Tjibaou’s Kanak. Ethnic Identity in New Caledonia Past, Present and Future

Denise Fisher, ANU Centre for European Studies

Thursday 19 June 2014 5.30pm – 6.30pm

On 11 May 2014 a new local Congress was elected in New Caledonia, the last under the 1998 Noumea Accord. This Congress will decide whether and when a long-promised independence referendum will be held, from now until 2018. It is timely to refresh our perspective of the ethnic identity questions at the heart of the coming debate. The definition of ethnic identity emerged in New Caledonia within a unique context of France’s colonization. It was formed by early notions of French administrators, missionaries, and settlers; and indigenous experience of the two world wars. As postwar France reversed its initial disposition to extend greater autonomy, the separate identities of the indigenous and Caldoche communities sharpened. Civil disturbance over independence demands erupted in the 1980s.

It was Jean-Marie Tjibaou’s articulation of what it meant to be Kanak, at that turbulent time, that has shaped political events in the archipelago since. The 1998 Noumea Accord drew heavily from his ideas. Their importance has become evident in the implementation of the Accord, and discussions about the way forward: the most difficult areas have been those related to identity and citizenship issues. Tjibaou’s words continue to provide pointers to a peaceful future.

Denise Fisher is a Visiting Fellow at the ANU Centre for European Studies. She wrote France in the South Pacific: Power and Politics, published by ANU E-Press in 2013. She is a former senior Australian diplomat, having headed Australia’s diplomatic missions in Noumea, New Caledonia, covering the French Pacific; and Harare, Zimbabwe, accredited also to Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, and Malawi. She has served in Washington DC, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, Nairobi and Yangon. Denise has a Masters of International Public Policy (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC) and a Masters of Philosophy (ANU).

This Special Lecture is co-hosted by the ANU State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) and the ANU Centre for European Studies (ANUCES), as part of 2014 State of the Pacific Conference, 18-19 June 2014.

Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Hedley Bull Centre, Canberra

Parking: please see the Visitor Parking Map

RSVP: europe@anu.edu.au by 11 June 2014

ANUCES is an initiative involving four ANU Colleges (Arts and Social Sciences, Law, Business and Economics, and Asia and the Pacific) co-funded by the ANU and the European Union.

SSGM is one of the most vibrant units in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and is a recognised leading centre for multi-disciplinary research on contemporary Melanesia, Timor-Leste and the wider Pacific.