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Pigs, Politics and Social Change in Vanuatu

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Pigs have long held great symbolic import for the people of Vanuatu, a sprawling archipelago 1,000 miles northeast of Australia. In most of the indigenous, small-scale communities which comprised traditional Vanuatu society, pig ownership and pig killing conveyed status, wealth, and informal power. Such rituals were the sole measure of social standing and political rank. In this study, I show how the cultural valuation of an animal, in this case the pig, can evolve as a society undergoes socio-economic development, and also how it can be used to foster nationalistic, partisan. and other political ends. I show how competing nationalist leaders used pig symbolism in their struggle to create a unified national identit_v,for-varying island groups, and how even today, local leaders derive their legitimacy through the manipulation of traditional animal rites.



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