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105.204 Ethnography of Island Polynesia—2000



Lecture:            Monday and Wednesday 4 pm


Tutorials:            Monday and Wednesday 5 pm


Lecturer/Tutor:     Judith Huntsman


Credit:            50% coursework (20% Test, 30% Essay) ; 50% final examination (3 hours)


This paper deals with the “traditional” aspects of Polynesian societies and cultures as they are presented and interpreted in ethnographic and historical studies. The themes of modernisation/development, goverance/political economy and diaspora/trans-nationalism are dealt with in the Stage III papers: 105.304 The Contemporary Pacific, 105.325 Aristocracy and Democracy in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, and 105.326 Pacific Pathways.


The first series of lectures and readings give an overview of Polynesia as a geographical and historical region. Then the diversity and correspondences of lifeways in five Polynesian societies are explored in lectures and readings on Tokelau, Tikopia, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. How these same peoples present their cultures in their own texts and narratives is discussed in the final series of lectures and readings.


Prescribed readings are those that you must read if you are to successfully complete this paper. They are of two types:


1. Lecture readings listed in conjunction with each lecture topic; they are preceded by an asterisk (*). These readings are reproduced in this Course Reader and should be read in conjunction with the lectures to which they are related. The choices of readings for final lecture topic are available in the Short Loan Collection (SLC).


2. Books prescribed for the coursework essay and examination should be available in the University Bookshop and are held in the Main Library and the SLC.

You should obtain a copy of R. Firth's We, the Tikopia as soon as possible in preparation for your essay. You will need access to a copy of one of the following books in preparation of the examination:

A. Ravuvu, Vaka i Taukei: The Fijian Way of Life

R. Nayacakalou, Leadership in Fiji 

M. Tuimaleali'ifano, Samoans in Fiji : Migration, Identity and Communication

Tangatapoto et al., Atiu: An Island Community

Matagi Tokelau: History and Traditions of Tokelau

Niue: A History of the Island


3. Recommended readings are supplementary materials which you may wish to consult on topics that particularly interest you or when researching for your essay. They are listed under the related lecture topic, but are not marked by an asterisk.



You should have at least one map of Polynesia to orient yourself and to prepare for the Geography Quiz. They may be purchased for a small sum in class.


Office Hours:

My office is Room 837 in the Human Sciences Building and I will be regularly available there at 3 on Wednesdays. My extension is 8547, if you wish to make an appointment for another time.






20% Test

A test covering the introductory lectures and readings will be held on 9 August at 4 pm. Should you be unable to sit this test, you must provide me with a written explanation of your absence within a week and see me to make other arrangements.

Geography Quiz.  A requirement of this paper is a ‘pass’ mark in a Geography quiz. Your first opportunity to fulfil this requirement will be in conjunction with the Test.


30% Essay

This essay is due on 4 October. The essay should be about 2500 words in length, and must not exceed 3000 words. If you are unable to submit the essay on the due date, submit it as soon as possible and attach a note explaining. Late essays will be penalised at the lecturer's discretion and will not be returned before the end of lectures. No essay will be accepted after 22 October.


Topic: Tikopian Women/Men, or

Female/Male in Tikopia, or

Tikopian ideas of Feminine/Masculine


You will find ample material for your essay in the pages of We, the Tikopia, but not all in one place. To find the relevant information in its socio-cultural context you will need to read the whole book carefully. I neither expect nor want your essays to be alike—the more different they are the better because difference comes from original thought. You might consult the following readings for ideas of the different ways you might approach the topic:

“Male and female in Tokelau”

“Gender, status and power in Samoa”

“‘The father's sister is black’: a study of female rank and power in Tonga”

Focus your essay on some aspect of the topic, on some issue or question that arises from your reading.


1.                     See guide to writing essays herein.

2.                     Lectures on Raymond Firth's studies of Tikopia will provide you with background for this essay.

3.                     It would be to your advantage to read We, the Tikopia before the second half of the semester.


Final Examination (50%).

The final examination is set for three hours. The examination will cover lectures, prescribed readings, including the books by Polynesian authors, and tutorial discussions. Material examined in the early August Test will not be included.





July 19, 21, 26, 27: Introduction to Polynesia: Geography, Language & History

* Map of Polynesia

* Bellwood, P. 1979 . “The Oceanic context”, in Jennings (ed.)

* Thomas, Wm. L. “The Pacific Basin: an introduction”, in Vayda (ed.)

   Clark, R. 1979. “Language”, in Jennings (ed.), The Prehistory of Polynesia

   Howe, K.R. 1984. Where the Waves Fall

   Maude, H.E. 1981. Slavers in Paradise


August 2 & 4: Tikopia: The Ethnography of Raymond Firth

* Firth, R. 1936. We, the Tikopia

   Firth, R. 1940. The Work of the Gods in Tikopia

   Firth, R. 1959. Social Change in Tikopia

   Firth, R. 1961. History and Traditions of Tikopia

   Firth, R. 1967. Tikopian Ritual and Belief

   Firth, R. 1970. Rank and Religion in Tikopia


---TEST--AUGUST 9---


August 11, 16 & 18: The Atolls of Tokelau: Nuku 'Village' and Käiga 'Family'

*Wessen, et al. 1992. “The history of Tokelau: 1841 to 1948” and “The neo-                   traditional social order in Tokelau”

*Huntsman and Hooper 1975. “Male and female in Tokelau culture”

  Huntsman 1971. “Concepts of kinship and categories of kin in Tokelau.” Journal of     the Polynesian Society, 80:317-54


August 23, 25, 30: Samoa: Complications

* Meleiseä, M. 1995. “‘To whom gods and men crowded’; chieftainship and hierarchy     in ancient Samoa”

* Schoeffel, P. 1978. “Gender, status and power in Samoa”

               Meleiseä, M. and P. Schoeffel (eds): Lagaga: A Short History of Western Samoa


September 2, 20, 22: Tonga: Issues of Rank

*Cummins, H.G. 1977. “Tongan society at the time of European contact”

*Marcus, G. 1978. “The nobility in the transmission of a chiefly tradition in modern       Tonga”

*Rogers, G. 1977. “‘The father's sister is black’: A study of female rank and power in     Tonga”

  Bott, E. 1982. Tongan Society at the Time of Captain Cook's Visits....




September 27 & 29, October 4: Fiji: Diversity

* Oliver, D.L. 1989. Fiji, Ch.20 in Oceania:....

* Nayacakalou, R. 1975. “The structural basis of traditional leadership”

               France, P. 1969. The Charter of the Land

               Groves, M. 1963. “The nature of Fijian society.” JPS, 72: 272‑291

   Sahlins, M. 1962. Moala: Culture and Nature on a Fijian Island

   Quain, B. 1948. Fijian Village


October 6, 11, 13, 18 and 20: Polynesian Narratives and Cultural Constructions

* Read at least one of the following (photocopies in SLC):

Bott, E. 1981. Power and rank in the Kingdom of Tonga. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 90: 7‑81

Hooper, A. 1981.  Why Tikopia has Four Clans. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Occasional Paper No.38.

Huntsman, J. and A. Hooper 1985. Structures of Tokelau history, in A. Hooper and J. Huntsman (eds), Transformations of Polynesian Culture. Polynesian Society Memoir 45. pp. 33-49

Sahlins, M. 1981. The stranger-king or Dumézil among the Fijians. Journal of Pacific History, 16: 107-132 or

Sahlins, M. 1983. Raw women, cooked men, and other 'great things' of the Fiji islands, in P. Brown and D. Tuzin (eds), The Ethnography of Cannibalism

Schoeffel, P. 1987. Rank, gender and politics in ancient Samoa. Journal of Pacific History, 22:174-93




For the examination, read one of the following books by Polynesian authors:

R. Nayacakalou, Leadership in Fiji 

M. Tuimaleali'ifano, Samoans in Fiji :Migration, Identity and Communication

Tangatapoto et al., Atiu: An Island Community

Matagi Tokelau: History and Traditions of Tokelau

Niue: A History of the Island


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