USP Theses Collection


close this section of the library Politics and culture -- Solomon Islands

View the PDF document When gifts matter : understanding the role of gifting in Solomon Islands constituency politics
Author: Hiriasia, Tony Aruhane
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Award: M.A.
Subject: Politics and culture -- Solomon Islands, Social structure -- Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands -- Politics and government
Date: 2016
Call No.: Pac JA 75 .7 .H57 2016
BRN: 1206773
Copyright:10-20% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission

Abstract: The discussion of the corruption and governance problem in Solomon Islands has often been related to a gifting culture assumed to be characteristic of Melanesian politics. Scholars and critics have been divided over the argument that gifting in modern politics derives from the traditional gifting cultures of Melanesian societies. Some scholars relate the poor choice of leaders (especially parliamentarians) to traditional notions of leadership which are assumed to have permeated the adopted political structures and processes. A key feature of traditional politics used as a basis for this argument and assumed to have continued in the modern politics is the wellknown practice of wealth distribution in order to maintain political support and loyalty. On the other hand, some scholars argue that the gifting common in modern politics results from the economic realities faced by voters. They argue that in the harsh economic environment of rural constituencies where there is little economic opportunity and activities, voters will always exchange their political loyalty for gifts and incentives they are offered. They therefore argue that the gifting as it happens in modern politics is purely an economic activity. However, this thesis argues that the influence of tradition and culture on modern politics has been misunderstood by the supporters of the cultural argument as well as those who have maintained an economic argument concerning the gifting practice in modern politics. Using empirical evidence from the study of gift giving and voting in AreAre society and the urban constituency of East Honiara, the thesis argues that while these societies do have a strong gifting tradition, the gifting practice is seldom a means on its own to gain political power and authority. In these contexts where gifting is kin-based and serves as a basis for resource pooling, the gifting practice complements leadership and consolidates the relationship between kin members through interaction. Gifting is therefore the evidence of the kin or existing relationship as opposed to the argument that gifting generates a new political relationship between a giver and the recipient. It is this aspect of traditional socio-political organization that persists in AreAre and more generally in Solomon Islands contemporary politics and influences political v alliances and voting behaviour. Kin relationships more than gifting determines voting behaviour within these societies.
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