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Department of Social Anthropology


Gambling across the Pacific: the Fluttering Tide

Europeans brought gambling to the Pacific along with novel forms of valuable and disjunctive wealth imbalances. The proposed MAPPickles Gambling in PNG by 1980historical and ethnographic research examines successive waves of gambling’s introduction, indigenization and mutation as responses to social transformation and economic uncertainty. Gambling very quickly became highly desirable, extremely variable and an important explanatory idiom. Esoteric local games mediated the region’s heterogeneity, and for Pacific people life became ‘like gambling’: a matter of creatively arbitrating between old and new ways. Upscaling from my ethnography in an urban location where national currency is ubiquitous and gambling serves to cross many cultural barriers, I will: 1) analyse secondary source material from across the Pacific on the explosive take-up of gambling from 1800 to 1970; and 2) conduct contrastive ethnographic research in two locales where gambling sits astride distinct and resilient indigenous exchange practices. The result will be a fresh ethnographic take on historical transformation, regional diversity and economy.

Awarding Body: The British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship