Formal appropriations and corporate formations
(P21)
Location H
Date and Time 12th December, 2008 at 13:30

Convenors

Benedicta Rousseau (University of Waikato) rousseau@waikato.ac.nz
John Taylor (La Trobe University) John.Taylor@latrobe.edu.au
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel invites participants to consider the notions of agency, efficacy and coherence that inform the appropriation of particular bureaucratic, legal and governmental forms and structures in processes of corporate formation.

Long Abstract

This panel invites participants to investigate ethnographically the proposition that access to power resides in strategic appropriation of the range of bureaucratic, legal and governmental forms and structures that originate in, but now circulate beyond the ownership of the modern state. The process of appropriating, perhaps a particular committee structure or certain epistolary style, may involve the attachment of alternative meanings to forms and structures, informed by differing ambitions and judgments of efficacy that rest in a specific cultural logic.

Our aim is to pay attention to the role of form in negotiations over access to power and resources, with particular reference to group or corporate formation. How do persons and groups promote themselves, their interests and their potential actions through form and structure? How is the group appropriation of certain formal properties encouraged through development processes initiated by the state, NGOs or other non-state actors, particularly through the portrayal of networks and possibilities - in terms of recognition, affiliation and access to resources - that may be opened up through their adoption? How are claims to representivity, authority and/or coherence framed through form or structure? And how can the intent of forms and structures be subverted through alternative interpretations of the range of actions they enable and resources they make available?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'Our submissions come from the heart': Becoming Inc. without compromising who you are

Author: Tiffany McComsey beddamia@aol.com

Short Abstract

This paper will examine the shifting modalities which occurred in the process of an Aboriginal organisation becoming incorporated in Australia. The focus will be on the interrelationships between the organisation, its legitimacy in the eyes of others, and navigating the tensions between being determined by the State and acting otherwise.

Abstract

Incorporation and gaining gift recipient status are two elements which are seen as integral factors in the development of an Aboriginal community organisation. Incorporation allows for financial independence from an auspicing body and the eventual expansion of the organisation by enabling it to apply for its own grants and therefore run its own programmes. 'Gift recipient status' allows for funding to come from the private sector, the benefit of which is seen as the ability to manoeuvre outside of the confines of government grant monies and an independence from government policy, and yet government restrictions limit the types of organisations that receive 'gift recipient status.'

The process of incorporating, that is adopting a certain structure and vision for the organisation, and how to function as an Inc. are not necessarily straightforward processes. Incorporation does not necessarily challenge the identity of an organisation but it provides a framework for action which can re-structure an organisation. Nor are the benefits of incorporating immediate - the need to prove oneself as independent functioning incorporated structure and competing within a network of other like organisations becomes more challenging.

This paper will follow the progression of an organisation 'for' the Stolen Generations into an organisation 'of' the Stolen Generations and the tensions involved in articulating and being 'who we are,' 'what we do' and 'who we represent.'

Appropriating the Corporation, Transforming Landscape and Escaping Taxes: The Global Real Estate Industry in Vanuatu

Author: Gregory Rawlings (University of Otago) greg.rawlings@otago.ac.nz

Short Abstract

This paper explores how neo-liberal ideas of the corporation have infused legal, bureaucratic and governmental forms to transform property, particularly seafront real estate. It focuses on Vanuatu, where tax and land law have been appropriated for expatriate realesate on its main islands, reclassifying property as commodity over “kastom.”

Abstract

Globalisation is transforming the way property is imagined, classified and commodified. Transnational networks, flows and linkages now enable wealthy and sometimes not-so-wealthy citizens of post-industrial societies to own and possess property including the most tangible form of all - land - across borders outside of their own countries. This has contributed to the rise of a global real-estate industry which is redesigning not only landscapes, but also notions of domicile, citizenship and the corporate form. In the South Pacific nation-state of Vanuatu investors, advisers and financial planners in the country's offshore industry have appropriated specific legal instruments (Torrens titling) and established particular corporate entities (tax free companies and trusts) to embark on the most ambitious program of land tenure conversion since European colonisation. In this process a named Indigenous landscape is being layered with multiplex meanings and ideas of land ownership, appropriation and use. These processes of tenure conversion have been facilitated by redesigning the corporation to maximize the arbitrage between Vanuatu's tax haven status and its 'high' taxing regional neighbors. In doing so bureaucratic, legal, governmental and bureaucratic processes intersect and become entangled in stories of land alienation, tax evasion and money laundering. As a consequence Vanuatu is experiencing one of the most profound changes in land ownership it has ever seen, with 55 percent of all land on the country's main island of Efate now in foreign hands, and 80-90 percent of all coastal land leased out to sea-changing expatriates. This paper charts these propertied transitions and transformations.

Prayers and performance indicators: efficacy and hierarchy in Vanuatu provincial government

Author: Benedicta Rousseau (University of Waikato) rousseau@waikato.ac.nz

Short Abstract

This paper examines the creation of parallel hierarchical structures at a provincial government headquarters in Vanuatu. Focussing on assignations of efficacy, I examine the tensions between the structural imagining of the province made explicit in the form of a staff handbook, and the restructuring of these imaginings on a daily basis through prayer.

Abstract

This paper examines the creation of parallel hierarchical structures at a provincial government headquarters in Vanuatu. While undertaking a "restructuring" programme the province was simultaneously involved in a court case regarding land boundaries. In this context, those considered structurally least important were able to assert their efficacy through participation in daily prayers aimed at strengthening the province's position in court proceedings. Focussing on assignations of efficacy, I examine the tensions between the structural imagining of the province made explicit in the form of a staff handbook, and the restructuring of these imaginings on a daily basis through prayer.

Playing the Advocacy Game: New Settlers and the Ethno-Politics of Successful Community Advocacy

Author: Steve Francis (University of Melbourne) sfrancis@redcross.org.au

Short Abstract

This paper provides an insight into the contrasting ways in which two migrant settler communities in Australia have sought to adopt, adapt and appropriate organisational and committee structures in response to the demands of bureaucratic funding requirements and ‘legitimate’ forms of engagement between government and non-state actors.

Abstract

This paper provides an insight into the contrasting ways in which two migrant settler communities in Australia have sought to adopt, adapt and appropriate organisational and committee structures in response to the demands of bureaucratic funding requirements and 'legitimate' forms of engagement between government and non-state actors. In order to have a voice with government, advocate for the settlement needs of their community and attract resource infrastructure and service delivery funding, new arrival communities must create organisations and committees of a particular type in order to be recognised by government and its bureaucracy. Some communities are very successful in adapting to this process, successfully gaining the attention of government and subsequently attracting funding and resources. Other communities are far less successful at adapting to these 'demands'. This paper will provide a comparison of two communities in order to gain an insight into the means by which bureaucratic form and structure may be both adhered to, and subverted, to the benefit (or not) of new settler communities.

Strakja: depictions of organisation and community in Vanuatu.

Author: John Taylor (La Trobe University) John.Taylor@latrobe.edu.au

Short Abstract

This paper discusses a range of visual strakja (‘structure’; organisational structures) that depict changing imaginings and expectations of formal appropriation within contemporary Vanuatu.

Abstract

This paper explores the visual representation of organisations and communities in Vanuatu. The creation of abstract images depicting social or political-economic institutions is not new to Vanuatu, but pre-dates European arrival, and can be found for instance in sand-drawings, architectural designs, and as mapped onto biological forms - particularly trees and root crops. In post-independence Vanuatu the creation of a viable strakja ('structure'; organisational structure), visually represented in the form of a diagram or organisational chart, is typically considered a prerequisite to the formation and effective functioning of any organisation or group. This includes state-related 'official' bodies (such as national and local councils, political parties and related organisations), businesses and co-operatives, and a great range of local interest groups (sports, youth, women's groups, etc). While internally generating 'the effects of their own realities by reflecting on themselves' (Riles 2001:3), such technologies express local imaginings and expectations regarding the constitution of legitimate political-economic form, hierarchy or sociality. This is particularly the case for those organisations seeking to appropriate funding, 'development' or other services from Government, NGO, and other 'external' sources. Related social reifications, found in festival programs, meeting agendas, and official speeches, etc, are also of interest for the way in which they aim to complete an image of society that is both ideal and holistic. This paper discusses a range of visual strakja that depict the changing imaginings and expectations of formal appropriation within contemporary Vanuatu.