community development programmes. I call for more interdisciplinary research to inform policy and action
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-483
Number of pages18
JournalCommunity Development Journal
Issue number3
Early online date16 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013

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