Turf wars in the marketplace: space, identity and conflict in the Papua New Guinean betel nut trade (16405)
In Papua New Guinea (PNG) marketplaces are central to the lives and livelihoods of both rural and urban people. But they are equally places in which some people belong and others do not. This is particularly evident in the local struggles for livelihoods and control of space that characterise the country’s betel nut marketplaces. In these marketplaces, social networks shape who may trade and where, something reinforced by the possibility of violence, real or imagined. From this I argue that marketplaces in PNG are conceived of not primarily as civic spaces, in which anyone may seek to make a living, but more commonly as captured spaces, the territories of particular social groupings. This, I contend, has important implications for marketplace actors in the context of recent bans on the trade in betel nut in the national capital, Port Moresby. Although these place-based projects of exclusion in the betel nut trade do not readily fit common imaginings of small wars, they do recall those same dynamics of identity, legitimacy, inequality, power and competing claims to resources that shape conflict elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific.