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McDougall, Debra

University of Western Australia (Anthropology)
Anthropology – Ranongga 

Current affiliation, academic qualifications and contact details.

Dr. Debra McDougall
Australian Postdoctoral Fellow
Anthropology and Sociology, M255
School of Social and Cultural Studies
The University of Western Australia
Crawley WA 6009
P : +61 8 6488 1819
F : +61 8 6488 1062
Email : debra.mcdougall@uwa.edu.au

Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), August 2004
Dissertation: “The Shifting Ground of Moral Community: Christianity, Property, and Place in Ranongga, Solomon Islands”

M.A., Anthropology, University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), June 1997
Thesis: “Against the Law (and Native Custom): Authority and Discursive Boundaries
in the Making of Colonial Law (Western District, Solomon Islands)”

BA. with Honors, Pennsylvania State University (State College, PA), May 1993


I am currently an Australian Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Western Australia. In this role, I am carrying out a research project (funded by the Australian Research Council) focused on the political role of churches in the Solomons. The starting point for this research is the notion that an analysis of contemporary Christianity is critical for understanding struggles in Solomon Islands because it informs so many aspects of everyday life—land tenure, approaches to peacemaking, and economic development.

This current project builds on my long term research in the Western Solomons, where I have carried out research since 1998, mostly on the island of Ranongga in Western Province. I am moderately fluent in Kubokota and Luqa languages and understand some Roviana. I lived on Ranongga for much of the period of the ‘tensions,’ doing PhD research from September 1998 to October 1999 and from March 2000 to February 2001. My PhD thesis focused on how Christianity overlays and has transformed kinship and land tenure on the island. I’ve written several articles from the thesis and am now revising this as a book that focuses on how people of Ranongga (and the Western Solomons more broadly) engage with strangers—as Ranonggans say, ‘goto tinoni.’ 

Home base for me is the village of Pienuna on the eastern coast, but I’ve visited every village and most hamlets of Ranongga and have also travelled to Vella Lavella where people from the Kubokota region have very strong ties. My current research project is taking me further a field within the Western Province, including to North New Georgia, and I am also spending more time in towns because that is where much religious innovation and change is occurring. I returned to Ranongga for a brief visit in 2005 and a four-month period of postdoctoral research from November 2006 to March 2007. I was most recently in the Solomons for three weeks in October 2007 to visit Ranongga after the earthquake. I travelled with two Ranonggans who work at Kastom Gaden Association and we produced an independent report on our impressions. This report, as well as most of my publications, are available below.

My general research interests include the globalization of Christianity, religion and political economy, land and territory, and language. Before taking up my position at the University of Western Australia, I was a visiting assistant professor at the The University of Notre Dame (USA).

Under review. McDougall, D. & J. Kere. n.d. Christianity, Custom, and Law: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Post-conflict Solomon Islands. In Mediating Across Difference: Indigenous, Oceanic and Asian Approaches to Conflict Resolution (eds) M. Brigg & R. Bleiker.

2008. “Religious institutions as Alternative Structures in post-conflict Solomon Islands: Cases from Western Province.” For State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Discussion Paper Series, 08/05, Australian National University.

2008. D. McDougall, I. Barry, S. Pio. Disaster and Recovery on Ranongga: Six Months After the Earthquake in the Western Solomons. Independent report.

2006. “New Interventions, Old Asymmetries: Australia & the Solomon Islands,” The New Critic, Issue 3, 2006, online (http://www.ias.uwa.edu.au/the_new_critic).

2005. “The Unintended Consequences of Clarification: Development, Disputing, and the Dynamics of Community in Ranongga, Solomon Islands,” Ethnohistory 52 (1): 81-109.

2003. “Fellowship and Citizenship as Models of National Community: United Church Women's Fellowship in Ranongga, Solomon Islands,” Oceania 74 (1-2): 61-80.

2000. “Paths of Pinauzu: Captivity and Social Reproduction in Ranongga,” Journal of the Polynesian Society 109 (1): 99-113.

Further ideas and reflections
I wholeheartedly support this initiative and am so pleased to be a part of it. Lack of access to libraries and the fragile nature of books means that even when we duly return our work to the Ministry of Education, few of our interlocutors can read what we have written. As more internet stations open in rural areas, bright secondary school students may have access to this work. I am happy to contribute to the database and to help liaise with Solomon Islands partners whenever I am on research trips in the Solomons.



McDougall (2000) Pinauzu in Ranongga (JPS).pdf

McDougall (2003) Fellowship and Citizenship in United Church in Ranongga (Oceania).pdf

McDougall (2005) Community and dispute in Ranongga (Ethnohistory).pdf

McDougall (2007) Ranongga Disaster Recovery (report).pdf

McDougall (2008) Religious Institutions as alternative structures in post-conflict Solomon Islands.pdf


Western Solomons
Updated 12 January, 2011