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Agents of alienation: accountants and the land grab of Papua New Guinea

Finau, G ORCID: 0000-0001-5708-8654, Jacobs, J and Chand, S 2019 , 'Agents of alienation: accountants and the land grab of Papua New Guinea' , Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, vol. 32, no. 5 , pp. 1558-1584 , doi:

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore and examine the role of accounting and accountants incustomary land transactions between Indigenous peoples and foreign corporate entities. The paper uses thecase of two accountants who utilised accounting technologies in lease agreements to alienate customary landfrom Indigenous landowners in Papua New Guinea (PNG).Design/methodology/approach: Employing a case study methodology, the paper draws oncontemporary data sets of transcripts related to a Commission of Inquiry established in 2011 toinvestigate PNG’s Special Agricultural Business Lease system. Analysis of other publicly available data andsemi-structured interviews with PNG landowners and other stakeholders supplement and triangulate datafrom the inquiry transcripts. A Bourdieusian lens was adopted to conceptualise how accounting was used inthe struggles for customary land between foreign developers and Indigenous landowners within the widercapitalist field and the traditional Melanesian field.Findings: This paper reveals how accountants exploited PNG’s customary land registration system, theIndigenous peoples’ lack of financial literacy and their desperation for development to alienate customaryland from landowners. The accountants employed accounting technologies in the sublease agreements toreduce their royalty obligations to the landowners and to impose penalty clauses that made it financiallyimpossible for the landowners to cancel the leases. The accountants used accounting to normalise, legitimiseand rationalise these exploitative arrangements in formal lease contracts.Originality/value: This paper responds to the call for research on accounting and Indigenous peoples thatis contemporary rather than historic; examines the role of accountants in Indigenous relations, and examinesthe emancipatory potential of accounting.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Finau, G and Jacobs, J and Chand, S
Keywords: accounting, customary land, Papua New Guinea, alienation, Bourdieu
Journal or Publication Title: Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN: 1368-0668
DOI / ID Number:
Copyright Information:

© Emerald Publishing Limited

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