ANTHY300-23A (HAM)

Culture and Power in the Pacific

15 Points

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Division of Arts Law Psychology & Social Sciences
School of Social Sciences


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What this paper is about

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ANTHY 300 is about the ways in which culture affects, influences and shapes power in Pacific societies, nation states and other political systems. We explore how culture frames power through ideology, constructs power through tradition, and disentangles power through language. We also examine how power, in turn, affects, influences and shapes Pacific cultural systems. The course 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. How are women excluded or included in formal political leadership in the Pacific islands? Do they have access to other forms of power?

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 elsewhere?

7. How does climate change articulate with global and local systems of power in the Pacific Region? What forms are resistance can be observed?

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.

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How this paper will be taught

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The class is taught through weekly lectures and tutorials.
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Required Readings

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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,
USP/Beake House.

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
53(4): 384-388.
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.

3. Demian, M. (2014). On the repugnance of customary law. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 56(2), 508-536.

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
South Pacific.
2. Besnier, Niko. 2009. "Modernity, cosmopolitanism, and the emergence of middle classes in Tonga." The Contemporary Pacific 21.2
(2009): 215-262.

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 Resistance

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.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Knowledge of systems of power and hierarchy in Pacific societies
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  • Knowledge of select societies, topics and debates
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  • Knowledge of key concepts in Political Anthropology
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  • An ability to critically read and write about social science literature
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  • An ability to apply the knowledge gained to other contexts
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How you will be assessed

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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.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Test 1
28 Mar 2023
No set time
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. Test 2
9 May 2023
No set time
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
3. Essay
13 Jun 2023
No set time
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
4. Participation
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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