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Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland

An introduction to the cultures and culture history of the Pacific Islands through the methodology and sub-disciplinary perspectives of Socio-cultural anthropology, Ethnomusicology, Linguistics, Archaeology, and Biological anthropology. It will familiarise students with the scientific evidence for the origins of Pacific peoples and their languages; their cultural adaptations to Pacific environments, and aspects of their oral traditions, material culture and performing arts.

Coordinator: Elizabeth Pascal


Dr Ann Chowning

Moira Doherty

Liz Pascal

Kirsten Zemke-White

Tutor: Carol Scott

Lectures: Daily 2-3, HSB 704


Mon, Weds, 3-4 Group A Surname A - M
Tues, Thur, 3-4 Group B Surname N - Z
Fri, 3-4 Optional extra tutorial  


Assessment: Performance will be assessed by course work and a 3 hour examination at the end of the semester. Course work will account for 40% of final grade: This will be based on one essay (25%) and one test (15%). The examination will account for 60% of the final grade.

Essay Topic:

Using only your readings and lecture material write a 1000 word essay explaining why anthropologists working in the Pacific have been so interested in the nature of gender relations between men and women - that is, what the relations are like and possible reasons why they differ from society to society. If you wish, you may confine your examples to Melanesia.

To be handed in at the beginning of Lecture 14 in Week 4, ie. Monday 25 January by 2pm.



Week 1

Tues 5 Jan   Enrolment  
Weds 6 1 Introduction EMP
Thur 7 2 Geography EMP
Fri 8 3 Socio-cultural anthropology AC

Week 2

Mon 11 Jan 4 Socio-cultural anthropology AC
Tue 12 5 " "
Wed 13 6 " "
Thu 14 7 " "
Fri 15 8 " "

Week 3

Mon 18 9 Socio-cultural anthropology AC
Tue 19 10 " "
Wed 20 11 " "
Thu 21 12 " "
Fri 22 13 " "

Week 4

N.B. Essay due at beginning of first lecture this week

Mon 25 Jan 14 Ethnomusicology KWZ
Tue 26 15 Linguistics EMP
Wed 27 16 " "
Thu 28 17 Archaeology MWD
Fri 29 18 " "

Week 5

Tue 2 19 Archaeology MWD
Wed 3 20 " "
Thu 4 21 " "
Fri 5 22 " "

Week 6

Mon 8 Feb 23 Test 2-3 pm  
Tue 9 24 Biological Anthropology EMP
Wed 10 25 " "
Thu 11 26 Conclusion EMP



Lecture 1: Introduction

A general look at anthropology and its component disciplines, and how these disciplines fit together to make up this course. An introduction to the lecturers and some idea of the kind of questions this paper will be tackling.


The readings for each lecture are contained in this course book. Students are advised to read ahead: to read the reading set for each lecture before the lecture and tutorial. The following reading is a brief introduction to today's Pacific:

Piianaia, Ilima, 1987. "The Pacific: A brief background" in R. Crocombe, The South Pacific: An Introduction, pp 1-5. Auckland: Longman Paul.

Lecture 2: Geography

A look at the physical characteristics of the area we are studying - some of the geological and historical factors that contribute to the unique and difficult nature of the Pacific environment.


Cameron, Ian, 1987. "The forming of the Pacific'' Lost Paradise : The Exploration of the Pacific, pp 16-24. London: Century.


These eleven lectures begin with a discussion of what is included in socio-anthropology and how research is carried out and interpreted. We will then consider the so-called culture areas within the Pacific (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia) with attention to how they resemble and differ from each other, and to the degree of internal variation. Some of the lectures and readings will deal with such general questions as the nature of gender relations and patterns of leadership, and others with traits for which particular societies and regions are famous, such as ceremonial trading systems in Melanesia and concepts of mana and tapu (tabu) in Polynesia. Where possible excerpts from descriptions of particular societies will be included. Finally we will consider the overall patterns of change since the arrival of foreign (European and Asian) powers in the Pacific, concluding with discussion of "cargo cults", a wide-spread Melanesian response to the colonial situation.

Lecture 3: Doing ethnographic fieldwork

This will include some description of the lecturer's own fieldwork (in four Melanesian societies), along with a general discussion of what we can and cannot learn by this method of research


Keesing, Roger 1981. "Fieldwork" Cultural Anthropology, second edition, pp 5-8. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Firth, Raymond, 1970 (1936). "In primitive Polynesia" in Thomas G. Harding and Ben J. Wallace (eds.), Cultures of the Pacific, pp 115-24. New York: Free Press.

Lecture 4: Culture traits and culture areas

We will discuss the composition of culture and the concept of the culture area with particular reference to the Pacific


Jacobs, Melville and Bernhard I Stern, 1947. An Outline of General Anthropology, pp 104-112. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Lockwood, Victoria S., 1993. ''Pacific islands diversity, A historical overview" in V.S. Lockwood, T.G. Harding and B.J. Wallace (eds.), Contemporary Pacific Societies, pp 3-6. New York: Prentice Hall.

Chowning, Ann, 1973. An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Melanesia, pp 1-2, New York: Addison Wesley.

Lecture 5: Melanesian diversity.

This indicates the difficulties of generalizing about Melanesia even when considering societies that are all in the lowlands of Papua New Guinea


Oliver, Douglas, 1951. "The Melanesians" The PacificIslanders, pp 34-48. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lecture 6: Melanesian culture

Here we will be considering variation and continuities in Melanesian social organization and religion over the entire region, and also read about the world view of one society in the New Guinea Highlands


Chowning, Ann, 1973. An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Melanesia, pp 21-38, New York: Addison Wesley.

Newman, Philip L., 1964. Knowing the Gururumba, pp 72-82. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Lecture 7: Interpretations of Melanesian cultural attitudes

Here we will look at how different anthropologists have tried to understand aspects of (i) hierarchy and a world-famous system of ceremonial trade in the Trobriand Islands and (ii) the overall world views of both the Trobrianders and the Kwaio of the Solomon Islands


Weiner, Annette B., 1988. The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea, pp 97-110, 139-47. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Keesing, Roger 1981. Cultural Anthropology, second edition, pp 356-61; pp 335-42. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Lecture 8: Contrasts between Melanesia and Polynesia

In a famous (but much criticised)-article, Sahlins describes and tries to explain what he thinks are the differences between the political systems that developed in Melanesia and Polynesia


Sahlins, Marshall D., 1970 (1963). "Poor man, rich man, big-man, chief: political types in Melanesia and Polynesia" in Thomas G. Harding and Ben J. Wallace (eds.), Cultures of the Pacific, pp 203-15. New York: Free Press.

Lecture 9: Micronesia

An overall view of the cultures of Micronesia together with excerpts from a description of one Micronesian society


Oliver, Douglas, 1951. "The Micronesians" The Pacific Islanders, pp 57-60. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Mason, Leonard, 1968. "The ethnology of Micronesia" in Andrew P. Vayda (ed.), Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific, pp 275-98. New York: Natural History Press.

Barnett, H.G., 1960. "Giving women credit" and "Commanding respect" Being a Palauan, New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Lecture 10: Polynesia as a culture area

This will include generalizations about Polynesia, distinctions between different regions, and an account of local organization in Samoa.


Oliver, Douglas, 1951. "The Polynesians" The Pacific lslanders, pp 53-56. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Burrows, Edwin G., 1968 (1940). "Culture Areas in Polynesia" in Andrew P. Vayda (ed.), Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific, pp 179-91. Newport: Natural History Press.

Holmes, Lowell D., 1974. "The world of the fale and the fono" Samoan Village, pp 18-39. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Lecture 11: Mana and Tapu

Here we will consider two concepts that are extremely important, but difficult for foreigners to understand, found not only in Polynesia but in other parts of the Pacific, especially eastern Melanesia


Shore, Bradd, 1989. "Mana and tapu" in Alan Harvard and Robert Borofsky (eds.), Developments in Polynesian Ethnology, pp 137-65. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Lecture 12: Change

Following a brief survey of major changes in recent centuries for the Pacific as a whole, we will look in more detail at a variety of changes in Melanesia over a shorter period.


Lockwood, Victoria S., 1993. "Variability in the Islands' historical experience with colonialism", and "Recent trends in Pacific Islands development" in V.S. Lockwood, T.G. Harding and B.J. Wallace (eds.), Contemporary Pacific Societies, pp 6-15. New York: Addison Wesley.

Chowning, Ann, 1997. "Culture change" An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Melanesia, second edition, pp 78-97, Menlo Park: Cummings

Lecture 13: Cargo cults

A very characteristic Melanesian response to the colonial presence, from technology to religion to political domination by outsiders, has been a series of semi-religious movements usually called cargo cults. Anthropologists and others have argued about their causes and their ties to other sorts of movements.


Burridge, Kenelm, 1993. "Melanesian cargo cults" in V.S. Lockwood, T.G. Harding and B.J. Wallace (eds.), Contemporary Pacific Societies, pp 275-88. New York: Addison Wesley.



Lecture 14: Music of the Pacific

A survey of the Pacific's music cultures.





Lecture 15: Pacific languages: Polynesian languages

The linguistic perspective is introduced with a look at the Polynesian language group and how the members of it are related to each other.

Lecture 16: Pacific languages: The Austronesian family of languages.

Using the same principles the language family tree can be built to even higher levels, and we can get some clues on how different parts of the Pacific may be connected, and why some language appear entirely unrelated to the rest.


Clark, Ross. "Language" J.D. Jennings (ed.), The Prehistory of Polynesia. Harvard University Press, 1979. pp 249-70



The six archaeology lectures begin with an overview of Pacific Island environments, including features of geology, climate and flora and fauna which have played a role in shaping Pacific Island cultures through time. This is followed by a consideration of Pleistocene settlement of Melanesia and subsequent colonization of Remote Oceania, focusing on the islands of Polynesia. In the last two lectures, we will look very briefly at the settlement and later developments in island Melanesia; and at the origins of the first settlers of Aotearoa and their adaptations to a large, climatically temperate, and environmentally diverse new land.

Lecture 17: Pacific Environments

Pacific environments are introduced as background for human colonization and settlement of the Pacific. Among the environmental features considered are the variety of island types, patterns of climate and ocean conditions which affected open-sea voyaging, key geomorphic processes during the period of human occupation, and general patterns of floral and faunal diversity across the region.


Kirch, P., 1984. "Polynesian societies and ecosystems" The Evolution of Polynesian Chiefdoms, pp 17-25. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lecture 18: Pleistocene occupations

Human occupation in Australia and New Guinea extends back into the Pleistocene and by at least 30,000 years ago people had moved out into island Melanesia. In this lecture we consider the navigation skills of the early Pacific colonists, the nature of their settlements and their relationship to the landscape.


White, J., 1993. "The first Pacific islanders" in G. Burenhult (ed.), The First Humans, pp 171183. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

Lecture 19: Lapita colonisation

This lecture focuses on the first settlers of the central Pacific, people carrying a finely decorated pottery known as Lapita. By approximately 3000 years ago these people had spread across island Melanesia and as far east as the Polynesian islands of Samoa and Tonga.


Green, R., 1994. "Changes over time: Recent advances in dating human colonization of the Pacific basin area" in D.G. Sutton (ed.), The Origins of the First New Zealanders, pp 31-36, 3941. Auckland: Auckland University Press.

Lecture 20: Polynesian Settlement

The bearers of Lapita pottery ultimately gave rise to modern Polynesian populations. In this lecture we consider some of the main developmental processes which led to modern Pacific societies, as well as continued colonization of islands to the east such as the Cook Islands, Societies and Marquesas.


Anderson, A. 1994. "The occupation of the Pacific islands" in G. Burenhult (ed.), New World and Pacific Civilisations, pp 143-162. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

Lecture 21:

i) Micronesian Settlement

ii) Post-Lapita developments in island Melanesia

i) The eastern and western Melanesian island groups have different geological and archaeological histories. We will look briefly at the timing of colonisation of these islands, and the origins of the first settlers.

ii) Classic Lapita pottery disappears from the archaeological record in island Melanesia by about 2300 years ago, its end often, but not everywhere, marked by appearance of a plainware. Sometimes new assemblages incorporating incised and applied relief designs replace Lapita; and later still, pottery is often abandoned. There is also evidence for Polynesian influence in island Melanesia (from the so-called Polynesian Outliers). In this lecture we consider some of the explanations for these changes, and what they suggest about communication and interaction in the region.


(see Anderson reading above, pp 157-158). In addition:

Irwin, G., 1992. "Issues in the colonisation of Micronesia" The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific, pp 124-132. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spriggs, M., 1993. "Island Melanesia in the last 10,000 years" in M. Spriggs, D. Yen, W. Ambrose, R. Jones, A. Thorne and A. Andrews (eds.), A Community of Culture: The People and Prehistory of the Pacific, pp 195-200. Canberra: The Australian National University.

Lecture 22: Aotearoa

The discoverers of New Zealand were Polynesian people who found here a very different environment from their small, tropical island homelands. The origins of the first New Zealanders and their adaptations to this new land will be discussed in this lecture.


(see Anderson reading above pp 161-162.) In addition:

Anderson, A., 1994. "Moa hunting in New Zealand" in G. Burenhult (ed.), New World and Pacific Civilisations, p 163. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

Davidson, J., 1992. "The Polynesian foundation" in G. Rice (ed.), The Oxford History of New Zealand, pp 3-27. Auckland: Oxford University Press.



Lecture 23: Biological change

This lecture will be a description of the general processes of physical change in human populations.


Feder, Kenneth L. and Michael Alan Park, 1993. "The Processes of Evolution" Human Antiquity . An Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Archaeology, pp 65-71. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Co.

Lecture 24: Pacific peoples

This lecture looks at some contemporary explanations for the observed variation of peoples in the Pacific region.

Readings: Jones, Steve, 1992. "The Peopling of the Pacific" in Steve Jones, Robert Martin and David Pilbeam (eds.), The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Human Evolution, p 394. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Turner, Christie G., II, 1989. "Teeth and Prehistory in Asia" in Scientific American, Feb 1989, pp 88-96.

Lecture 25: Conclusion

A summary of the connecting themes and questions of the course.


Upload: 05/19/1999

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