The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 11, no. 1 (1999)


The Sin at Awarua, pp. 1-33
Ben Finney

Abstract: By focusing on the invented, socially constructed aspects of cultural revival in the Pacific, analysts have slighted the right of indigenous peoples to recall their remembered past and employ elements from it for contemporary purposes. The article contextualizes this issue by examining a ceremony conducted at the ancient temple of Taputapuatea on Ra’iatea Island, in which reconstructed voyaging canoes from around Polynesia came together in 1995 to commemorate the recent revival of canoe voyaging. According to oral traditions, centuries before Taputapuatea had hosted meetings of a “Friendly Alliance” of peoples from around Polynesia. However, that alliance had been broken when a local chief killed a visiting priest, and the canoes ceased sailing to Taputapuatea from Rarotonga, Aotearoa, and other distant islands. By inviting canoes from all over Polynesia to come together once more at Taputapuatea, and then having a tribal elder from Aotearoa chant words of forgiveness for the long ago murder of their priestly delegate, the planners sought to create a new alliance of voyaging peoples. Although this event did not exactly follow ancient protocol, it nonetheless effectively served to dramatize the current renaissance in Polynesian voyaging and how it is bringing long-separated Polynesian peoples together again.
Keywords: cultural revival, globalization, invention of tradition, oral traditions, Pacific Islands, Polynesia, voyaging

Compensation and the Melanesian State: Why the Kwaio Keep Claiming, pp. 35-67
David Akin

Abstract: As Melanesian countries enter their third decade of independence, diverse local communities are seeking to transform their status in relation to the state. Many are attempting to frame their interactions with government in terms of indigenous cultural models that presume social equivalence. When thus applied, these models themselves acquire new meanings. This paper explores this process in relation to ideas about compensation among Malaitans in the Solomon Islands who have since independence pressed several claims against the central government. The focus is on a series of claims made by Kwaio people, beginning in the 1980s, regarding crimes of a 1927 punitive expedition that followed the assassination of a district officer and his party. Ethnographic, historical, and political analyses are combined to explain why Kwaio find this compensation demand such an appealing way to approach the government. The case also illuminates violent compensation riots that rocked the capital, Honiara, in 1989 and 1996.
Keywords: compensation, identity, kastom, Kwaio, Malaita, Solomon Islands, urban violence

Individual Land Tenure in American Samoa, pp. 69-104
Merrily Stover

Abstract: This essay analyzes land tenure in the United States Territory of American Samoa. It reports the development of a new type of private land that withdraws lands from traditional descent groups and gives ownership rights to individuals. Although most American Samoans practice the indigenous kinship-based system of land tenure, the new system is legally recognized and upheld through court decisions. The essay reviews the geographic and political background of American Samoa as well as customary Samoan social organization and land tenure. The legal history of American Samoa’s individual land tenure is recounted, and characteristics of the new system are detailed. A brief comparison with individual land in Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) is made, and three case studies of land tenure in other Polynesian countries are discussed. The findings show that American Samoa’s land tenure systems are successful in supporting the needs of its people. Together, the traditional and the new systems of land tenure enable American Samoans to make their living in the economic system as it exists in the territory. While the traditional system sustains Samoan culture and identity, the individual land system supports alternative living arrangements and reintroduces returning Samoans to their native land. A prescription for continued success encourages both land systems and requires active membership in the landholding group as a condition for land use rights.
Keywords: American Samoa, land tenure, New Zealand, Rarotonga, Samoa, social change, Tahiti

The MIRAB Model Twelve Years On, pp. 105-138
Geoff Bertram

Abstract: Developed in the mid 1980s to explain economic processes in New Zealand’s sphere of influence in the Pacific islands, the MIRAB model has proved applicable across a wide range of island economies. Identifying features of a MIRAB economy are heavy reliance on transfer payments, including repatriated factor incomes, to finance current expenditure; a migration process that disperses the members of ethnic groups across geographical space while retaining the organic unity of families and communities; and a consequent transnationalization of the society’s economic activity whenever external niches of economic opportunity become accessible. Production of tradable goods is marginalized by the operation of market forces in the absence of regulation, and policies to promote tradable-led development have little application. The paper presents macroeconomic data to illustrate three stylized facts for MIRAB economies: persistent gaps between national expenditure and gross domestic product, a combination of large trade deficits with balanced current accounts (and hence limited debt accumulation), and the long-run stability of per capita aid flows. Some country-specific variations on the basic MIRAB model in the recent literature are reviewed, along with some recent economic literature on the microeconomics of transnational networks of kin and community.
Keywords: aid, development, globalization, migration, MIRAB


Melanesianist Anthropology in the Era of Globalization, pp. 140-159
Robert J Foster

Abstract: What is the agenda of Melanesianist anthropology in the era of globalization? I advocate thinking of Melanesia as a site for the ongoing configuration of global flows of images and ideas, capital and commodities, people and technology. The historical and cultural contingencies of this configuration define the specificity of Melanesia. In other words, this configuration defines Melanesia as something less like a fixed geographic location or broad culture area and more like a localized concentration of shifting, not-always-symmetrical social networks within a global web of such networks. Accordingly, a Melanesianist anthropology would ask how social linkages and relationships–old and new–channel a traffic in meaningful forms that is more or less continuous with previous patterns. It would ask, What altered and alternative forms of culture, community, and personhood are emerging at the site called Melanesia?
I accordingly propose how a Melanesianist anthropology might evolve by studying the (re)organization of social relationships effected through linkages into unprecedented and large-scale networks. Such an anthropology entails mobile, multi-sited ethnographic research geared toward tracking and tracing global flows as well as intensive, locally committed fieldwork sensitive to the varieties of globalized experience. The paper reviews some of the relevant intellectual resources available to Melanesianist anthropologists and considers the implications of globalization for ethnographic fieldwork.
Keywords: anthropology, ethnography, fieldwork, globalization, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea

Pacific-Based Virtual Communities: Rotuma on the World Wide Web, pp. 160-175
Alan Howard

Abstract: The recent dispersal of Pacific Islanders from their home islands poses long-term problems for maintaining a continuing sense of community. One possible solution is the World Wide Web, where virtual communities can be established to help perpetuate a common cultural heritage. This paper describes a website for the global Rotuman community that includes a number of features designed to serve this purpose.
Keywords: diaspora, Internet, Rotuma, virtual communities

Rootedness and Travels: The Intellectual Journey of Joël Bonnemaison, pp. 176-185
Eric Waddell
Keywords: autonomy, culture, environment, identity, Oceania


Micronesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998, pp. 188-205
Samuel F McPhetres, Joakim Peter, Marcus Samo, Donald R Shuster

Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998, pp. 206-240
Kerry James, Kelihiano Kalolo, Stephen Levine, Margaret Mutu, Wilkie Olaf Patua Rasmussen, Karin von Strokirch


The Pacific Islands Report: Regional News and Journalism Training Project, pp. 242-247
Al Hulsen


Where Nets Were Cast: Christianity in Oceania since World War II, by John Garrett, pp. 250-252
Reviewed by Mary N MacDonald

Pouvanaa A Oopa, Père de la culture politique tahitienne, by Bruno Saura with a translation in Tahitian by Valérie Gobrait, pp. 252-254
Reviewed by Ben Finney

Papua New Guinea: The Struggle for Development, by John Connell, pp. 254-256
Reviewed by Sinclair Dinnen

Environment and Development in the Pacific Islands, edited by Ben Burt and Christian Clerk, pp. 256-258
Reviewed by Patricia K Townsend

Home in the Islands: Housing and Social Change in the Pacific, edited by Jan Rensel and Margaret Rodman, pp. 258-261
Reviewed by Judith C Barker

Nuclear Nativity: Rituals of Renewal and Empowerment in the Marshall Islands, by Laurence Marshall Carucci, pp. 261-263
Reviewed by Phillip McArthur

They Make Themselves: Work and Play among the Baining of Papua New Guinea, by Jane Fajans, pp. 263-265
Reviewed by Kathleen Barlow

The Cassowary’s Revenge: The Life and Death of Masculinity in a New Guinea Society, by Donald Tuzin, pp. 265-267
Reviewed by Simon Harrison

Sites of Desire, Economies of Pleasure: Sexualities in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Lenore Manderson and Margaret Jolly, pp. 267-270
Reviewed by Karen Kelsky

The Island of the Colorblind and Cycad Island, by Oliver Sacks, pp. 270-272
Reviewed by David Hanlon