Image: Women and Children of Roas Bay in Malaita, Beattie, 1906
Seminar: History, Culture and Contemporary Gender Discourse: Tracing the Historical Progression of Gender Roles in Solomon Islands
Speaker: Anna Kwai, ECDI PhD
When: 9 May 2022, 10am-11.30am AEST
This is an online event and will be hosted via Zoom. (Meeting ID: 891 8773 2737; Password: 535821)
Discourses on gender and development in Solomon Islands often flag ‘Indigenous cultures’ and ‘traditional practices’ as barriers to women’s advancement. This characterisation overlooks the effects of Western institutional processes and ideologies, such as missionisation and colonisation that tend to obscure accurate representation of traditional culture. Missionisation and colonisation are prominent among a number of factors that have shaped our contemporary interpretation of gender roles, norms, and relationships. Overlooking these historical influences on Indigenous societies and their traditional practices renders development discourse, along with historical reconstruction in other disciplines, inaccurate and impractical and discounts the intelligence and ability of women to negotiate their positions within changing social environments. Using the Kwara’ae region of central Malaita as a case study, my research, which is funded by the Evolution of Cultural Diversity Initiative (ECDI), will reconstruct gender roles in precolonial Solomon Islands societies and trace their progression through the colonial and postcolonial periods. I ask the following questions: How have gender roles transformed from precolonial societies to the postcolonial period? How have the processes of Western institutions shaped our perceptions of indigenous cultures? My aim is to provide an Indigenous historiography that places the status and agency of women at its centre, foregrounding women’s abilities to navigate the changing dynamics of gendered roles and systems of power and influence over time.