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Ethnography of Island Polynesia



105.204 -1996


Lecturer: Judith Huntsman

Department of Anthropology

University of Auckland

Private Bag 90219


New Zealand


Lecture: Monday and Wednesday 4-6 pm

Tutor: Kelihiano Kalolo


60% coursework (20% Test, 25% and 15% Essays)

40% final examination (2 hours)

This paper deals with the 'traditional' aspects of Polynesian societies and cultures as they are presented and interpreted in ethnographic studies. The themes of 'modernisation' and 'development' 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 Migration, Development and Change in the Post-Colonial Pacific.

The first series of lectures and readings give an overview of Polynesia as a geographical and historical region. Then the diversity and comparabilities 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 narratives is discussed in the final series of lectures and readings.

Prescribed readings are those which 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 Coursebook and should be read in conjunction with the lectures to which they are related. The choice of readings for final lecture topic are available in the Short Loan Collection (SLC).

2. Books prescribed for coursework essays are 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 first essay. For your second essay, you will need access to a copy of one of the following books:

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

R. Nayacakalou, Tradition and Change in the Fijian Village

R. Nayacakalou, Leadership in Fiji

Tangatapoto et al., Atiu: An Iskmd Community

Matagi Tokelau: History and Traditions of Tokelau

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. Some are available in the Short Loan Collection.


You should have at least one map of Polynesia to orient yourself in lectures to come 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 pm on Mondays and 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 13 March . 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.

25% Essay

This essay is due on 17 April . The essay should be about 2000 words in length, and must not exceed 2500 words. If you are unable to submit the essay on the due date, do not request as extension, instead attach a note explaining the delay and submit the essay as soon as possible. Late essays will be penalised at the lecturer's discretion. No essay will be accepted after 1 May.

Topic: Women and Men in Tikopia

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


- See guide to writing essays herein.

- Lectures on Raymond Firth's studies of Tikopia (27 March and 1 April) will provide you with background for this essay.

- It would be to your advantage to read We, lhe Tikopia before the beginning of April.

15% Essay

This essay is due on 15 May. The essay should be about 1200 words in length and must not exceed 1500 words. If you are unable to submit your essay on the date it is due, do not request an extension, instead attach a note of explanation and submit it as soon as possible. Late essays will be penalised at the lecturer's discretion. No essay will be accepted after 29 May.

Topic: Polynesians write of Polynesia

You may choose any one of the five books listed under Readings (above) for this essay. These books are quite different in their aims, contents and styles, but all the authors are writing about their own societies. The topic you address in your essay will depend both on the book you choose and on an issue or question you consider relevant to that book. Your essay should be a critique or discussion, and not a summary of the book.

Final Examination (40%).

The final examination is set for two hours. The examination will cover lectures, prescribed readings and tutorial discussions, excepting material examined in the earlier Test.

Required Readings (in order of lecture assignments)

Bellwood, P. 1979. The Oceanic context, in Jennings (ed.), The Prehistory of Polynesia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 6-26

Burrows, E. 1968 [1940]. Culture areas of Polynesia, in Vayda (ed.), Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific. New York: Natural History Press. pp. 179-191

Wessen, et al. 1992. Ch. 3: The History of Tokelau: 1841 to 1948, and Ch. 4: The neo-traditional social order in Tokelau, in Migration and Health in a Small Society: The Case of Tokelau. pp. 37-73

Huntsman, J. and A. Hooper, 1975. Male and female in Tokelau culture. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 84:415-430

Schoeffel, P. 1978. Gender, status and power in Samoa. Canberra Anthropology, 1:69-81

Shore, B. 1982. The matai system, in Sala‘ilua: a Samoan Mystery. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 59-68

Cummins, H.G. 1977. Tongan society at the time of European contact, in Rutherford (ed.), Friendly Islands: a history of Tonga. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. pp. 63-89

Marcus, G. 1978. Ch. 3: The nobility in the transmission of a chiefly tradition in modern Tonga, in The Nobility and the Chiefly Tradition in the Modern Kingdom of Tonga. Polynesian Society Memoir 42. pp. 43-70

Rogers, G. 1977. 'The father's sister is black': a study of female rank and power in Tonga. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 86:157-182

Belshaw, C. 1964. Ch. 1: The Fijian way of life: a romance, and Ch. 3: The village and social structure, in Under the Ivi Tree. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. pp. 3-15, 26-35

Nayacakalou, R. 1975. The structural basis of traditional leadership, in Leadership in Fiji. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. pp. 9-23



February 26, 28, March 4, 6, 11: Introduction to Polynesia: Geography, Language & History

* Map of Polynesia

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

* Burrows, E. 1940. "Culture areas of Polynesia", in Vayda (ed.)

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

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

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

Maude, H.E. 1981. Slavers in Paradise


March 18, 20, 25: The Atolls of Tokelau: Nuku 'Village' and Kaiga 'Family'

* Wessen, et al. 1992. "The history of Tokelau: 1841 to 1948" and "The neotraditional 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 lhe Polynesian Society, 80:317-54

March 27, April 1: Tikopia: The Ethnography of Raymond Firth

* Firth, R. 1936. We, the Tikopia

Firth, R. 1939. Primitive Polynesian Economy

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

Firth, R. 1959. Social Change in Tikopia

Firth, R. 1961. History arul Traditions of Tikopia

Firth, R. 1967. Tikopian Ritual and Belief

Firth, R. 1970. Rank and Religion in Tikopia


April 3, 17, 22: Samoa: Complications

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

* Shore, B. 1982. "The matai system"

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

April 24, 29, May 1: 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:Conversations with Her Majesty Queen Salote Tupou. Polynesian Society Memoir

May 6, 8, 13: Fiji: Diversity

* Belshaw, C. 1964. "The Fijian way of life: a romance" and "The village and social structure"

* Nayacakalou, R.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


May 15, 20, 22, 27, 29: Polynesian Narratives and Cultural Constructions

* Read at least two 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. pp.v-44

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 Dumezil among the Fijians. Journal of Pacific History, 16: 107-132 or

__________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



University of Auckland

There are two essays required for this paper: one of not more than 2500 words counting 25 percent of course marks and one of not more than 1500 words counting 15 percent of course marks. The essays may not exceed these specified lengths and the number of words in the essay must appear on the title page. I am going to keep strictly to these specifications not only because I do not want to read essays that run on and on and on, but also because essays are generally improved by having to stay within a word limit. You are of course welcome to write shorter essays.

The set topics allow you a good deal of freedom to write original essays by focusing on particular issues or problems. Do not summarise the books you use; take a position and present an argument; show that you have thought critically about what you have read.

In particular, you should take great care to avoid plagiarism, which is copying something written by somebody else without giving appropriate acknowledgement. It is plagiarism to copy another student's essay. Should completely or partially identical essays be submitted, neither will receive any marks. Copying published material is plagiarism too if the sources is not appropriately acknowledged. Essays containing unacknowledged copied material will be return with no marks.

Since everyone does, in fact, use other peoples' information and ideas (if not their exact words) in writing essays, it is important that these ideas and words be properly documented. Documentation involves citations and references. Different academic disciplines have different conventions about these. You are asked to follow those current in Anthropology. (We, the Tikopia uses earlier, more cumbersome conventions.) The proper formats for citations and references are illustrated below. You should follow them exactly, paying particular attention to the punctuation.

Citing sources:

* The following is a direct quote:

"Marriage is looked upon as emanicipation, because it enables a woman to exercise authority in a sphere of her own" (Firth 1963:434). What is reproduced is exactly what Firth wrote, so it is within quotation marks and attributed to a particular page in a particular book by Firth.

* The following is a paraphrase: Marriage gives a woman her own domain of authority and thus is viewed as emancipation (Firth 1963:434). Firth's statement has been put into your own words, therefore quotation marks would be inappropriate. However, the interpretation is Firth's (and you might not completely agree with it), so you must cite Firth.

* The following is plagiarism:

Marriage, looked upon as emancipation, enables a woman to exercise authority in her own sphere.

These are not Firth's words--true, but they are not your own words either, since Firth's words are retained with some very minor modifications. Do not do this! Even if a citation were given, this would be plagiarism, since without quotations marks it is assumed that the words are yours when in fact they are Firth's with a few minor changes.

You will avoid unwitting plagiarism of this kind when you are researching an essay if you (a) always place any direct quotations within quotation marks in your notes (and also make sure you copy the quoted material exactly), and (b) always record page references when taking notes whether they are direct quotes or paraphrases. In addition, set off your own ideas as you read in some way, so that you can easily separate them from the information and ideas of others when you come to write your essay.

One further caution: Use direct quotes sparingly, only when something is particularly well phrased. An essay that is just a string of quotations is not original and is deadly dull to read.


Citations are abbreviations of the full references. These references must be listed in alphabetical order at the end of your essay. The format for references is as follows:

- For books:

Firth, Raymond, 1963. We, the Tikopia. Boston: Beacon Press.

- For journal articles:

Huntsman, J. and A. Hooper, 1975. Male and female in Tokelau culture. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 84: 415-30.

- For chapters in edited books:

Clark, R., 1979. Language, in J. Jennings (ed.), The Prehistory of Polynesia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

- For parts of books:

Nayacakalou, R. 1975. The structural basis of traditional leadership, in Leadership in

Fiji. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. pp. 9-23

Note: Book or journal titles are either italicised or underlined; chapters within books or articles within journals are not.

Update: 04/05/99

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