Melissa Demian: The gender of the minibus

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Melissa Demian (University of St. Andrews) gave a talk titled “The gender of the minibus: Women and the navigation of urban space in Papua New Guinea” on the 14th of April 2018.

Urban spaces across Oceania are characterised by their relative newness. With few towns and cities more than a century old, and all artefacts of colonialism, they are places of rapid change and experimentation with new social and cultural arrangements. Among these areas of experimentation is how gender is being reimagined through its articulation with the obligations that can become intensified in urban life: work, education, church, sport, and other institutions. Also the infrastructures and technologies particular to city life have their own consequences for how people connect and disconnct, with certain consequences for their relationships – and therefore the gendering of those relationships.

Drawing upon a recent project on domestic violence in Papua New Guinea’s two primary cities, Port Moresby and Lae, this paper explores the means and methods which women use to navigate the urban as they seek redress for the violence itself, but also attempt to project more hopeful connections across the city than those they have been offered in their marriages.