Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific
General: This course is meant to acquaint you with several
cultures in the Pacific Islands and with some of the central
conceptual problems they have raised for anthropology. It will
begin with discussion of prehistory of the region through a book
an archaeologist on the development of Polynesian hierarchy and
authority. We will then turn to the classic study of exchange by
Mauss which makes use of a good deal of Pacific ethnography and
raises questions about the Western romance of the Pacific. These
islands have been long seen as idyllic paradises, beautiful
settings in which emotionally uninhibited people live without
struggle. The question of what emotions mean to Pacific Islanders
rather than to Westerners has been a central topic among
anthropologists working in the area of the region known as
Micronesia. We will read a study of the everyday emotional life
among people living on the atoll of Ifaluk. In the southwestern
Pacific, which is known as Melanesia, a major issue has been the
relationship between culture and gender. That is, how the male
and female are determined not by biology but by social and
political definitions. We will read several articles about the
Murik of Papua New Guinea to explore a case study of the
relationship of male and female in a Melanesia culture. Lastly,
we will return to Polynesia in order to open up the problem of
history in the Pacific by reading a recent account of the
"discovery" of Hawaii by Captain Cook. No doubt, the
region as a whole has been of the most significant in the
development of cultural anthropology and this course is meant to
acquaint students not only with some of the reasons why this is
so but also with the remarkable variety of environments and
peoples living in it.
Required Texts: (available for purchase at Williamson)
Kirch, Patrick V. The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms
Lutz, Catherine A. Unnatural Emotions
Mauss, Marcel The Gift, translated by Halls, Norton ed.
Sahlins, Marshall Islands of History
Grading: Evaluation of work done in the course will be based
on participation in small group assignments during class as well
as on performance in two midterms and a final exam. Each of these
tests will include short answer type questions and essay
questions. The final will be cumulative. The material on the
exams will be drawn from readings, visual media and lectures. The
breakdown of your grade will be as follows:
Class participation 20%
Midterm I 20%
Midterm II 20%
No make-ups will be given, except for confirmed, medical
reasons. Without completing all the course requirements, which
includes class attendance, it will not be possible to receive a
passing grade in the class.
Other Information: The course will consist of lectures,
videos, slide presentations and active learning projects given
out during class. The latter will involve you in small group work
for which completed study guides will be collected at the end of
class. In order to get full credit for these you must a) come to
class and b) have done the reading assignment.
Please do the reading for the day it is listed below:
Thursday, 26 September "Western Images of the
Week 1. Tuesday, 1 October "Geography of the Pacific"
Video: "Man on the Rim"
Read: Kirch page 1-70
Thursday, 3 October "Prehistory of Polynesia"
Read: Kirch p. 71-217
Week 2. Tuesday, 8 October "Political Authority in village Polynesia."
Read: Finish Kirch
Thursday, 10 October Section
Week 3. Tuesday, 15 October "Exchange and Reciprocity in the Pacific"
Read: Mauss 1-47
Thursday, 17 October Active Learning: "Exchange in the West"
Read: Mauss 47-84
Video: "Ongka's Big Moka"
Week 4. Tuesday, 22 October "Emotion in Micronesia"
Read: Lutz p. 3-116
Thursday, 24 October "Everyday Emotions on Ifaluk"
Read: Lutz p. 119-208
Week 5. Tuesday, 29 October Section
Thursday, 31 October "Gender in Melanesia"
Read: Barlow and Lipset 1
Week 6. Tuesday, 5 November "The Murik of the Sepik River"
Read: Barlow and Lipset 2
Thursday, 7 November "Male and Female among the Murik"
Read: Barlow and Lipset 3
Week 7. Tuesday 12 November "Leadership and Social Control among the Murik"
Read: Lipset 4
Thursday 14 November "Outrigger Canoes in Murik"
Read: Barlow and Lipset 5
Week 8. Tuesday 18 November "Culture and History in the Pacific"
Read: Sahlins 1-31
Thursday 20 November NO CLASS
Week 9. Tuesday 26 November "Captain Cook in Hawaii"
Read: Sahlins p. 104-35; and Obeyesekere photocopy
Thursday 28 November THANKSGIVING
Week 10. Tuesday, 3 December Video: "Trobriand Cricket"
Active Learning: History in the Pacific
Thursday, 5 December "Course Summary"
FINAL Tuesday, 10 December 8-10 AM
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