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The Australian National University

Associate Professor Richard Eves

BA (Adel), PhD (ANU)
Senior Fellow, State Society & Governance in Melanesia Program
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Areas of expertise

  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality 200205
  • Studies Of Pacific Peoples' Societies 169905
  • Pacific History (Excl. New Zealand And Maori) 210313
  • Religion And Society 220405
  • Postcolonial Studies 200211
  • Government And Politics Of Asia And The Pacific 160606
  • Pacific Peoples Health 111715
  • Race And Ethnic Relations 160803
  • Social And Cultural Anthropology 160104

Research interests

Melanesian Ethnography (especially religion and social/cultural change); Medical Anthropology (especially international public health and HIV/AIDS); Gender (especially masculinity); and Gender-Based Violence; Sorcery and Witchcraft


I am an anthropologist with extensive field and consultancy experience in Papua New Guinea. Now working mainly on a book on Pentecostalism in New Ireland, I aim to show the effects that this form of fundamentalist Christianity is having on cultural and social structures, and ultimately its effects on governmentality. The book looks especially at changes in the areas of gender, personhood, community and health.

The range of my publications covers Melanesian ethnography, medical anthropology, nineteenth century anthropological and racial thought, and religion and colonialism in the Pacific. I have been awarded two ARC fellowships, a research fellowship at Cambridge University and another at the University of East Anglia.

Working as a consultant for two AusAID-funded projects in Papua New Guinea, I produced culturally appropriate health promotion materials for the Department of Health, and defined the priorities for social science research into HIV/AIDS. My recent report: Exploring the Role of Men and Masculinities in Papua New Guinea in the 21st century: How to Address Violence in Ways that Generate Empowerment for Both Men and Women, was produced for Caritas (Australia).

Career highlights

1988 The David Murray scholarship prize for best honours graduate of the Faculty of Arts, University of Adelaide; 1996 Visiting Research Fellow, Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia; 1997-2000 ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow; 1999-2000 Smuts Visiting Fellow in Commonwealth Studies, Cambridge University; 2004-2008 ARC QEII Research Fellowship.

Researcher's projects

Masculinity, Men and Development: A Critical Analysis of Violence, Conflict and AIDS Prevention Measures in Melanesia (Australian Research Council Discovery Project). Begun in 2010, the project takes the view that fundamental changes are needed in men's attitudes and beliefs about women and their roles in society if the high levels of HIV infection and gender-based violence in Melanesia are to be improved. The project examines some of the prevention measures being made by governments, non-government organisations and churches. It has three aims:

  1. To critically analyse the underlying assumptions and methods of efforts being made in Melanesia to change men's behaviour, in order to reduce conflict, violence and the spread of AIDS.
  2. To produce policy-relevant research to inform the development of more culturally appropriate and effective conflict resolution, anti-violence and AIDS prevention measures aimed at men.
  3. To add to existing theoretical writings on masculinity and to make these more responsive to the contemporary situation by drawing on case studies that reveal the current, changing forms of masculinity in Melanesia and the factors that have brought these changes.

Matriliny Under Siege: Matrilineal Land Tenure and Development. This project examines how matrilineal land tenure systems in Melanesia are coping with modernity and particularly with increasing levels of development. Many anthropological writings of the past predicted the death of matrilineal systems in the face of such threats. These predictions have not been realised, but development, particularly in the form of permanent cash crops, is putting considerable pressure on matrilineal systems. Drawing on long-term fieldwork among the Lelet in central New Ireland, this project examines the complexity of the Lelet land tenure system, how the planting of coffee is causing conflicts over land, and the Lelet's proposed solutions to these conflicts.

Christianity and the AIDS Epidemic in Papua New Guinea. This research is part of an ongoing interest in the ways that evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal Christians understand and interpret the AIDS epidemic. Most Papua New Guineans have been Christian for generations. The many newer and more fundamentalist forms of Christianity that have appeared in the last forty years see the HIV/AIDS through a particularly moralistic lens that conflicts with government efforts to stem the epidemic. The research draws on material collected during fieldwork in the Southern Highlands in 2007 and in New Ireland over many years.

Papua New Guinean Conceptions of the 'Failing State'. This research focuses on how Papua New Guineans themselves conceptualise the role of the state and judge its performance. A considerable literature contests the description of the Papua New Guinean state as failing, if not failed. Much of this comes from national intellectuals and politicians, who regard such judgments as pejorative and vigorously object to their use. However, the view that the state is indeed failing is regularly met with in many parts of the country, and this research draws on case material from the Southern Highlands, Chimbu and New Ireland to document the ways that the people of these provinces voice their profound disenchantment with the state. The project examines several questions: How people see the role of the state and their expectations of it; what this reveals about Papua New Guinean national identity; what views and expectations Papua New Guineans have of other countries; and what are the implications of these issues for aid policy.

On the Ruins of Modernity: Christianity, Globalisation and Apocalypticism in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. This ongoing research project draws on long-term fieldwork among the Lelet in central New Ireland to elaborate the specific form Christianity takes there. Through the example of the local appropriation of Pentecostalism, the research explores theoretical issues, such as the changing nature of the self, governmentality and the nature of historical change, particularly the articulation between continuity and change and how local frameworks relate to the globalising trajectories of modernity. So far, this project has seen the production of several journal articles and chapters, and I am currently working towards a monograph.

Do No Harm: Understanding the Relationship between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Violence against Women in Melanesia 

The poor development outcomes for many women in the Pacific, and their increasingly high levels of economic exclusion, indicate a need to understand the factors that influence this situation. The broader development literature shows that women’s economic empowerment can have positive and negative outcomes, including both increases and decreases in levels of violence. Few studies have addressed this issue for the Pacific and what is reported is mostly anecdotal. A great need exists for research that clearly shows donor agencies what needs to be incorporated into the planning of economic empowerment initiatives, and into organisational policies, in order to minimise possible harm and to maximise positive gender equality outcomes.

In a collaboration between the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) and SSGM, Do No Harm will research the relationship between women’s economic inclusion and empowerment programs and violence against women in three countries in the cultural region of Melanesia (Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea). Specifically,  Do No Harm seeks answers to the problem of how to empower women to improve their livelihood security without compromising their safety, and to enumerate the diverse ways that women endeavour to overcome economic disadvantage. It will focus on a range of economic inclusion and empowerment initiatives that exist in the informal and formal economies, including community-based microfinance and banking initiatives, women’s business enterprises, donor-funded market projects, and women’s employment in the public sector and donor agencies.

Sorcery and Witchcraft-Related Accusations and Violence: Understanding the Perpetrators (with Angela Kelly-Hanku, PNG Institute of Medical Research/UNSW).

The issue of sorcery and witchcraft-related accusations and violence in Papua New Guinea is receiving increasing attention from researchers. However, very little research has been done on the perpetrators of these violent attacks. In collaboration, Richard Eves and Angela Kelly-Hanku (PNG Institute of Medical Research & School of Public Health & Community Medicine, UNSW) are undertaking in-depth qualitative interviews with male perpetrators of witch-hunts in the Eastern Highlands Province. This research seeks to comprehend the worldview of the perpetrators and the factors driving their violent attacks, as an important prerequisite to devising culturally appropriate and effective prevention strategies. 

Current student projects

Claire Cronin (Chair of Panel) - Speaking Suffering: Narrative and Transitional Justice in Post-Conflict Solomon Islands.

Asha Titus (Chair of Panel) - Global Value Chains and the Networked Economy: ICTs and the Spaces and Times of Globalisation in the Asian Century.

Ellen Kulumbu (Chair of Panel) - Determinants for Demand and Delivery of Health Services in Papua New Guinea: Maternal and Child Health.

Stephanie Lusby (Chair of Panel) - Constructing "Goodness": Intersections between HIV Prevention and Anti-Violence Against Women Discourses and Masculinity in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

Scott Robertson (Chair of Panel) - New Caledonian Citizenship.

Christina Kenny (Supervisor) - 'We've Agreed to be Ruled': Women's Public and Private Decision Making in Modern Kenya. 

Chris Chevalier (Supervisor) - Telling Stories: Participatory Oral History in Solomon Islands.

Almah Tararia (Advisor) - 

Past student projects

Jane Anderson - A Kundu Relationship: Translating Development in the Papua New Guinea Church Partnership Program.

Gillian Dalgetty - Networking Acupuncture in Vietnam.


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  21 August 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers