Kastom, Property and Ideology: Land Transformations in Melanesia is a new ANU Press publication that examines the highly contested and political issue of land in Melanesia. The book departs from typical examinations of land in Melanesia in that, from its conception, the editors challenged contributors to engage with and examine the applicability of the ideas presented in Derek Hall, Philip Hirsch and Tania Murray Li’s 2011 book, Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia, to the Melanesia region.
In doing so, the editors, Siobhan McDonnell, Matthew Allen and Colin Filer, have made an important contribution to broader Asia Pacific and global comparative scholarship on land transformations and land grabs in developing country contexts. The book’s afterword by Philip Hirsch ties this comparative analysis back to Powers of Exclusion and highlights the importance of history, politics and culture in different regional contexts. It also highlights the point that a major contribution of this book to international scholarship on land is its strong focus on the relatively less studied area of urban land transformations in developing countries. Another highlight of the book is its focus on the gendered dynamics of land in the region.