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Locality, mobility and governmentality in colonial/postcolonial New Caledonia: the case of the Kouare tribe (xua Xaragwii), Thio (Coo).

'Vivre a la tribu', 'aller a la tribu': are French expressions used by the Kanak people in New Caledonia to express a strong feeling of locality and belonging. The expressions encode an embedded history of denial and dispossession, albeit implicitly, and of subsequent struggles for recognition and emancipation. The Neo-Caledonian notion of tribu (tribe) (2) is not a self-evident and natural spatial concept, but refers to a historically produced administrative unit created in 1867 by colonization which was subsequently modified by the Indigenat regime (1887), the administrative chieftaincy (1897), and the demarcation of indigenous land reservations. Denoting primarily indigenous rural localities, 'tribe' was, therefore, part and parcel of the colonial apparatus of racial and spatial segregation developed in the second half of the 19th century.

By way of contrast, 'village' referred to the (slightly) urbanized centres of small rural towns where stores and administrative services were located and where the white population used to live. As the result of historical change, the notion of tribe has gained a spatial value. It is the central location of everyday Kanak life in rural areas--a sort of 'emic' village--, also for people working in towns or in the mining industry. Beyond this primary duality of village versus tribe, a closer examination of contemporary Kanak action spaces and residential strategies reveals a more complex picture, particularly in areas where the mining industry has exerted its deepest influence on local economies.

Located on the south-east coast of New Caledonia, Thio is a telling example in this respect. Whereas major displacements due to military repression and internal movement within the reserves characterised the early colonial era, after the end of the Indigenat regime in 1946, new forms of social mobility would rely on multiple residential strategies, which can also function as exit options in case of conflicts at clan or tribe level (Le Meur 2009a; Naepels 2006). Behind its appearance as a quiet Kanak 'village' nestled in a side valley of the Thio river, Kouare (Xaragwii: litt. 'all the fingers of the hand' (3)) is the result of the superimposition, sedimentation, and discursive mobilization of successive layers of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-war histories.

This paper explores from a diachronic perspective the transformation of local geographies and governmentalities that have occurred over a period of over one century and how these have been shaped by: 1) customary, administrative, and property boundaries (involving clans and chieftaincies, reserves, mining concessions, stock fences, commune); 2) physical, social and institutional infrastructures (church, school, roads) and 3) political struggles. All interact to exercise influence over contemporary issues of locality, mobility, and belonging among the Xaragwii tribe in Thio. Against this empirical background, this text discusses how--from both an etic and emic viewpoint, and as a 'self-conscious object of moral concern and political negotiation' (Barker 1996:212)--'villages' are 'precipitated at the intersection of multiple values, ideas, and projects' (Stasch 2010: 47). Alternatively and to put it in more Foucauldian terms, how (and to what extent) do villages emerge from the interplay of governmentalized localities, regulatory communities, and subject-making processes that produce and reconfigure values, ideas and projects within specific historical contexts (see Agrawal 2005: 6-8). This means that, contrary to the simplistic views of 'state', 'development', and 'governmentality' endorsed by too many poststructuralist and deconstructionist anthropologists (for instance Escobar 1995), I will strive to decipher the limits, contradictions, and inconsistencies of these (would-be hegemonic) governmental projects. I follow Tania Li when she points to the limits of government as practice--namely violence, politics, societal complexity, and knowledge--which, at the same time, define the limits of governmentality as an analytic (Li 2007: 17-19; see also Rose 1999; Dean 2010). In line with this empirical stance, I will explore Kanak localities ('tribes' or 'villages') as produced by the interplay of projects, ideas, tensions, power relations, practices, and representations, including the values, norms, affects and emotions that have historically shaped localities and made them what they are. John Barker's observation on Papua New Guinea also holds true for New Caledonia: (4) 'Scholars have examined the impact of early colonial policies upon villages and have address the present day political process within village societies. They have paid less attention to the historical space between' (1996: 212; see also Hirsch 1999; Tuzin 1988). The historical sketch I present covers more or less the same time span ranging from the late 19th to the late 20th century.

The text is organised in four sections. (5) The first focuses on the encounter of different pioneer fronts in Thio: the missionary, mining, pastoral, and administrative frontiers. (6) The second section explores the multilayered history of the landscape and settlement patterns (7) in Xaragwii/Kouare, and the third section analyses the interplay of locality and mobility since World War II. The fourth section relies on the empirical material presented before to elaborate on the 'invention' of the tribe as part of a colonial governmental project--'governmental' being understood here in a broad sense, encompassing state, missionary, and developmental projects, though differentiating them (see Barker 1996; Hirsch, 1999). The conclusion briefly discusses the meaning of this evolving dialectic in the current context of decolonization.


This early colonial history of Thio and, more specifically, the Kouare tribe (as we will see in the second section) is the product of the encounter of different pioneer fronts--missionary, pastoral, mining, and administrative--that produced a specific spatial patterning of governmental procedures and social/racial relations.

Thio, which is located on the south-east coast of New-Caledonia, appears on the colonial map as early as 1861 in the context of two military retaliatory expeditions against the hamlets or tribes (in a pre-administrative sense) of Yo and Aoui (the motive remains unclear but it appears that a settler was killed by a Kanak). In the same decade, tensions arose between Governor Guillain (a free-mason and atheist) and the Catholic mission over the establishment of a church in Nakety (west to Thio) in 1866. The Chiefs of Nakety and Yo (Thio) were imprisoned (Delbos 1993: 178). In fact, the arrival of Christianity in Nakety and Thio preceded the foundation churches (in 1866 and 1868 respectively). The new religion was first imported by the Borendy people (Bweredii; south of Thio) from Touaourou (Yate) in the early 1860s as part of exchange networks linking clans of both localities, and with the objective of protection and the accumulation of prestige. (8) By 1872, there were around 300 converts and 100 catechumens among the 1,700 inhabitants of Thio (Delbos 1993: 179), and the entire population of Borendy would be converted by 1877 (ibid.: 213). There were two chapels; however the priest had the idea of building a bigger church in order to group the population and to avoid having to move around too much (ibid.). The church of the Thio Mission (re-built in 1909) would, in fact, become the core of a Kanak settlement established in the colonial mould of a reserve. Reserve demarcation was introduced in 1880 and increasingly systematized in Thio in 1900 and later introduced for Ouindo and Kouare (see below). (9)

The 1860s also saw the first white settlers acquire land in Thio: B. Balansa, a botanist who wanted to develop new crops in New Caledonia, rented 300 ha in 1868 and 500 ha in 1872 (see Balansa, 1873). White settlement truly commenced in the 1870s with the issuing of occupancy permits for would-be cattle farmers from 1871. (10) This policy, which favoured simultaneously livestock development and white settlement, replaced the large concessions allotted in the 1850-60s that had failed to produce convincing results. The new land allocation policy sought to create a self-financing colony in accordance with the new colonial priorities of the 1870s. In Thio, a range of white settlers, ex-convicts (liberes), free settlers, and companies (Ouaco) colonized the best (lower) parts of the valleys, pushing the Kanak groups uphill into less fertile and more remote terrains. This process destroyed local crops, fields, and collective irrigated schemes, especially those built for taro cultivation.

Nickel was discovered in New Caledonia in 1864 by the engineer Jules Garnier. Its mining began in the mid-1870s with Thio becoming one of the hotspots of this new industry that would experience alternating cycles of boom (e.g. mid-1880s, mid-1890s) and recession (1883, 1889-1894, 1921-23) thereafter (Newbury 1955; Winslow 1993). The Societe le Nickel (SLN) rapidly became a key player in New Caledonia, (11) particularly in Thio where a first processing plant was built in 1889 in the tribu of Ouroue. The segregationist colonial policy had the de facto effect of excluding the Kanak mainland population (and to a lesser extent people from the Loyalty Islands) from waged labor opportunities. (12) Instead the booming mining sector resorted to different groups in the workforce: convicts from France and French Algeria and contract laborers from other colonies (Dutch Indies, French Indochina, New Hebrides, Wallis, and Futuna) and Japan. The residences of the mine workers took the form of compounds. At the end of the 19th century, there were around 1,000 convicts living on the 'Plateau', the most famous mine in Thio. This labor force was provided to the SLN by the penal administration. At the 'Camp des sapins', another important mine, a Vietnamese school was funded by SLN which, in addition to its mining activities, had also became a major landowner and cattle producer in Thio. (13)

The local presence of the colonial state was slow to develop and weak. SLN provided a large part of the infrastructure: the first hospital in the 1880s, schools on mining compounds, a bakery, a butcher's shop, sport associations, and later a housing estate and electricity. In

reality, the mining company functioned to a certain extent as a substitute for the state (see Le Meur 2009b) and displayed a typically paternalistic character (Noiriel 1988). Though the state was weak, it could be brutal when it did intrude. Two events were pivotal in this respect: the repression of the 1878 revolt and the demarcation of indigenous reserves. The outbreak of the insurrection in 1878 was perceived as an earthquake by the colonial society. It was violent and unexpected and led to retaliatory bloodshed. Thio was on the margins of these events; but a few tribes were heavily involved on the rebel side, while others (in the lower part of the valley) protected (some) settlers and priests (e.g. Father Lacombes was hidden by members of the Tura chiefly clan on an islet off the coast that is now called Lacombes Islet). Indigenous reservations were launched in 1880 and systematized under Governor Feillet in 1899-1900. There emerged an archipelago of Kanak reservation lands lodged between ranches and mining concessions.

The political and spatial colonial organization of the settler colony was not organised just around a narrow dualistic interface between tribe and state (embodied by administrative chiefs and gendarmes). Though there were drastic restrictions on the freedom and movement of Kanak, there were also other institutional sites of power--the livestock station, mine, catholic mission--which rendered the social landscape more complex and multi-layered, whilst not destabilising the structure of colonial segregation (see figure 1). For instance, it has been argued that '[c]attle provoked the movement that both preceded and contributed to cantonnement' (Muckle and Trepied 2010: 200). The spatial distribution of indigenous reservations (such as Ouindo, Kouare, Koua), which (14) are located in the upper and remote parts of the side valleys, were due to the pressure exerted by the pastoral and mining fronts, whereas others (Saint Philippo II, Saint-Paul) are in the main valley around the church. The demarcation of reserves did not end instability in Kanak land tenure. Later, from 1907, rental agreements on indigenous reservation lands were authorized and this led to many abuses (Dauphine 1989: 250-251). Some reserves were moved as a result of the growth of mining: Ouroue was moved due to the construction of the railway and a processing plant (1889-1891), Saint-Philippo I was moved because of difficult relations with the convict compound at the mine. In fact, convicts and liberes (freed convicts) were accused by Kanak men of being troublemakers and agents of 'debauchery'. (15) Adrian Muckle (2011: 148-154) has studied the relationship between the different regimes that controlled the different population groups in colonial New Caledonia, and, specifically, the preoccupation, shared by administrative and customary authorities, 'with controlling the movement of Kanak women [and] with limiting interaction between Kanak and liberals' (ibid.: 148). Significantly, libere (diberee) would become a generic word in xaracuu language to refer to white people in Thio. (16)


The history of Kouare reservation is complex and some uncertainty remains as regards its foundation. It would have been part of the decree of 15 March 1880 creating most of the Thio indigenous reservations. (17) I have no evidence of this first delimitation as regards Kouare but a subsequent redrawing (or drawing) of its boundaries was made official with an arrete in 1900 (no 147 of 21/01/1900) affecting 203 ha 90 to Kouare tribe. It seems however that this decision was never enacted. Kouare people remained in a very unsecure position as far as land tenure is concerned up to 1926, when 297 hectares were attributed to Kouare tribe. This area was extracted from a piece of state estate land of 1,677 ha 20 that had been leased from 1921, and probably before, by the Ouaco canning and livestock company settled in Gomen, in the North of New Caledonia. (18) Before the land reform launched in 1978, the only extensions of Kouare reservation was 7 ha 70 allotted in 1944 (for displacing the village after a disastrous flooding, according to Kouare elders interviewed in 2008) and the 22 hectares of Merigu allotted in 1959 to the tribe a few kilometers downstream and making access easier to Thio village.

The reading of the landscape, though somehow misleading as we will see, can help decipher this complex history. The history of Kouare reservation fits with the overall pattern described for Thio in the previous section. On entering the side valley where the Kouare tribe is located, the first thing one sees are two isolated houses (one built after cyclone Erika in 2003, the other, a 'maramwa house' built as part of a social housing project). There are a few fields along the river, and a seemingly typical Kanak hamlet named Xarageu, which combines traditional round huts with more modern structure. It is planted with the gendered symbols of araucarias (Araucaria columnaris) and coconut trees, and surrounded by yams, cassava, and small fields of vegetables. Following the road upstream, you pass a few cultivated plots nestled along the fiver and after a curve you come into the larger village of Merigu that has a school on the right and a series of small houses, many of which have cars or pickups parked in front. You then cross a small bridge and there are a few more houses some distance away from the rest of the village. The track then winds along and above the upper valley of Xarage river and after a few kilometres of meandering course, down the hill, you can see steep fields with mixed food crops (cassava, banana, taro, chayote) and two houses beneath, close to the river bed. You then see a path on the right-hand side with a small cemetery and a small cluster of houses. If you go further upstream, you might locate two groups of araucaria pines and coconut trees close to the fiver but without any visible habitations, indicating deserted villages. Upstream, on the left bank, a small power station is supplied by a dam. The track goes through a landscape of niaoulis (paper bark tea trees or Melaleuca quinquenervia) savannas and becomes a bit difficult, steep, and slippery with stony creeks to cross, and in the end, you discover two unexpectedly recent houses which appear to be completely isolated from the rest of the village. This is not the end of the path, however: the ruins of a burned sawmill await the rare visitor, far from any habitation.

The reading of the landscape provides information and clues, but also raises many questions and thus highlights the need for interviews. In conversation with Zaccharie Beou, an old stockman who lives in Xarageu, I learnt that the latter name was actually recent (Toxwaixa was the previous toponym in xaragure (19)) and that, in the first half of the 20th century, the place used to be a livestock station belonging to the Ouaco ranch, the biggest cattle farm in Thio, and part of the Ouaco canning and livestock company that was run at that time by an Australian manager, Colonel H.P. Dix. In fact, a wooden colonial house and cabins for Javanese farm workers, who arrived at the beginning of the century through indentured labor (engagement), actually stood on the very location of Z. Beou's hamlet. The Javanese men used to live in the station alone, the women being settled in Saint-Pierre in the main Thio valley near coffee plantations. Z. Beou's grandfather was a Ni-Vanuatu recruited through 'blackbirding' operations (20) by the O'Donoghues, a family of Irish settlers who arrived in New Caledonia in 1862. Patrick O'Donoghue managed the Ouaco ranch in Thio from the late 1920s/early 1930s before being replaced in 1946 by Raymond Lacrose, a former stockman who eventually acquired the land from Dix in 1975. (21) O'Donoghue arrived with Z. Beou's father, a half Ni-Vanuatu, half Kanak stockman. When the Javanese workers had left the area (mostly in 1950-60s), Z. Beou who had succeeded his father as foreman and stockman, decided to destroy the colonial house in order to avoid disputes, hence the current re-traditionalization of the housing style. Despite intermarriage with Kanak clans in Kouare and other tribes in Thio and a strong involvement in the livestock groups established in the wake of the land reform in the 1980s, the Beou family remains on the margins of Kouare. Incidentally, the two isolated houses mentioned above are inhabited by two of Zaccharie's sons who reproduce the individualistic familial ethos strongly expressed by their father (stressing the unitary nature of the person and of the need to make one's own way in life).

The Merigu hamlet upstream is inhabited by families belonging to all of the Kouare clans (clan: xwamwaado). As mentioned above, Merigu was founded in 1959 (22) as an extension of Kouare reservation located far away in the hills, in order to bring people closer to facilities and work: road, school, village, mines. The area of 22 hectares and the surrounding pastures were exploited by Lacrose, who was still the Ouaco Company manager of the Thio ranch, through a lease on state estate land. Local land tenure arrangements were passed between the Ouaco and Lacrose ranches and Kouare farmers outside the reservation area: as long as the latter made and maintained the fences themselves (therefore contributing to the cost of the protection of their own crops) they were free to use the land for cropping on the river banks (incidentally, not the best place for cattle farming). Fences and bush fires for clearing pastures were two contentious issues between the Kouare tribe and the Ouaco station. The request to extend the reserve was submitted to the territorial administration by the tribe headman and negotiated with R. Lacrose as the Ouaco local representative under the aegis of a gendarme (this was still the interface between tribe and state in the 1960s and later). Merigu was equally divided among Kouare families for housing. Nowadays, behind the creek just outside Merigu, you find a few houses which were deliberately built beyond the reservation boundaries. These belong to members of the Gouemoin (Gweimwa) clan, whose origin is not linked to the other Kouare clans belonging to the large Owi grouping. They come from the neighboring commune of Canala (belonging to the Xuruchaa clan; see also Demmer, 2002: 321-322) and maintain poor relations with the other clans due to the adoption of opposing positions during colonial wars and diverging opinions on land property demarcations, which have been reactivated from the 1980s with the land reform process. These more recent disputes prompted one clan elder to return to Canala where, it appears, he was not welcomed either (due to other deeply rooted oppositions). Living on the margins of Merigu appears to be an acceptable compromise for as long as the conflict endures.

And conflicts can be long-lasting: some of them (e.g. the aforementioned one) can be traced back to the 1878 insurrection and even further back to pre-colonial wars and settlement history. The (colonial) Kouare tribe is located in a remote lateral valley in a mountainous area of the central chain of southern New Caledonia. The signification of its xaracuu name (Xaragwii: 'all the fingers of the hand') is not known thus far but the origin of this tribe is closely linked to the history of Owi clan (also spelled Awi, Owi, Ahoui in the colonial literature), an important social grouping which settled in the upper part of the neighboring locality of Bouloupari (Berepawari) in the 19th century, but probably came from further away (maybe Kouaoua, north of Canala), and today includes clans living in the Kouare and Kouergoa tribes. (23) Oral histories of wars between Owi and other groups in the lower Thio valley (Bwere me Tura) have been collected and they resonate with myths that focus on a conflict between mountain and coastal groups (Yora vs. Firiago myth (24)) in the early history of settlement. Echoing this mythico-history, when the Owl clan was decimated by an epidemic in December 1860, (25) just after a postal service had been established between Noumea and Canala, clan members attributed the disease to magic hidden in a postal box by a coastal tribe (McKee 1972: 200).

The Owi on the Thio river west bank and the Koa on the east bank were both pagan at the time of 1878 insurrection. The tribes living in the lower part of the valley were Christianized (St-Philippe, St-Paul, St-Pierre), but not all of them opted for the French side (even though a strong contingent of Kanak from Thio participated in the repression). Leopold, the St-Pierre chief, took part in the rebellion and when he was eventually captured he was executed (Dousset-Leenhardt 1976: 90). Colonial representatives and high-ranking military officers expressed strong distrust of Father Morris in Thio. Four settlers were killed in Thio during the war (26) and the repression of the Owi and Koa in the upper parts of Thio was strong. Many were killed and many men were also deported to the Isle of Pines/Kunie.

Every family in Kouare told me a similar story of an ancestor (great grandfather) who had been deported in 1878 and amnestied in 1894 so as to meet the need for labor on the white farms. Members of the Nessore (Nonaro), Maperi, Ipere (or Upere/Overe), Kando (Kadoo) families obtained a five-year 'labor contract' and went to work on coffee plantations in Canala and Nakety before returning home at the time of the grand cantonnement in 1900. (27) This shows that the reservations were also increasingly part of a governmental project to control and exploit the local population, and not just to discipline and confine it. This shift was the result of negotiations with influential settlers, such as Marc Le Goupils (a typical 'colonial big man'), who were able to mobilize economic and political capital, (Delathiere 2008). (28)

The resulting settlements at both Kouare and Kourgoa were only partially stabilized. (29) They had become homelands, for 'home' had become an ambiguous phenomenon with the colonisation. The villages created by the cantonnement are called do xua in xaracuu, do meaning 'authentic', 'old' or 'true' and xua designing a house (Demmer, 2002: 212), thus contributing to the 'traditionalisation' of colonial creations. The first cemetery in Kouare is close to Merigu and not to the Kouare indigenous reservation which was later demarcated. The site called Houindeho (located between Merigu and Kouergoa) was the first place of settlement for the deported on their return from the plantations. They would have lived there for five years or so before being pushed on to remote mountainous areas by a certain Rockman, the Ouaco Company overseer in Thio. (30) They settled on a piece of land belonging to the state domain until 1926 when the reservation was eventually demarcated. It is interesting to note that the colonial administration arbitrated in favour of the Kanak request to secure their land tenure at the expense of the company, which definitely wanted to expel them from the area. Incidentally, 1926 is the year in which Kanak population growth starts to rise again and the colonial policy towards indigenous people shifts to focus on development as a governmental discourse and apparatus of social control.

Kouare's early colonial history demonstrates the fact that the reservation policy cannot be reduced to the inexorable progress of the bureaucratic machinery. It was politics-ridden. (31) Further developments confirmed this point. Once settled in this area located in the most remote upper part of the valley, people lived cut off from the outside world but there was much movement within the reservation itself--for example, between the two tribes of Kouare and Kouergoa, whose clan lived in both places. What is more, the first Kouare village site was on a small island on the Xarage river (Miri or Midi) which was subject to floods and this made relocation necessary (and carried out in the 1940s; see table supra). Relocation was not completed all in one go and the new settlement was split into two hamlets, which reflected pre-colonial allegiances as well as colonial divisions, involving clans belonging to the Owl groups as well as one clan member of the Xuruchaa, who was on the French side during the 1878 war. Resettlement was not a simple matter of the physical translation of a human group or an opportunity for the updating of social ties. It was also a way for the colonial administration to assert its local presence. Based on this, the destruction of traditional round huts and their replacement with rectangular houses was a tool that accompanied the 'villagization' policy implemented in most parts of New Caledonia in the early twentieth century. (32) Considering the Kanak demographic upturn from 1926, this policy was carried out on the ground by the gendarmes as (military) agents of native affairs. It involved the strong use of hygiene theory (hygienisme) combined with the beginning of a development policy that specifically targeted the Kanak (mainly through the promotion of coffee farming; Kohler and Pillon 1986), and also the implementation of labour taxes.


The hamlet of Merigu is an extension of the Kouare reservation which was created in 1959 as a response to tribal elders' demands. It is quite recent in origin and linked to post-war colonial liberalization and, more specifically, the policy of extending indigenous reservations. Access to school was of primary concern in the request to move downstream and, before a school was built in Merigu in the 1980s, parents organized a rota for taking children to the crossroad where they could get on the bus to go to the Catholic school at Thio Mission. Prior to this, like the other tribes, the Kouare had a place (dormitory) where pupils could stay. They relied on kin and alliance networks to accommodate their children close to the school. (33) This enacted polarized networks grounded in different historical layers: down to the mission in Thio and up to Koinde (Kwede) and Ouipoint (Wipwo) where the Owi clans had pre-colonial links.

The former Kouare tribe location is still inhabited by a few people. For some of them (e.g. Casimir Nessore), it is a way of asserting identity and independence. It provides a way of life close to yam fields and forests where they can hunt deer and fruit bats. Other elders (the Ipere brothers, for example) opted to build a house in this remote part of the valley after a long professional and political career. However they still keep their main residence outside the Kouare location, i.e. in localities (Petroglyphes) or housing estates (Thio Mission) born out of the SLN housing policy. They also have a house in Merigu which has become the centre of gravity for some Kouare citizens who desire or need multi-residences. Partly because of political divergences with his tribe fellow members, Moise Maperi (the Kouare headman) resides most of the time in Petroglyphes as a retired SLN worker; he was able to buy his house as part of a SLN program that privatized its housing estate. While most of the Kouare tribe is on the Independentist/FLNKS side, Moise Maperi, like several headmen and chiefs of the South Province is affiliated to the main loyalist party (RPCR, now RUMP (34)). For the younger generation, working in the mining industry is a central ambition and a means of getting away from the tribe or, at least, of gaining autonomy. For this, residing outside the Kouare location (with regular commuting to the tribe), if not with the SLN in Thio, through the new industrial projects of Goro or Koniambo, appears to offer a good solution. (35)

These transformations of residential patterns result from the new mobility enabled by the political liberalization of the colonial regime, symbolized by the abolition of the code de l'indigenat in 1946. From that point on, the Kanak could enter the economic and political spheres by freely contracting his labour, mainly in the mining sector (see Gaillard 2009), and as a full citizen was eventually entitled to vote and be elected. The dual (customary versus civil) legal status of land and persons remains, however, and people adapt to this double duality by reverting the value of the reservation--from the symbol of the colonial negation of their being to the cultural assertion of their autochthony--and by commuting between residences, and beyond this, between social worlds

Accessing the industrial and civic polity (Boltanski and Thevenot 1991) was not a smooth process for the Kanak as it implied the recognition of a principle of 'common humanity' that colonization had largely denied them. Historically and politically, the 1984-85 clashes (euphemistically called 'the events' in New Caledonia (36)) were a turning-point. They resulted in a deep mutation of the political balance and residential landscape in Thio. Road blocks flourished, the village was seized by the Independentists led by the charismatic Eloi Machoro, the SLN headquarters located near Thio Mission was burnt, and most of the Whites (but also many Vietnamese, Indonesian and Polynesian families) eventually left the place. (37) SLN living quarters were occupied by Kanak people, most of them already working for the mining company. After one year of direct administration by the state, the first Independentist mayor, Louis Maperi from Kouare, was elected in 1985. Social and political disorder was not overcome, however, until the Matignon-Oudinot agreement in 1988. With the election of a radical right-wing government in France in 1986, the troubles reached a new peak and, in 1987, the French state organized a permanent but mobile military force that harassed Kanak tribes, under a policy called 'nomadization' (nomadisation).Although there had been a hardening of ethnic boundaries that was closely linked with the polarization between pro- and contra-independence blocks from the mid-1970s onwards, it was paradoxically accompanied by a less systematic process of fragmentation within each bloc. In Thio, the nickel boom of 1967-72 had generated an inflow of white immigrants but also of Kanak migrants from other parts of the main islands (in particular the north east coast), adding to the Loyalty islanders who had been living here for decades. In the aftermath of the boom, the Kanak from Thio temporarily returned to the tribe and to a certain extent to subsistence livelihood. In contrast, many Kanak migrants were stigmatized as strangers to the locality and this led eventually to them creating a migrant association, the Association of the Main Island and Loyalty Islands Kanak. (38)

During this period, there was also a process of privatizing housing estates and villages: at Nakale, Petroglyphes and Thio Mission. The houses were individually sold at preferential prices to SLN active and retired employees. Alongside this, there was also the communalization of SLN assets (electric networks). The progressive growth of communal institutions occurred together with the emergence of provinces as the main instance of the decentralized state. (39) These processes of economic and political restructuring were not smooth and tensions regularly arouse between SLN, the communal council, and local populations. In this respect, the 1996 conflict between the mining company and Kanak customary representatives can be seen as a turning point in terms of local governance and the attempts to regain control over the Kanak's own natural resources and, more broadly, their own destiny. In late July 1996, the entrances to Plateau and Camps des sapins, the two main mines in Thio, were blockaded by the commune's Kanak inhabitants. Blockades were also placed on the ore transfer belt in nearby Thio Mission and a Japanese ore carrier, the Tango Gracia, which was in the process of being loaded by its Filipino crew. The standoff between the Thio 'coutumiers' (customary people) and the company Societe Le Nickel (SLN) lasted two weeks. It was not a mere labour dispute; the negotiations revolved around land, environment, housing, and mining issues (40) and culminated in an agreement signed by SLN, the customary representatives, the mayor, and state representative (sub-prefect) that would have far-reaching consequences for the local governance of mining and the stabilization of residential patterns. Along with economic demands for local employment, subcontracting and mining licenses, the political-land dimension was also important: 'This country must be restored to the landowners', said Charles Moindou, (one of the customary leaders of the conflict, quoted in the newspaper Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes, 26/07/96). (41) This request by Charles Moindou refers to a different 'level' of land, i.e. not the legal one dealt with through claims, acquisitions, and assignment procedures in accordance with formal customary statutes, but a deeper, historical one that touches on land as the basis of identity and calls for a recognition of indigenousness, antecedence, and more fundamentally, of humanity and equal dignity. In this regard, the conflict of 1996 constitutes a turning point as it is situated in the logic of land reform which was in full swing in the 1990s. It involved partly a demand for recognition of indigenousness without specific claims for the assignment of lands, (42) which would arise in several subsequent conflicts and agreements that lay at the root of large-scale economic projects (cf. Le Meur, Horowitz and Mennesson, 2013).


The conflict evoked in the previous section leads us back to the land issue, which has been the cornerstone of a settler colonisation policy. The early colonial history of the Kanak population had been one of dispossession and confinement embedded in a narrative of expected extinction (up to the 1920s). Liberated from its teleological and Eurocentric load, Foucault's conceptual triangle--sovereignty, government, and discipline--can be usefully mobilized as a heuristic frame for the analysis of this 'colonial situation' (Balandier 1951). To put it briefly, sovereignty is conceived as a form of control exerted by an authority over a bounded territory, discipline focuses on bodies and individuals, and, as an institutionalized form of power, governmentality targets populations and resorts to political economy, as its principal form of knowledge, and to security apparatuses as its essential technical means (Foucault 2002: 221). Governmentality is intrinsically linked to bio-politics 'that is the set of mechanisms by means of which, that which constitutes its fundamental biological features within the human race will be entitled to enter into a policy' (Foucault 2004: 3; see also Dean 2010: 117-132). A brief description of the construction of the colonial institutional apparatus will help to situate this form of domination and the spatial and social confinement that underpin it--a sort of forced immobilization--within this analytical frame.

Fourteen years after New Caledonia was declared a French possession in 1853, the tribe (tribu) was instituted by decree in 1867 as a legal category, i.e. a collectively accountable entity vis-a-vis the administration and gendarmerie (rural police), and endowed with 'property attributes'. The latter (propriete territorial indigene) would be defined, as far as land is concerned, as collective and inalienable possession in a subsequent decree in 1868. Following years of indecision and debate in relation to indigenous land tenure (Merle 1998), this was the starting point of the enduring fiction of collective Melanesian land ownership under the aegis of the customary chiefs. Furthermore, the notion of indigenous ownership would be progressively replaced by a mere use and occupancy right, (43) paving the way for the creation of indigenous reserves (cantonnement), which were created in 1878 and systematized under the rule of Governor Feillet (1894-1902) (see Dauphine 1989; Saussol 1979). The arrete (Governor's regulation) of 23 November 1897 allotted an area of at least 3 ha per capita, divorced in its basic principles from Kanak traditional residential and land tenure patterns. (44) In the meantime, the 'code de l'indigenat' (which was not actually a code) (45) had been promulgated in 1887; it defined: the social (nominative: i.e. a list of people later subject to head tax, with the 12/09/1895 decree) and territorial boundaries of the tribe; restricted the free movement of Kanak populations (in 1897 it would be forbidden to leave the reserve); (46) and created an administrative chieftaincy, without clearly defining its duties and responsibilities. The position of chief was not formally systematized until 1897 with the paramount chief (grand chef) at the district level and, in 1898, the headman (petit chef) at the tribe level (however, chiefs had previously been nominated by the administration on an ad hoc basis). The emphasis on a strictly bounded model of population control finds expression in the progressive replacement of kinship terminology by residence terminology. In the Xaracuu country (and linguistic area), the chiefdom (neaaxa re) is not anymore designated as big clan but as a set of clans grouped around a chief, the latter being not identified as the elder anymore but as an autochthon (among those who made him chief--'qui l'ont fait asseoir') (Demmer 2009: 86).

The interface between Kanak tribes and the colonial administration was extremely narrow and embodied by the Kanak administrative chief and, above him, the gendarme, who acted from 1898 as the 'syndic des affaires indigenes' (native affairs officer). (47) This political structure articulated the spatial and racial segregation that underpinned colonial government in New Caledonia. This regime, which deliberately blurred the boundaries between administrative and judicial power was devised as 'permanently provisional', as it was first promulgated for 10 years, and then prorogated (and rendered more severe) several times until its abolition in 1946 (Merle 2004: 154-155). (48) It placed the emphasis 'on the idea of control over the Kanak as individuals' (Muckle 2002). In this respect, even though the coexistence of state and mission was far from peaceful (as seen in the first section; cf. Clifford 1987: Delbos 1993), it may be seen as a disciplinary regime which combined with the missionary project of a 'government of souls' (Foucault 2004) and included a strong educational component (Saladin 2005). In this context, disciplines--indigenat, churches and missionary schools--can be understood as educational devices aimed at training 'backward populations' towards 'progress'. The de facto provisional nature of the indigenat and its shifting sanctions focusing on individual conduct and bodies can also be interpreted this way.

If we can speak of colonial discipline in this context, the question arises as to the extent to which the concepts of government and governmentality are, in fact, relevant. 'To govern means to act on the action of subjects who retain the possibility to act otherwise' (Li 2007: 17). Governmentality as an analytic appears to convey how government aims to 'sustain and optimize the process upon which life depends' (ibid.: 18). In the context of late-19th-century New Caledonia, the dominant idea among colonial agents and settlers was that the Kanak were about to die out. Demographic curves were seen as confirming the widespread racialist and evolutionary ideology of the time. The Kanak were not (or rarely) mobilized as a labor force for the booming mining sector, though they were recruited as forced labor for infrastructure work, and there would be no development policy targeting the Kanak before the interwar period.

The systematic confinement of the Kanak population in indigenous reserves, justified in part by the increasing resort to the terra nullius legal ideology (49)--and against the background of expected Kanak extinction--brings us to the sovereignty element of Foucault's triangle. Unlike modern forms of governmentality that aim (at least formally) to promote the well-being of populations, sovereignty, which is marginally a matter of territorial control, is circular, as sovereign power is at once the means and the end (Foucault, 2004: 101-102). The exclusion of the Kanak people from governmental action and their confinement in a kind of 'non place' (non-lieu; Naepels, 2006: 44) were manifestations of colonial despotism, and thus one of the limits of modern forms of governmentality which give actors some room for manoeuvre even though limited, namely violence (Li 2007: 12-19). Alongside these practices of social control was another limit of governmentality, namely politics defined as a practice of contesting order (see Ranciere 1995) (of which the 1878 insurrection would be a radical expression). Other limits to governmentality involved a lack of knowledge and an inability to render legible local populations and territories (Scott 1998). The colonial fiction of the 'Melanesian collective ownership of land under the rule of a customary chief' and the attribution of a per capita area without any reference to traditional social and land-use patterns relate to these processes of simplifying reality to better control it. The end of the indigenat and the entry of Kanak people in the civic and economic world, meaning at the same time in the realm of governmentality, did not mean the end of the tribe, as we have seen above, as we shall see in the conclusion.


From both a spatial and metaphorical point of view, the rupture that started with the end of the indigenat regime and was rendered irreversible by the 1984-88 'events' involved a switch from a 'non-place' to 'emplacement' (Englund 2002). The latter term refers to a discursive and practical dialectic of localization and governmentalization where new forms of mobility emerged that spanned and partly overcame the enduring village/tribe polarization. This does not mean that the early era of colonialism epitomized by the indigenat was just one of perfect immobility and confinement, nor that Kanak people were merely the passive victims of colonial despotism, as the trajectories of Kanak stockmen or early workers on the mining sites clearly show. However, the political context and the communal landscape changed dramatically in the long run. Localization/mobility and continuity/change polarizations are strategically condensed and enacted in everyday life and expressed by common sentences such as 'going (back) to the tribe' (aller a la tribu) meaning going back home, be it for a weekend or to wait for better times following the end of a labor contract in the mining sector or in Noumea. In this respect, Thio apparently stands far from the social and cultural denucleation process and village death--in our context the tribe or emic village (50)--that Tuzin (1988) observed in another western Pacific context. However, at the level of the commune, I would suggest that a similar process is occurring due to the pressure from profound changes in the ethnic balance in Thio. The relative de-urbanization of the Thio village, the deepening of complex multi-residential patterns and strategies, the evolution of land reform--all of these processes are currently at work and they are contributing to the ongoing and combined reshaping of locality, governmentality, and political arenas in Thio, albeit within the frame of persistent dualisms that originate in the colonial order. These dualisms have been reshaped in the course of history, as far as personal and land legal statutes as well as residential and land use patterns are concerned. More specifically, the significance of these dualisms in relation to landed property and citizenship has shifted away from early colonial segregation and discipline so as to enter progressively the domain of governmentality as a set of more or less interconnected material and ideal devices (development policies, land reform, political agreements) aimed at guiding the conduct of people conceived as collective entities (populations) and not solely as individuals--bodies and souls--to discipline. In this context, Kanak politics, the pleading for sovereignty as recognition of autochthony, the development of new alternative pathways to development, and the promotion of custom as a pillar of a new polity, (51) serve to build safeguards against hegemonic attempts at 'normalizing' life and conduct. The aforementioned dialectic of mobility and localization and the concern about preserving the tribe should be understood against this background.

DOI: 10.1002/ocea.5009


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Pierre-Yves Le Meur

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(1.) I would like to thank Christine Demmer, James Leach, Adrian Muckle, Andrew Lattas, and the two anonymous reviewers most sincerely for their comments on the first versions of this text, which was initially circulated among the participants of a panel on "Villages and their alters in Melanesian social worlds' organized under the aegis of the Association for social anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) and convened in Santa Cruz (2009) and Honolulu (2011) by Courtney Handman and Rupert Stasch, whom I warmly thank here. Many thanks to Susan Cox too for the quick and careful proofreading.

(2.) Tribe will be used in this administrative sense (tribu) in the text.

(3.) Actually a 'shortcut' for: 'mii koxeeni bwa xaadi' (ADCK 2007: 43).

(4.) See Bensa (1992). Bensa and Goromido (1997), Sand (1997), Naepels (1998); but see also Demmer (2002, 2010), Trepied's path-breaking published PhD (2010) and Muckle and Trepied (2010). See also Demmer (2009) for a highly insightful discussion of the private/public and common (subject)/particular (high-ranking) categories on the political function of secrecy in Canala, in the xaracuu linguistic area in which Thio is also located.

(5.) This paper is part of a work in progress on the colonial/postcolonial history of Thio with a focus on mining, land, and politics (see Le Meur 2009b. 2012). The oral history and interviews were carried out from 2008 up to 2012 along with the archival work in Noumea (territorial archives), Aix-en-Provence (oversea archives), and Vincennes (military archives). The historical dimension and the interpretative frame associated with it are highlighted while aspects of the village/tribal everyday life are in the background and remain to be further explored. This paper should also be understood as the continuation in the Pacific of a research project carried out some years ago in a West African context (see Le Meur 2006).

(6.) For a similar approach to the high country of New Zealand South Island. see McIntyre (2008).

(7.) On the anthropology of landscape, see Stewart & Strathern (2003): on New Caledonian ethno-archeology, see Sand (1995).

(8.) A member of Borendy chiefly family would have been sent to Touaourou to bring these new cult items to Thio. On the local appropriation of religious innovation, see Douglas (1998: chap. 8).

(9.) The idea of a missionary land concession ('reduction chretienne') in Canala (or Nakety/Thio) was discussed in the early 1870s as part of the evangelization of the natives to protect them from the influence of the white settlers and especially of the convicts (Delbos 1993: 200).

(10.) Land given to livestock in New Caledonia grew rapidly: 1860:1,000 ha: 1866:26,700 ha: 1871:77,700 ha: 1877:230,000 ha (Saussol 1994: 360-1). By way of comparison: in 1900, the operations of Kanak 'cantonnement' reduced the area of autochthonous reservations to 123 195 ha (Terrier 2000: vol. 3, 73).

(11.) SLN (Societe le Nickel) was founded in 1880 as a result of the merger of Higginson, Hanckar & [], and Basset & Marbeau. Having progressively absorbed smaller mining companies, SLN became the only large company operating in the nickel-mining and processing sector in New Caledonia in 1937. The Rothschild Bank took over the company in 1888.

(12.) Colonial inspection's reports for the Department of Native Affairs in the interwar period insist on the difficulties of recruiting indigenous workers for public works and private entreprises. Figures show that the number of Caledonian and Loyaltian natives 'engages volontaires' remained low, especially as regards the mainland (Grand Terre): 761 in 1906 (386 from the mainland), 929 in 1919 (211 from the mainland), 1,573 in 1929 (530 from Lifou). This form of indentured labour was regulated by the arrete of 08/08/1882. In 1929, among the 1,573 Kanak engage, 900 were working in Noumea, 300 on ships and 100 in Tiebaghi chrome mine (Pegourier Report on native affairs, Mission Bougourd, 1919, CAOM, FM Affaires politiques, file 742: Gayet Reports on Oceanian labour force and on labour in Lifou, Mission Coste, 1929, CAOM, FM Affaires politiques, file 746; see also Muckle, 2012).

(13.) In 1944, Ouaco Company held 55% of the Thio 2,960 head of livestock, SLN held 20%, nine individual owners held 20% and the Kanak tribes 5% (Military Archives, Vincennes, Gendamerie, file 98E67).

(14.) Ouindo in 1903; see below for Kouare. The case of Koua is somewhat enigmatic: Koua (located in a remote valley in the central chain) and Saint Philippo II (near the mission on the coast) constitute one tribe nowadays and it appears that Koua was deserted by its inhabitants in the late 19th century, probably in the aftermath of the 1878 war, and reclaimed only one century later, in 1978, at the onset of the land reform (New Caledonia Archives, Files "Enquete ORSTOM").

(15.) Interview with Regis Toura, 63, Saint-Philippo I, 30/09/2010.

(16.) Interview with Ithupane Tieoue, Noumea, 26/11/10: see Moyse-Faurie and Nechero-Joredie (1989: 64).

(17.) See map 33_005R made by Caujolle probably in 1880; file no. 2 num 16-56, New Caledonia Archives.

(18.) See Military Archives, Vincennes, Gendarmerie, detachement de la Nouvelle-Caledonie, file 98E68.

(19.) The xaragure et xaracuu languages are both spoken in Thio, the former in the eastern part of the commune (Borendy district), the latter in the western part (Thio district) as well as in the neighboring commune of Canala and in the tribes located in the north-eastern comer of La Fao (Koinde, Ouipoint). They are closely related to each other and intercomprehension is easily acquired (Moyse-Faurie and Nechero-Joredie, 1989: 9-10, 26).

(20.) Systematic recruiting of Oceanian workers, mainly from the New Hebrides bur also from Wallis and Futuna, started in 1865 and the trade continued, with two interruptions (1882-84 and 1885-90), well into the 20th century (Shineberg 1999: 8-9; Comite Tavaka 2009).

(21.) Dix would have received Ouaco lands in Thio in 1964 as a reward for his good job for the company. He later sold them to Lacrose before leaving New Caledonia for Australia.

(22.) Arrete no 186, 14/06/1959, Journal Officiel de la Nouvelle-Caledonie.

(23.) Relations between clans are expressed and reshaped through the public reciting of so-called 'genealogies' (xwaaxa) in ritual events, which are, in fact, lists of paired names. One list corresponds to a set of clans or lineages (xwamwaado; agnatic social groupings) defining a territory or 'country' (mwaciri, which also means 'village' from an emic point of view). The names constituting the list are chained according to various criteria: i.e. of hierarchy between clans (chief/subject), of trajectories, and alliances (see Pillon 1992; Naepels 1998: 119-125; Demmer 2002: 341-345; Guiart 2004:95 and ff.). Name changes (for different reasons: witchcraft, protection, etc.) and influences introduced by the colonial registry office pose difficulties in the investigation of this field.

(24.) There is a linguistic aspect to this myth, for Yora and Firiago respectively embody the xaracuu and xaragure languages. They had spoken the same language before a dispute that separated them and resulted in a linguistic divergence (Moyse-Faurie and Nechero-Joredie, 1989: 27; see also note 17).

(25.) This epidemic of measles, dysentery, and pneumonia had a wider impact on the whole colony from October 1860 to early 1861 before causing devastation in Tanna and Aneityum in Vanuatu (Sand 1995: 306; Douglas 1998: 303-305).

(26.) During the ten months of war (June 1878-April 1879), 200 white settlers and 1200 Kanak were killed, 200 stations were plundered and burnt. Six-hundred Kanak were deported to the Isle of Pines and 200 to Belep Island (Dousset-Leenhardt 1976: 168).

(27.) Source: various interviews with Kouare elders, June to November 2008.

(28.) For the sake of the free settler colonization scheme, Dothio, a side valley of Thio close to Nakety, was emptied of its inhabitants in 1895- an act that was typical of Feillet's governorship. It was a failure, only one family settled there and a reservation of 164 ha was created so that 'indigenous people will be able to give some help to the settlers' (Territorial "Private Council", 26 Jan. 1900).

(29.) Kouergoa was created in 1907.

(30.) Archives mention 'Karenguet' (which would be the lower part of Kouare valley and correspond to the name of Xarage river) as the site from which Kouare people were evicted by Ouaco staff (New Caledonia Archives, Files "Enquete ORSTOM").

(31.) See a similar case of the long tolerated informal reserve of Poinda in Kone, northern New Caledonia, which became official only in 1929 (Muckle and Trepied 2010: 205).

(32.) As far as house building is concerned, the process was implemented rather early in Thio as the Swiss botanist and ethnologist Fritz Sarasin (1917) had observed it by the 1910s.

(33.) The Maperi had a house near the Thio mission ('patte d'oie'), in an area that is now a Wallisian squat. The Maperi clan is present in the Kouare, Kouergoa and Ouroue tribes (Ouroue is on the coast near Thio village) as well as in Saint-Louis.

(34.) RPCR: Rassemblement pour la Caledonie dans la republique (founded in 1978 from RPC founded in 1977), RUMP (2004): Rassemblement-UME UMP/Union pour un mouvement populaire is the main right-wing party in France.

(35.) For similar conclusions about the motivations of migrants leaving Houailou (on the east coast, north of Thio) for Noumea, and more generally on the linkages between 'old' and 'new' forms of mobility, see Naepels (2000).

(36.) Hamid Mokaddem (2010) speaks of a 'revolutionary sequence'.

(37.) Thio lost 22% of its population between the 1983 (3,019 inh.) and 1989 (2,368) census and the ethnic composition changed dramatically. In 1983, just before the 'evenements', there were around 50% Kanak and 50% non-Kanak in Thio. To give an idea of the dramatic changes in Thio demographic history, there were 3,251 inhabitants in Thio in 1931, among which 65% Javanese and Indonesian, 16% Kanak and 19% White (including Japanese) (source: CAOM).

                                 Walhsian &                   Ni-
        European      Kanak       Futunian     Tahitian     Vanuatu

1983      24.6         49.2         17.4         6.6           ?
1989      14.6         71.2         8.5          2.6           ?
1996      16.1         69.9         8.3          3.0          0.7
2009      7.7          76.6         6.1          2.0          0.2

        Asiatic       Metis        Other        answer       Total

1983      1.3           --          1.0           --         3,019
1989      1.3           --          1.8           --         2,368
1996      1.1           --          0.9           --         2,614
2009      0.6          6.3          0.2          0.5         2,629

(Percentages, source: ISEE).

In 2004, there were no ethnic statistics; they were re-introduced in modified form with the 2009 population census: people were asked to declare to which 'community of belonging' (communaute d'appartenance) they felt the closest; the category 'Metis' was introduced for the first time and there were cases of non-answer, seemingly especially on the White side, as many people of 'European descent' claim to be either 'Caledonian' or 'Caldoche' and not 'European'; many 'metis' in Thio are also people who would have been categorized as 'European' previously, which explains the apparent strong decline of 'European' percentage between 1996 and 2009).

(38.) Association des Kanak de la Grande Terre et des Iles (AKGTI).

(39.) Degremont (2008), Le Meur (2009b). The commune was created as an autonomous political and administrative body in 1969. Provincialisation resulted from the 1988 Matignon agreement, which gave broad responsibility (as regards economic development and environment for instance) to the three newly-created provinces (North, South, Loyalty Islands).

(40.) For a detailed description and discussion of this conflict, see Le Meur (2012).

(41.) In this regard, this localized conflict is part of the long trajectory of the "meta-conflict' of the settlement colonization, which was updated by the political claim and land reform. Kouare tribe was allocated 2,297 ha of land under customary status in 1994. The agreement of 1996 had also several clauses dealing directly with land (especially concerning the Baie de la Mission residential development). Kouare resident population was 97 in 1989 (among which 94 belonged to the tribe), 112 in 1996 (among which 98 belonged to the tribe). In the meantime, the number of people claiming to belong to Kouare tribe bur residing outside Kouare increased from 49 to 75, among them 17 in 1989 and 39 in 1996 lived outside Thio (source: ISEE).

(42.) The land reform process, which was launched in 1978 and continued in various institutional forms up to the 2000s, was based on the acquisition of private lands by a public agency and their distribution under the legal form of customary land to Kanak collectives (tribe, clan. group of clans) based on criteria combining logics of proof (historical group legitimacies) and negotiation (taking the current land situations into account) (see Le Meur, 2011). The desire for recognition without any claim for the assignment of lands expresses a demand for the acknowledgement of the appropriation of land based on antecedence (a matter of indigenousness, in short) without involving the transfer of the claimed space in the form of legally recognized customary land.

(43.) See the decree of 1876 defining the 'indigenous territorial property" (art. 9): 'Tribes will not be allowed to mortgage, rent out or sell lands recognized as theirs. They will have free use of them according to their custom, until land demarcation can be completed by the creation of individual ownership'.

(44.) Even though the same arete stated tha sacred sites and cemeteries were to be included within their limits: Kanak people's displacements made this clause generally ineffective. In the meantime, a decree in 1884 attributed 110,000 hectares to the penal administration for the settlement of convicts. New Caledonia would become a penal settler colony from 1864 to 1897 (over 30,000 convicts--10% of political cases--would be deported to New Caledonia during the period).

(45.) It was rather a loose set of heterogeneous and instable regulations and colonial historians and legal specialists now prefer to speak of the 'indigenat regime' (Merle 2004: 141-142). or simply the 'indigenat', referring 'both to the status of the "native" and to the administrative regulations governing "natives"' (Muckle 2011:138: see Merle 2009 too).

(46.) The first draft of the indigenat states that the Kanak are not allowed to move beyond their arrondissement's boundaries without administrative authorization. According to Adrian Muckle (2011: 142), '[w]hile Kanak were not formally confined to their reserves and could in theory move within their district for up a fortnight (provided various dress regulations and curfews were obeyed), the collective effect of the various infractions amounted to much the same thing'.

(47.) Before 1898, the agents of native affairs were the civilian administrators in charge of each arrondissement.

(48.) See also Merle (2004) on the indigenat regime as part of the imperial government: not a state of exception isolated from the functioning of the French state; for a conceptualization of the state of exception as a governmental paradigm, see Agamben (1998, 2005).

(49.) See the decrees of 1887 on the state estate, also the 110,000 ha allotted to penal colonization in 1884 (Dauphine 1987).

(50.) This 'emic village' results from the cantonnement as a peculiar nucleation process.

(51.) See Neaoutyine (2006), Mokaddem (2010, 2012).

Table 1: Arretes of Kouare delimitation and extension (1900-1978)
(source: ORSTOM survey 1980, ANC)

                                                         Surface (ha)

Date  Arrete  Page JONC  Deed  Tribe   Designation     +     -     =

1900   147                                           203.86
1926   198       190      48   Kouere  Allocation    297.00      297.00
1944   514       257      45   Kouere  Allocation      7.70      304.70
1959   186       324      40   Kouere  Allocation     22.00      326.70
                                         plot 95
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Author:Le Meur, Pierre-Yves
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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