The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 16, no. 1 (2004)

TCP 16.1 cover imageAbout the Artist: Rongotai Lomas

The Pacific Islands


Whakapapa as a Maori Mental Construct: Some Implications for the Debate over Genetic Modification of Organisms, p. 1
Mere Roberts, Brad Haami, Richard Benton, Terre Satterfield, Melissa L Finucane, Mark Henare, and Manuka Henare

The use of whakapapa by New Zealand Maori is most commonly understood in reference to human descent lines and relationships, where it functions as a family tree or genealogy. But it also refers to an epistemological framework in which perceived patterns and relationships in nature are located. These nonhuman whakapapa contain information concerning an organism’s theorized origins from supernatural beings, inferred descent lines, and morphological and ecological relationships. In this context whakapapa appear to function at one level as a “folk taxonomy,” in which morphology, utility, and cultural considerations all play an important role. Such whakapapa also function as ecosystem maps of culturally important resources. More information and meaning is provided by accompanying narratives, which contain explanations for why things came to be the way they are, as well as moral guidelines for correct conduct.

Renewed interest in the whakapapa of plants and animals has arisen from concerns raised by Maori in regard to genetic modification, particularly the transfer of genes between different species, as this concept is frequently invoked by those who oppose transgenic biotechnology. Informed dialogue on this subject requires an understanding of the structure and function of nonhuman as well as human whakapapa and their underlying rationale, as well as the nature of the relationships among the things included in nonhuman whakapapa. Of additional interest and relevance is the relationship of whakapapa to modern scientific concepts of taxonomy based on phylogeny and the species concept.

In this paper we describe and interpret the whakapapa of an important food plant, the sweet potato or kumara, in terms of its apparent functions and underlying rationale. We also discuss how the whakapapa and its associated narratives might contribute to the current debate on genetically modified organisms in New Zealand.
Keywords: whakapapa, folk taxonomy, ethnobiology, Maori narratives, genetically modified organisms, kumara (sweet potato)

Contested Visions of History in Aotearoa New Zealand Literature: Witi Ihimaera’s The Matriarch, p. 31
Suzanne Romaine

Competing visions of the past constitute contested historical ground in Aotearoa New Zealand. The novel as a genre constitutes a strategic site in constructing national identity. This article illustrates how Witi Ihimaera’s historical novel The Matriarch (1986) presents a new vision that seeks to displace Pakeha discourse from its privileged position in articulating the country’s history and national identity. This transformation from outsider to insider perspective is part of a much wider movement throughout the Pacific and beyond. As a narrative that validates a Maori version of nationhood, Ihimaera’s novel can lay a strong claim to be the novel of modern Aotearoa New Zealand. Nevertheless, the novel has received mixed reaction among both Maori and non-Maori commentators, especially within influential critical literary circles. These reactions constitute another sort of contested ground as they raise issues concerning notions of history, literature, truth, and fiction, and the relationships among them.
Keywords: Aotearoa, New Zealand, Witi Ihimaera, Pacific literature, nationhood, identity, narration

Tropical Fevers: “Madness” and Colonialism in Pacific Literature, p. 59
Seri Luangphinith

In Pacific literature, theorizing madness in fictional narratives encourages a reexamination of the notion of “deviancy” that supports the western colonial differentiation between the powerful and the disempowered. Fictional accounts of madness often reveal how such bipolar ideology is inadequate to address individual identity in Pacific Island societies, which include variegated expressions of ethnic or racial diversity, sexuality, and gender. Not surprisingly, many Pacific writers use “disturbed” characters to disrupt social conventions and challenge the tendency of the mainstream toward two-dimensional, black and white portrayals. In an attempt to understand the prevalent use of madness to deconstruct colonial polarity in Pacific literature, this paper traces the depiction of insanity in the works of James Norman Hall, Albert Wendt, Subramani, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, and Sia Figiel, authors who move beyond simplistic notions of identity and rethink the Pacific on their own terms.
Keywords: Pacific literature, colonialism, insanity

Have We Been Thinking Upside-Down? The Contemporary Emergence of Pacific Theoretical Thought, p. 87
Elise Huffer and Ropate Qalo

Among the reams of volumes published on the Pacific, mostly by foreigners (but increasingly by Pacific Islanders), only a few have examined Pacific thought and how it relates to contemporary ideas, paradigms, and ways of doing. Existing material in this area has been written mainly by Pacific theologians, educators, and more recently by native and indigenous anthropologists and sociologists. While theological works have remained essentially hidden in library stacks in unpublished theses, articles written by native and indigenous anthropologists and sociologists have been published in recent editions of The Contemporary Pacific. The voice of educators, led particularly by the USP School of Education but present also in other parts of the Pacific, is still somewhat marginal in terms of its impact on mainstream education. Put together, the work of these Pacific scholars represents an important building block for the elaboration of a body of Pacific thought, which, like an open fale, should not shut out the world but invite it in on its own terms. In turn, this body of Pacific thought should contribute to the affirmation of a Pacific philosophy and ethic: a body of applicable concepts and values to guide interaction within the region and beyond.
Keywords: Pacific, thought, governance, ethics, theology, community, education


Micronesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, p. 120
Kelly G Marsh-Kautz, Samuel F McPhetres, Donald R Shuster, Kristina E Stege

Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, p. 146
Frédéric Angleviel, Tracie Ku‘uipo Cummings, Jon Tikivanotau M Jonassen, Margaret Mutu, Asofou So‘o


Pacific Diaspora: Island Peoples in the United States and Across the Pacific, edited by Paul Spickard, Joanne L Rondilla, and Debbie Hippolite Wright and Constructing Moral Communities: Pacific Islander Strategies for Settling in New Places, edited by Judith S Modell, p. 178
Reviewed by Ron Crocombe

Materializing the Nation: Commodities, Consumption, and Media in Papua New Guinea, by Robert J Foster, p. 182
Reviewed by Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi

Dismembering Lahui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887, by Jonathan Kay Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, p. 186
Reviewed by Paul d’Arcy

Hawai‘i Nei: Island Plays, by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, p. 189
Reviewed by Jackie Pualani Johnson

Unfolding the Moon: Enacting Women’s Kastom in Vanuatu, by Lissant Bolton, p. 193
Reviewed by Jean Mitchell

Akekeia! Traditional Dance in Kiribati, by Tony and Joan Whincup, p. 195
Reviewed by Katerina Martina Teaiwa

Seksek‘e Hatana / Strolling on Hatana: Traditions of Rotuma and its Dependencies, with excerpts from an archaeologist’s field notebook, edited by Aubrey L Parke and Kato‘aga: Rotuman Ceremonies, by Elizabeth K Inia, p. 198
Reviewed by Janet Dixon Keller

Cargo Cult as Theater: Politi Performance in the Pacific, by Dorothy K Billings, p. 201
Reviewed by Lamont Lindstrom

Harvesting Development: The Construction of Fresh Food Markets in Papua New Guinea, by Karl Benediktsson, p. 203
Reviewed by Colin Filer

In-House in Papua New Guinea with Anthony Siaguru, by Anthony Siaguru, p. 205
Reviewed by James Chin

The West New Guinea Debacle: Dutch Colonisation and Indonesia 1945–1962, by C L M Penders, p. 207
Reviewed by Ron May

Melal: A Novel of the Pacific, by Robert Barclay, p. 208
Reviewed by Robert C Kiste

Sista Tongue, by Lisa Linn Kanae, p. 211
Reviewed by Juliana Spahr

Diaspora and the Difficult Art of Dying, by Sudesh Mishra, p. 212
Reviewed by Briar Wood

The Book of the Black Star, by Albert Wendt, p. 215
Reviewed by Nell Altizer

Skull Art in Papua New Guinea (video), p. 217
Reviewed by Pamela Sheffield Rosi

Kau Faito‘o: Traditional Healers of Tonga (video), p. 219
Reviewed by Heather Young Leslie

Wasawasa (music compact disc), p. 223
Reviewed by Bob Alexander

Gauguin’s Zombie (art installation), p. 225
Reviewed by Marcia Morse