Power in the Pacific
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states and other political systems. To take just a few of the course themes, we will explore how culture frames power through ideology,
constructs power through tradition, and disentangles power through language. We will also examine how power, in turn, affects,
influences and shapes Pacific cultural systems. The course thus stems from a number of orienting questions in political anthropology.
1. Is ‘power’ a concept that must be understood as a manifestation of different cultural ‘logics’, or is it a concept that is thought of and
practiced in essentially the same way across every culture?
2. What is politics? Is it a separate sphere, as assumed in most Western political science, or an‘embedded’ aspect of all societies, not
just those with ‘non Western’ cultural traditions?
3. How do people in different societies organize themselves politically? What range of possibilities has been tried out at different times
and in different places? What forms of leadership have anthropologists and other social scientists investigated?
4. Are women generally excluded from formal political leadership in the Pacific islands? If so, do they have access to other forms of
5. Do ‘Western’ theories of class apply to small scale and/or ‘traditional’ societies such as those of the Island Pacific? What about
theories of elites?
6. What is the role of language, ideology and symbolism in the construction and maintenance of systems of power in the Pacific and
We will address these and other questions with reference to some classic debates and depictions of Pacific political systems.
The first part of the course will concentrate more on examples of ‘traditional’ systems and topics, while the second part of the course
will focus more on issues of contemporary significance – but it will become apparent that this separation is not clear cut.
In the Pacific,tradition and modernity tend to be complementary rhetorical strategies that form a deeply political duality. In effect, this
will be a paper in political anthropology illustrated with examples drawn extensively from the Pacific region.
Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:
The paper is specifically designed to produce the following main learning outcomes: for you to be conversant with descriptions and analyses of systems of power and hierarchy in Pacific island societies; for you to gain detailed understanding of a few select societies, topics and debates within that wider setting; and to enhance your ability to read and discuss social science literature on such issues with critical appreciation. In so doing, you are expected to achieve more general learning outcomes: to learn and absorb relevant information that you can reproduce clearly and cogently in your own words, written and spoken; to learn how to find such information; to learn how to distinguish between important knowledge and dross; and to learn how to apply the knowledge gained here to other contexts.Linked to the following assessments:
The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.
The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.
Error: Assessment components must add up to 100%
At least one Assessment Component needs to be entered
|Component Description||Due Date||Time||Percentage of overall mark||Submission Method||Compulsory|
|1. Reading reflections||
|2. In class test one||
9 Apr 2020
14 May 2020
|4. In class test two||
4 Jun 2020
Required and Recommended Readings*
Required Readings are bolded
ANTH300Y Readings Schedule
Week One: Framing the Pacific -
1. Taylor, Stephanie, 1998 Pacific Images. In Richard Maidment and Colin Mackerras (eds), Culture and Society in the AsiaPacific.
London: Routledge/ Open University.
2. Desmond, J. 1999. Picturing Hawaii: The Ideal Native and the Origins of Tourism, 18801915.Positions, East East Cultural Critique 7(2) 459501.
3. Callick, Rowan. 1993 A Doomsday Scenario? In Rodney V. Cole (ed.), Pacific 2010: Challenging the Future. Canberra: National
Centre for Development Studies.
4. Dinnen, Sinclair. 1997 The ‘Lifeworld’ in the ‘System’: The Dynamics of Crisis in Papua New Guinea. AsiaPacific
Magazine 6/7: 1417.
5. Hau’ofa, Epeli. 1993 Our Sea of Islands. In Eric Waddell, Vijay Naidu and Epeli Hau’ofa (eds), A New Oceania. Suva: SSED,
Week Two: No set readings
Week Three: Indigenous concepts of Power
1. Firth, Raymond1968 The Analysis of Mana : An Empirical Approach. In Andrew Vayda (ed.), Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific.
New York: Natural History Press. (Originally published in 1940.)
2. Roger Keesing. 1984. Rethinking Mana. Journal of Anthropological Research, 40 (1): 137-156.
Week Four: Migrations and mutations of mana
1. Matt Tomlinson. 2006. Retheorizing Mana: Bible translation and discourse of loss in Fiji. Oceania, 76 (2): 173-186.
2. Tomlinson, M., & Tengan, T. P. K. (2016). Introduction: Mana Anew. In New mana: transformations of a classic concept in Pacific languages and cultures. ANU Press.
Week Five: Big Men and Chiefs
1. Sahlins, Marshall. 1968 . Poor Man, Rich Man, BigMan,
Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia. In Andrew P. Vayda
(ed.), Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific. New York: Natural History Press. (Originally published in 1963.)
2. Bakel, Martin van. 1986 Samoa: Leadership Between Ascribed and Achieved. In Martin A. van Bakel, Renée R. Hagestejn, Pieter van
de Velde (eds), Private Politics: A Multidisciplinary Approach to ‘BigMan’ Systems. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
3. Lederman, R. (2015). Big man, anthropology of. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2, 567-73.
4. Godelier, Maurice. 1982 Social Hierarchies among the Baruya of New Guinea. In Andrew Strathern (ed.), Inequality in New Guinea
Highland Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Week Six: The Stranger King hypothesis
1. Sahlins, Marshall. 1985 The Stranger King;
Dumézil among the Fijians. In Islands of History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(Originally published in 1981.)
Week Nine: Pacific Personhood; language symbolism and power
1. Thaman, Konai Helu. 2000 Cultural Rights: A Personal Perspective. In Margaret Wilson and Paul Hunt (eds), Culture, Rights, and
Cultural Rights: Perspectives from the South Pacific. Wellington: Huia Press. ISBN: 187724144X
2. Brison, Karen. 2007. Our Wealth Is Loving Each Other: Self and Society in Fiji. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. (‘Introduction: Self
and Society in Fiji.’)
3. Sahlins, Marshall, 1990 The Political Economy of Grandeur in Hawaii from 1810 to 1830. In Emiko Ohnuki Tierney (ed.), Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
4. Black, Peter W. 1983 Conflict, Morality and Power in a Western Caroline Society. Journal of the Polynesian Society 92(1): 730.
Week Ten: Gender, culture and power
3. Filihia, Meredith. 2001 Men are from Maama, Women are from Pulotu: Female Status in Tongan Society. Journal of the Polynesian
Society, 110(4): 377-390.
4. Lee, H. (2017). CEDAW smokescreens: gender politics in contemporary Tonga. The Contemporary Pacific, 29(1), 66-90.
5. Tengan, Ty. 2002. (En)gendering colonialism: Masculinities in Hawai’i and Aotearoa. Cultural Values 6(3): 239-256.
6. Walker, Isaiah. Hui Nalu, Beachboys, and the Surfing Boarderlands
of Hawaii. The Contemporary Pacific, 20 (1): 89-113.
Week Eleven:Tradition and Resistance
1. Lawson, Stephanie. 1993 . The Politics of Tradition: Problems for Political Legitimacy and Democracy in the South Pacific. Pacific
Studies 16(2): 129.
2. Jacka, Jerry. 2001 CocaCola and Kolo: Land, Ancestors and Development. Anthropology Today 17(4): 38.
Week Twelve:Disputing and Disentangling
1. Filoiali’i, La’auli A. and Lyle Knowles. 1983 The Ifoga: The Samoan Practice of Seeking Forgiveness for Criminal Behaviour. Oceania
2. Macpherson, Cluny and La’avasa Macpherson. 2005. The Ifoga: The Exchange Value of Social Honour in Contemporary Samoa.
Journal of the Polynesian Society 114(2): 109-133.
Week Thirteen:Elites in the Pacific & Class in the Pacific
1. Hau’ofa, Epeli. 1987 The New South Pacific Society: Integration and Independence. In Antony Hooper et al. (eds), Class and Culture
in the South Pacific. Auckland: Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Auckland/Suva: Institute for Pacific Studies, University of the
2. Besnier, Niko. 2009. "Modernity, cosmopolitanism, and the emergence of middle classes in Tonga." The Contemporary Pacific 21.2
3. Martin, K. (2010). The death of the big men: Depreciation of elites in New Guinea. Ethnos, 75(1), 1-22.
Week Fourteen: The Pacific Environment and Crisis
1. Case, E. (2019). I ka Piko, To the Summit: Resistance from the Mountain to the Sea. The Journal of Pacific History, 54(2), 166-181.2.
2. Kirsch, S. 2001. Lost Worlds: Environmental disaster, “culture Loss” and the law. Current Anthropology, 42(2), 167-198.
Linkages to Other Papers*
Prerequisite papers: ANTH101 or ANTHY101 or ANTH102 or ANTHY102
Restricted papers: ANTH300