Dr Thiago Oppermann

PhD(USyd), MPhil (USyd), BA(Hons) (ANU)
Research Fellow, State Society and Governance in Melanesia
College of Asia & the Pacific
T: +61 2 6125 9083

Areas of expertise

  • Anthropology Of Development 160101
  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104
  • Pacific History (Excl. New Zealand And Maori) 210313

Research interests

Melanesian anthropology, Bougainville, political anthropology, ethnography of the state, Melanesian social movements, Austronesian social organization, kinship and land tenure systems in Melanesia, anthropology of development, political economy.


My PhD, completed in 2011, examined transformations in the kinship and customary authority systems amongst Halia-speakers in Buka, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, as these traditions have become enmeshed with the market economy and the state. An important part of this research is the characterisation of Melanesian states as they appear from a village perspective, and of the stark choices faced by villagers faced with a unfavourable point of entry in contemporary Bougainvillean and Papua New Guinean political economy. 

Previously, in my masters' research I investigated the efforts by the Australian colonial government and anthropologists to understand and attempt to control religio-political social movements often referred to as 'cargo cults'. This history is especially significant in terms of understanding the origins of certain features of the post-colonial political system in Papua New Guinea, notably the lack of 'horizontal' social movements and the 'vertical' integration of communities into networks of patronage.


Return to top

Updated:  15 July 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers