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Peoples and Cultures of Micronesia

MI501 Proseminar

Fall Semester 1999, MW 5:30-6:50pm

Dr. Kimberlee Kihleng

Micronesian Studies Program

University of Guam

UOG Station

Mangilao, Guam 96923


Seminar Description and Objectives

As the introductory course for the Micronesian Studies Program, this seminar offers an extensive overview of the rich and varied cultures and societies of Micronesia. Utilizing a topical and comparative framework with the incorporation of relevant theoretical issues we will explore the various dimensions of culture among the islands that have come to be called "Micronesia." We begin the seminar by defining Micronesia as a culture area and/or as a colonial and neo-colonial construction. To assist us in framing this definition, we also consider the possibility of any shared pre-contact, pre-colonial experiences that provide the cultures and peoples of the region with common bonds. We then go on to examine the physical environment of Micronesia and the ways in which "Micronesians" have culturally adapted to the vagaries of living on islands. The main part of the seminar will be devoted to an exploration of the cultural landscapes of Micronesia focusing on such areas as language, gender, politics, kinship and social organization, religion, art, exchange, and navigation. Our main goal this semester will be to gain a critical and in-depth understanding of the literature that presents Micronesian peoples and their cultures in all of their complexity and diversity.

Requirements and Expectations

This is a reading seminar which will focus largely on your discussion, writings, comments, and questions. Each of the seminar's 13 weeks (excluding week one--the first seminar meeting, and two weeks of presentations) will deal with a particular topic relevant to our inquiry into the peoples and cultures of Micronesia. I will offer introductory comments for each week's seminar topic and lead most seminar discussions where you will be the main discussants. It is therefore imperative to the success of the seminar that you attend all sessions. More than one unexcused absence will result in no credit being earned for the seminar. I will hand out theme questions for each week's topic (a week in advance) to assist in your reading and to be used for seminar discussion.

You will be asked to write two book review essays (5-8 typewritten pages in length) throughout the course of the seminar which will be due on September 20 and November 1. Attached is a list of recommended books for review. You may also choose to review a book not on the list as long as you clear it with me first. You will be expected to give a brief oral presentation (15 minutes in length) of each review. You will also be given a final take-home examination. This will be an essay exam and will need to be typewritten (double-spaced). The exam will be distributed on the last day of the seminar, Monday, December 6 and will be due on Monday, December 13 (the first day of exam week). Your grade for the seminar will be based on your written and oral presentations (20% for each book review and 10% for each presentation), the final examination (30%) as well as on your discussions and interactions (10%).

Readings: Given the vast body of literature on Micronesia, you will find that the seminar readings are in no way exhaustive, although they are representative. The material I have chosen is based on what I believe is important and relevant to the seminar's objectives. For each session there will be several required readings consisting entirely of articles, papers, and dissertation/book chapters. I will photocopy all required readings and distribute them to you during the seminar sessions. Most of the reading materials, including the books for review, are available through the RFK Library and/or MARC.

Seminar Schedule

Week 1, August 18: Introduction and Orientation.

Week 2, August 23-25: Defining Micronesia: Indigenous or Colonial Construction?

Readings: Theoretical

Renato Rosaldo, Border Crossings (Chapter 9). Culture and truth: The remaking of social analysis, 1993.

Readings: Micronesia

David Hanlon, "Micronesia: Writing and Rewriting the Histories of a Nonentity." Pacific Studies, Vol. 12(2) 1989.

William Alkire, An Introduction to the Peoples and Cultures of Micronesia (Second edition).

Week 3, August 30-September 1: Origins and Settlement, Perspectives on Micronesian Prehistory

Readings for Aug. 30:

Peter Bellwood, The prehistory of Micronesia. Man's Conquest of the Pacific: The prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania, 1979.

Geoffrey Irwin, Issues in the colonisation of Micronesia (Chapter 7). The prehistoric exploration and colonisation of the Pacific, 1992.

Patrick V. Kirch, Selected chapters. The Lapita Peoples: Ancestors of the Oceanic World, 1997.

Readings for Sept. 1:

Jeffrey Clark & John Terrell, "Archaeology in Oceania." Annual Review of Anthropology 1978, 7: 293-319.

Paul Rainbird, "Prehistory in the northwest tropical Pacific: The Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall Islands." Journal of World Prehistory, Vol. 8(3).

Week 4, September 8: The Physical Landscape of Micronesia: Environmental and Cultural Adaptations.

(Holiday--Monday, Sept. 6)


Raymond E. Murphy, "High and low islands in the Eastern Carolines." Geographic Review 39(3), 1949.

Rosalind Hunter-Anderson, "A review of traditional Micronesian high island horticulture in Belau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae." Micronesica 24(1) 1991.

Margie V. Cushing Falanruw, "Food production and ecosystem management on Yap." ISLA: A Journal of Micronesian Studies, 2(1) 1994.

Harley I. Manner, The Taro Islets (Maa) of Puluwat Atoll. Land Use and Agriculture: Science of Pacific Island Peoples, 1994.

View video, Mokil, in seminar.

Week 5, September 13-15: Work and Production in Micronesia: Beyond Subsistence.


Robert Johannes, Words of the Lagoon: Fishing and marine lore in the Palau District of Micronesia. Chapters 1, 2, 5, 1981.

Kimberlee Kihleng, PhD dissertation, Chapter 4.

Karen Nero, Understanding the Meanings of Work: Palauan Perspectives. Unpublished paper, 1998.

Week 6, September 20-22: ***First Book Review Essay Due, September 20***Oral Presentations and Discussion of Essays.

Week 7, September 27-29: Indigenous Micronesian Navigation


William Davenport, "Marshall Islands navigational charts." Imago Mundi 15, 1960.

Vicente Diaz, Sacred Vessels: Traditional Navigation as Cultural and Historical Critique. Featured Talk at the 11th Pacific Science Congress Meetings, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, July 1999.

Ward Goodenough and Stephen Thomas, "Traditional navigation in the Western Pacific: A search for pattern." Reprint from Expedition, Vol.30, 1987.

David Lewis, Mau Piailug's navigation of Hokule'a from Hawaii to Tahiti. Topics in culture learning, Vol. 5, 1977.

View video, Sacred Vessels in seminar.

Week 8, October 4-6: The Art of Micronesia.


Jerome Feldman and Donald Rubinstein, The art of Micronesia, 1986.

Adrienne L. Kaeppler, Micronesian Art. IN Oceanic Art, by Adrienne L. Kaeppler, Christian Kaufmann, Douglas Newton, 1997.

Karen Nero, Missed Opportunities: American Anthropological Studies of Micronesian Arts. IN American Anthropology in Micronesia, ed. by Robert C. Kiste and Mac Marshall, 1999.

Recommend: Palau through the eyes of Charlie Gibbons, video

Week 9, October 13: Religion in Micronesia: Indigenous and Foreign-Introduced.

(Holiday--Monday, Oct. 11)


William Lessa, Micronesian religions. The encyclopedia of religion, Vol. 9, 1968.

Katherine Luomala, Mythic themes. The encyclopedia of religion, Vol. 9, 1968.

David Hanlon, "God versus gods: The first years of the Micronesian Mission on Ponape." The Journal of Pacific History 19(1), 1984.

Kimberlee Kihleng, PhD dissertation, Chapter 7, Women and the Church: Local Appropriation and Empowerment. (UH, 1996).

Week 10, October 18-20: Micronesian Languages: Historical Relations, Cultural Features and Issues of Change.


John Lynch, Pacific Languages: An Introduction. Chapters 2-3, University of Hawaii Press, 1998.

Elizabeth Keating, "Honorific Speech and the Politics of Representation: Standing Up for Women on Pohnpei." ASAO paper, 1994.

Kenneth L. Rehg, "Taking the Pulse of Pohnpeian," Oceanic Linguistics, vol 37, no. 2 (December 1998)

Robert Underwood, "English and Chamorro on Guam," World Englishes, Vol.8, no. 1, 1989.

Week 11, October 25-27: Micronesian Kinship and Social Organization: The Significance of Gender.


James Egan, Keeping While Giving Land: Gendered Wealth, The Cross Sibling Dyad and the Production of Hierarchy in Yap. Unpublished paper.

David Labby, The people and the land. (Chapter 2) The demystification of Yap: Dialectics of culture on a Micronesian Island, 1976.

Mac Marshall, "Partial Connections": Kinship and Social Organization in Micronesia. IN American Anthropology in Micronesia, ed. by Robeert C. Kiste and Mac Marshall, 1999.

Glenn Petersen, "Ponapean matriliny: Production, exchange, and the ties that bind." American Ethnologist Vol. 9(1), 1982.

Week 12, November 1-3: ***Second Book Review Essay Due, November 1***Oral Presentations and Discussion of Essays.

Week 13, November 8-10: Constructing Kinship: Adoption in Micronesia.


Jack L. Fischer, Adoption on Ponape. Adoption in Eastern Oceania, 1970.

Kimberlee Kihleng, PhD dissertation, Chapter 6 (pp. 328-335).

Mac Marshall, Solidarity or sterility? Adoption and fosterage on Namoluk Atoll. Transactions in kinship: Adoption and fosterage in Oceania, 1976.

Week 14, November 15-17: Inter- and Intra-island Exchange: Relations and Practice.


William Alkire, Traditional exchange systems and modern political developments in the Yap District of Micronesia. Persistence and exchange: Papers from a symposium on ecological problems of traditional societies of the Pacific region, 1981.

Rosalind Hunter-Anderson and Yigal Zan, "Demystifying the sawei, a traditional inter-island exchange system." ISLA: A Journal of Micronesian Studies, Vol. 4(1), 1996.

Deverne Reed Smith, The Exchange Principle and Process. (Chapter 4) Palauan Social Structure, 1983.

Kimberlee Kihleng, PhD dissertation, Chapter 3 (pp. 125-153).

Week 15, November 22-24: Politics in Micronesia: Issues of Rank, Hierarchy and Change.


Laurence M. Carucci, Small fish in a big sea: Geographical dispersion and sociopolitical centralization in the Marshall Islands. State and society: The emergence and development of social hierarchy and political centralization, 1988.

James G. Peoples, "Political Evolution in Micronesia." Ethnology 32(1), 1993.

Glenn Petersen, Ponapean chieftainship in the era of the nation-state. Outwitting the state. Political Anthropology, Vol. 7, 1989.

Donald Shuster, "Custom Versus a New Elite." The Journal of Pacific History 29(2), 1994.

Eve Pinsker, Traditional Chiefs Today in the Federated States of Micronesia. ASAO paper, 1993.

Week 16, November 29-December 1: Cultural Identity(ies) in Contemporary Micronesia: Definitions and Alternative Visions

Readings: Micronesia (Nov. 29)

Michael Lieber, Lamarckian Definitions of Identity on Kapingamarangi and Pohnpei. Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific, 1990.

Juliana Flinn, We Still Have Our Customs: Being Pulapese in Truk. Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific, 1990.

Lin Poyer, Being Sapwuahfik: Cultural and Ethnic Identity in a Micronesian Society. Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific, 1990.

Readings: Theoretical/Pacific (Dec. 1)

Epeli Hau'ofa, Our Sea of Islands. A New Oceania: Rediscoverying Our Sea of Islands, ed. by E. Waddell, V. Naidu, and E. Hau'ofa, 1993.

Epeli Hau'ofa,"The Ocean in Us." The Contemporary Pacific 10 (2), 1998.

Vilsoni Hereniko, Representations of Cultural Identities. Tides of History: The Pacific Islands in the Twentieth Century, ed. by K. Howe, R. Kiste, and B. Lal, 1994.

Week 17, December 6: Wrap-up Discussion/Review

Exam Week, December 13: Final Examination Due

Upload: 12/21/99

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