Making Law in Papua New Guinea

The Colonial Origins of a Postcolonial Legal System

by Bruce L. Ottley, David Weisbrot, Jean G. Zorn

Tags: Comparative Law, Indian and Indigenous Peoples Law, Legal History

Table of Contents (PDF)

538 pp  $68.00

ISBN 978-1-5310-0550-4
eISBN 978-1-5310-0551-1

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In the waning days of colonialism in Papua New Guinea, much of the rhetoric from local leaders pushing for self-determination focused on replacing the imposed colonial legal system with one that reflected local customs, understandings, relationships, and dispute settlement techniques—in other words, a "uniquely Melanesian jurisprudence." After independence in 1975, however, that aim faded or began to be seen as an impossible objective, and PNG is left with a largely Western legal system.

In this book, the authors—who were all directly involved in law teaching, law reform, and judging during that period—explore the potent and enduring grip of colonialism on law and politics long after the colonial regime has been formally disbanded. Combining original historical and legal research, engagement with the scholarly literature of dependency theory and postcolonial studies, and personal observation, interviews, and experience, Making Law in Papua New Guinea offers compelling insights into the many reasons why postcolonial nations remain imprisoned in colonial laws, institutions, and attitudes.

"The book is an asset for those wanting to know about the legal history of PNG. It gives an excellent historical background of colonial occupation and the conflicts associated with implementing Western legal systems over the customary traditions of dispute resolution. The book is not only handy for research studies on PNG legal history, but has quite a good number of lessons for those who are researching the legal field in general." — Dr. Gaurav Shukla, Journal of Pacific Studies

"The authors' mastery of their sources is exemplary. Three lifetimes' worth of work as scholars and lawyers give the book amazing depth. They have a superb grasp of published, unpublished, and incredibly obscure sources. At the same time, they are not trapped in the past. The bibliography includes links to current news in PNG's main newspapers, as well as more recent writing about the country. The authors are not just areal experts, they also have a broad theoretical grasp on issues of formalizing law and the interaction between law and society. As a result, their synthesis of the historical material is especially sure-footed. It is very impressive. . . . It is not often that a lifelong passion project achieves its ambitions, and yet this volume is precisely that: a rigorous, broad, synthetic history that does credit to the authors' lifetimes of expertise. It should be a standard reference for anyone interested in PNG's colonial history." — Alex Golub, University of Hawaiʻi at Ma¯noa, The Journal of Pacific History

Comp Copy If you are a professor teaching in this field you may request a complimentary copy.