Ep. #46 – Paige West & J.C. Salyer

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016
Ep. #46 – Paige West & J.C. Salyer

Dominic and Cymene talk Trumpism vs. Reaganism and whether we are somehow cycling back to the “culture wars” on race, gender and sexuality from the 1980s. We drop a (conspiracy?) theory about climate denial and then (16:15) share our recent conversation with J.C. Salyer and Paige West about their work in Papua New Guinea (PNG). J.C. is a lawyer and anthropologist who works as the Staff Attorney for the Arab-American Family Support Center and as an Assistant Professor of Practice at Barnard College, Columbia University. His legal practice focuses on immigration and his research focuses on migration and human rights. Paige is the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, she has conducted research in Papua New Guinea for twenty years and is the co-founder of the Papua New Guinea Institute for Biological Research. Paige talks to us about her latest book, Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (https://cup.columbia.edu/book/dispossession-and-the-environment/9780231541923), in which she explores how rhetoric of the PNG’s alleged “savagery” operates as a mode of dispossession in domains like tourism, conservation and resource extraction. We discuss how racism and imperialism impacted PNG historically and how some of these ideas filtered into classic anthropological theory. Paige explains how the arrival of the natural gas industry in PNG helped prompt her to write the book and how gas has helped transform PNG’s capital, Port Moresby, into one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Then we turn to their current collaborative research focused on Australia’s (insane) plan to divert asylum seekers to the Manus Regional Processing Centre in PNG. They explain how this plan activated the long history of colonial relations between Australia and PNG but also miscalculated the extent of PNG’s contemporary connectivity to the rest of the world. We talk about the blurring distinction between different causes of migration (war, economy, climate change) and they argue that the Manus plan should be viewed as an experimental venture that reveals how states like Australia intend to handle increasing refugeeism in the future. J.C. & Paige discuss their sense of why it’s important to develop new categories and ways of thinking for engaging the Anthropocene and the teaching projects they’ve developed to accomplish that goal. We close on the networks and projects needed to move climate action forward in the Trump era even as we grapple with the genealogies of dispossession and racism that have formed white working class America. One silver lining? Our prediction that punk music is going to come back stronger than ever 🙂 Listen on!