"The body of the people is in that landscape so when its mined and crushed and dug up, you’re not just doing it with rock, you’re also doing it with people, with the remains of people, and we know that happened on Banaba.”
Katerina Teaiwa, Associate Professor at the School of Culture, History and Language at ANU, author of ‘Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba’, and current Vice-President of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies, spoke to our own Simon Theobald about phosphate mining on Banaba Island. They discuss the history of phosphate mining and the spread of Banaba around the world through the global agricultural industry, the impact of the mining on the indigenous people of Banaba, continue The Familiar Strange’s exploration of decolonisation in the social sciences, and critique the current modes of knowledge production in academia, before ending with one of modern anthropology’s ultimate questions: do outsiders have the right to makes comments about other cultures?
Simon: “Banaba ends up spread across the world effectively in the form of this phosphate industry.”
Katerina: “It’s not just a metaphor. It’s literally a material fact that the island gets spread across the world and enters these ecological and food chains, so it ends up in animals, it ends up in humans.”
"Land, body and people are not disconnected from each other ... The breaking apart of that means culturally, socially, spiritually, those relationships start to fragment and become unhooked from each other.”
“We were taught to question everything in academia, to not take texts and ideas at face-value and just because they’d been written down by some powerful guy or, you know, famous people, that was truth.”
“I say this to my students … I am learning as much as you are. This is an exchange of knowledge and ideas.”
“Empowerment isn’t just about race, or class, or ethnicity. Empowerment is about helping people feel comfortable to be able to critique their own positions, their own positionality, without falling apart.”
CITATIONS AND LINKS
Teaiwa K. (2014) Consuming Ocean Island: stories of people and phosphate from Banaba, Indiana: Indiana University Press.
For an introduction on the concept of 'emodiment', give this a watch by Nicholas Herriman (2012):
For an overview of the life of late Professor Greg Denings and his contributions, see:
You can read more about Kirin Narayan here:
and Paige West here:
For more on TFS’ discussion about decolonisation, check out our podcast episode with Sana Ashraf and Bruma Rios-Mendoza here:
This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.
Music by Pete Dabro
Show notes by Deanna Catto