Seminar Talk: Lucas Watt 9/3/17

Navigating Identity in an Informal Settlement in Suva

Lucas Watt, RMIT University

USP Seminar Talk

Abstract: Informal settlements are becoming a greater part of the Melanesian and Oceanic urban landscape. Fiji, and the Greater Suva Urban Area (GSUA) in particular, has experienced growth in informal settlement populations due to rural-urban migration. It is estimated that 60% of the 90,000 to 100,000 Fijian squatter population live in the Suva-Nausori corridor (Thornton, 2009). Drawing upon eight months of ethnographic research in an informal settlement in Suva, this talk explores the identities and relationships that informal settlers navigate in this increasingly urbanising environment through assemblages of media and communication technologies. Traditional, rural identities and relationships are formed through urban based agriculture, connections to urban land, and reformation of urban kinship enclaves, what Jones (2016a, 2016b) has termed “urban village”. However, informal settlers also hold urban economic and social aspirations, while also been faced with the challenge of land commodification and land ownership formalisation. In this talk I argue that household mobile recharge areas provide members of the community with zones through which to navigate both ‘tradition’ and ‘modern’ identities.