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The matter of Makira: colonialism, competition, and the production of gendered peoples in contemporary Solomon Islands and medieval Britain

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Since civil tension disrupted Solomon Islands between 1998 and 2003, the Arosi of Makira have elaborated discourses according to which their island contains a secret and preternaturally powerful subterranean army base. These discourses have clear antecedents in Maasina Rule, a post-World War II socio-political movement sometimes analysed as a “cargo cult”. Offering an alternative interpretation, I compare Arosi discourses about the Makiran underground to the Matter of Britain as represented in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (completed c. 1138). I argue that both sets of discourses arise from the dynamics of mutually precipitating communities mythologizing themselves and each other in terms of the analogous oppositions colonizer is to colonized as allochthon is to autochthon as male is to female. This comparison, I conclude, recommends the medieval European phenomenon of a “matter” as a productive model for understanding contemporary ethnogenetic myth-making in and beyond Melanesia.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/36977/

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