Infrastructure in Melanesia
: imaginaries, experiences and practices of road making in Buka Island

  • Marlit Felizitas Rosolowsky

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis explores Melanesian concepts of roads based on multilocal ethnographic research on different kinds of roads in Buka Island, the northern island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. It explores how different modes of socialities, politics, and future imaginaries have to be negotiated in the context of infrastructural transformation and varying degrees of infrastructural fragility. Taking the idioms for roads like maroro in Haku dialect and rot in Tok Pisin as an analytical vantage point, my thesis analyses how people in Buka conceptualize, build, maintain, and move along different types of roads, including garden roads (beaten footpaths), coral roads, and sealed sections of a highway. It compares the different socialities, politics, and imaginaries these roads generate and the ways in which they intersect and mutually inform each other. Inspired by the anthropology of roads and infrastructure, I argue that Melanesian socialities and politics and their continuously changing articulations can be addressed particularly well by looking at infrastructural transformations, specifically of roads. In addition, this thesis contributes a Melanesian perspective to the anthroplogy of roads and infrastructure by experimenting with the question of what practices and imaginaries create roads and what makes them infrastructural in Buka. It demonstrates the importance of taking other concepts of roads and types of roads into account when seeking to understand the changes large-scale public infrastructure projects like highway construction bring about for people.
Date of Award28 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAdam Douglas Evelyn Reed (Supervisor)

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  • 10 February 2026

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