Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

Internet Resources


Pacific Island Cultures (2)

Anthropology 275

Spring 1996-97

Prof. Eric Silverman

Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology

DePauw University

Greencastle, IN 46135


Course Description

In the popular imagination, the South Pacific Islands conjure images of palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze, sunsets over tranquil seas, coconuts, hula girls, cannibals, head-hunters, islands of love, golden beaches, surfing, colorful Hawaiian shirts, etc. This, of course, is a romantic picture of what in actuality is perhaps the most culturally complex region of the world. These images, moreover, reflect our own Western desires rather than the historical and contemporary lives of Pacific Islanders and nations. The goal of this course, then, is to achieve a more accurate and scholarly comprehension of Pacific Island cultures across the region which, this semester, will also include Aboriginal Australians. In particular, we will focus on contemporary predicaments and paradoxes as Pacific Island and Australian Aboriginal peoples attempt to meld 'tradition' and 'modernity' into viable, authentic and hybrid (or transnational) cultures.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest geographical formation on Earth. It contains an extraordinary human diversity (over 1000 different cultures and language groups). Hence, this course is necessarily selective. However, course texts, videos and lectures will engage a wide-range of Pacific and Aboriginal communities, including the Highlands and three Sepik River communities in Papua New Guinea, Truk, Hawai'i, Western Samoa, north-central Australia, Fiji, Kwajalein Atoll.

The early focus of the course is on the traditional or precontact lifestyles of Pacific Islanders. For most of the semester, however, we will study the dramatic historical and contemporary changes that Pacific Islanders have confronted since contact with Europeans--in some places as early as the 16th century, in other places as late as the 1950s. Often tragic, these ongoing changes are economic, political, religious, ethnic, environmental, cultural and social. They include beverage alcohol, the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, new gender relations, the introduction of capitalism, logging and mining, tourism, intellectual property and copyright disputes over art, literacy, US atomic bomb testing in the Marshall Islands, and land rights.

Course Structure

The course will consist of lectures (sometimes enhanced by slides), videos and group discussions. Your instructor will often draw on his own experiences and research among the Iatmul, a Sepik River culture in Papua New Guinea, as well as, to a lesser extent, Aboriginal Australia and Hawaii.

The group discussions and films are vital and not trivial components of the course. The "course participation" component of your final grade includes your preparation for discussions and your active participation. When group discussions are scheduled for a particular day, please be prepared to discuss the material for the full 50 minutes. These classes are not, in the commonality of the vernacular, "bullshit sessions." I may provide study guides and questions in order to foster discussion.

Readings are paced at about 100 pages per week. If you are diligent and conscientious, you should have no trouble completing the assignments.

Since this is an anthropological and regional survey course, there are three types of knowledge that we wish to master. First, there are general anthropological concepts (many key anthropological ideas derived from studies of Pacific cultures.) Second, there are broad ideas concerning the contemporary and historic Pacific. Third, we will study empirical information concerning specific South Pacific societies. For each assignment, I will indicate how you should incorporate and synthesize these three forms of knowledge.

Course Requirements

It is expected that you will attend class, read the texts in accordance with the schedule, complete the assignments, and participate in group discussions. It is also expected that-you will ask questions, take notes on the readings, prepare outlines and study topics for the group discussions, etc.


Your final grade will be determined by the following:

4 Quizzes (5, 10, 5, 10%) (on 9/7, 9/21, 10/12, 11/16) 30%
1 Essay (due 10/23) 15%
Research project (due no later than 12/2) 20%
Final examination (12/5) 20%
Class participation 15%


Class participation may include short, in-class writing, so-called 2-minute essays, concerning questions or issues that relate to the readings and other class material. Class participation also refers to the quality of your attentiveness, participation in group discussions, overall preparation, questions, etc. Sleeping in class, poor attendance, working on assignments for other courses, and the like, is not acceptable.

Having said this, I also want to note that I am enthusiastic about this class. I hope that the course is as enjoyable as it is intellectual (the two, I should add, are not mutually exclusive!) My own professional research and publications concern the Pacific, so I have a special interest in this course.

Research Project

You will conduct a research project that will involve various databases and periodical indexes in the RoyO Library, as well as the World Wide Web. Select one Pacific Island nation, territory, state or other political entity (see attached list). Then report on the number of times it was featured in major American (mainland) newspapers and popular periodicals (1980-present). Pay particular attention to the topics that were covered and the literary or representation tropes that were used to discuss the location (which we will

discuss the second day of class). The guiding question is: How is this Pacific location represented in American media? Indexes in RoyO that you will need to survey are: New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (bound indexes), Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature (bound index), NewsBank News File (cd-rom). You must read all the articles in the three newspapers (which we have in RoyO). Next, you must search the World Wide Web for popular, nonscholarly sources on your location, especially touristic information. The guiding question here is: How is your Pacific location represented in touristic literature? Moreover, how do these representations differ from those in the print media? Your written report is due no later than Fri, Dec 2, 5:00 pm. But I would strongly urge you to complete the assignment sooner than that! Note, too, that you will make a brief presentation to the class during Week 12.

Final Examination

The final examination will occur on Tuesday, December 15, 9:00-12:00. It will be comprehensive. I will provide a study guide the last week of class. In addition, the examination will ask you to write an essay that focuses on the first text of the course, which is a series of tragicomic stories by Epeli Hau'ofa, a famed South Pacific Islander who is both a scholar and a writer, concerning a fictional South Pacific island.

Instructor's Office Hours

My formal office hours are posted outside my door. My office is 307 Asbury Hall. The phone number is 658-4889. I can also be reached by email (erics), which is the best way to receive a quick reply to a query. Despite my formal office hours, you are encouraged to make an appointment for any other time in order to chat about the course, the Pacific, anthropology and your studies. I am easily accessible.


The following books are available at the DePauw bookstore:

1. Epeli Hau'ofa, Tales of the Tikongs, 1983, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. A series of short, fictional sketches that parody the colonial experience of Pacific Islanders.

2. Diane Bell, Daughters of the Dreaming, 1983/1993, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. This is an ethnographic account of an Aboriginal Australian community in the 1970s; it mainly focuses on the experiences of women's rituals.

(Note: Of the following two books, you will read only one.)

3a. Deborah B. Gewertz and Frederick K. Errington, Twisted Histories, Altered Contexts: Representing the Chambri in a World System, 1991. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. This book concerns the Chambri people of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, who are neighbors of the Iatmul, where your instructor conducts research. The book concerns social change for the Chambri, including tourism, life away from the village in town, the introduction of writing, and the tragic death of a young Chambri man who was a rock and roll singer.

3b. Michael French Smith, Hard Times on Kairiru Island: Poverty, Development and Morality in a Papua New Guinea Village, 1994. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Smith's book concerns the people of Kragur, a village on Kairiru island that is just off the coast of Wewak, the capital town of the East Sepik Province that is featured in Gewertz and Errington's book. Smith focuses on the hardships of capitalism, development and "moral failure" in this village.

4. O'Meara. Samoan Planters: Tradition and Economic Development in Polynesia. 1990. Fort Worth: Holt, Reinhart and Winston. This book, too, concerns continuities and changes due to economic 'development,' this time in the chiefdom communities of Samoa.

(Note: Of the following two books, you will read only one.)

5a. Mac Marshall, Weekend Warriors: Alcohol in a Micronesian Culture, 1979. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. This ethnography concerns the introduction, use and often violent results of beverage alcohol on the island of Truk. Since beverage alcohol was introduced into the Pacific by Europeans, its role in Truk social life and culture was defined by colonialism.

5b. Mac Marshall and Leslie B. Marshall, Silent Voices Speak: Women and Prohibition in Truk, 1990. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. This book concerns the response by Trukese women to male drinking behavior and parallels to the American temperance movement that resulted in Prohibition from 1920-1933.

Course Schedule

W 8/27 - Introduction to the course; writing exercise--impressions of the Pacific Islands.

Th 8/28 - European myths of the South Pacific--tropes of desire and loathing (illustrated by slides).

Reading: Hau'ofa, Tales of the Tikongs.


Week 1: Introductory Issues

M 8/31-Th 9/3 - Pacific geography, prehistory, language, settlement; exploration, blackbirders, traders, missionaries, whalers, copra, plantations; Australia and terra nullius.

F 9/4 - Group discussions: Bell, chps. 1-2.

Reading: Bell, Daughters of the Dreaming, chps. 1-2.

Select your research project location; inform me in writing on Thurs.


Weeks 2-3: Aboriginal Australia

M 9/7 - Quiz 1: Map (10 minutes).

M 9/7-Th 9/10 - Kinship, leadership (gerontocracy, big-men, great-men, chiefs), material and magical polities, knowledge, time-space, mythic history and the dreamtime, embodied thought, landed identity.

F 9/11 - Group discussions: Bell, chp. 3

Reading: Bell, chp. 3.

M 9/14 - Food, sociality, motherhood, exchange, marriage and morality.

T 9/15 - Gender, ritual objects and male initiation in Melanesia and


Th 9/17 - Video "Babakiueria" (28 min). A witty and poignant commentary on Australia's treatment of Aborigines. The film imagines a reversal of the historic roles of colonized and colonizer, wherein black settlers arrive to colonize white natives.

F 9/18 - Group discussions: Bell, chps. 4-5.

Reading: Bell, chps. 4-5.


Week 4: Sepik River, Papua New Guinea: From Tradition to Modernity

M 9/21 - Quiz 2.

T 9/22-Th 9/24 - Contemporary life in the Sepik River (illustrated with slides)

F 9/25 - Group discussions: Gewertz and Errington, Chps. 1-2; Smith, chps. 14. (Note: groups should consist of people who have read the same ethnography)

Reading: Gewertz and Errington, Twisted History, Altered Contexts, chps. 1-2, or Smith, Hard Times on Kairiru Island, chps. 1-4.

Essay: Capitalism, Identity and Pathos in Contemporary Papua New Guinea: Comparing the Chambri and Kragur (due F 10/23).


Week 5: Tourism

M 9/28-T 9/29 - Video "Cannibal Tours" (77 min). A controversial and celebrated film that portrays a voyage of wealthy European tourists up the Sepik River 'heart of darkness.'

Th 10/1 - Responses to "Cannibal Tours."

F 10/2 - Group discussions: Gewertz and Errington, chps. 3-4; Smith, chps. 5-7. (Again, meet in groups with people who have read the same book)

Reading: Gewertz and Errington, chps. 3-4, or Smith, chps. 5-7.


Week 6: Change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

M 10/5-T 10/6 - Video "Joe Leahy's Neighbors" (90 min). This film details Joe Leahy's fate in business, politics and social life in Highland Papua New Guinea. His mother is a PNG woman yet his father is one of the Leahy brothers who were the first Europeans to

venture into the Highlands.

Th 10/8 - PNG towns (illustrated with slides)

F 10/9 - Group discussions: Finish Gewertz and Errington; Smith.

Reading: Finish Gewertz and Errington, Smith.


Week 7: Intellectual Property

M 10/12 - Quiz 3.

T 10/13 - Intellectual property, copyright and art.

Reading: look over the Web pages at: bud/621398


Th 10/15-F 10/16 - Fall Break


Week 8: Coffee, Mining and Logging

M 10/19-T 10/20 - Video "Black Harvest" (90 min). This film centers on Joe Leahy's coffee plantations, and includes footage of contemporary tribal warfare in the Highlands, which broke out when world coffee prices were reduced.

Th 10/22-F 10/23 - The Bougainville insurrection, mining and logging.

Assignment: Work on your essay (due on Friday)


Week 9: Hawaii

M 10/26 - The arrival and death of Cpt. Cook at Kealakekua Bay: Mythic history or historical myth?

T 10/27-Th 10/29 The history of Hawaii.

F 10/30 Group discussions: O'Meara, chps. 1-3.

Reading: O'Meara, Samoan Planters, chps. 1-3.


Week 10: Hawaii and Samoa

M 11/2-T 11/3 - Video "The Tribunal" (84 min). Convened in 1993, the Tribunal brought the US and the State of Hawaii to trial for crimes committed against the Hawaiian people (genocide, ethnocide, annexation of a sovereign people without their consent, and illegal appropriate of lands, water and natural resources).

Th 11/5-F 11/6 - Group discussions: O'Meara, chps. 4-6.

Reading: O'Meara, chps. 4-6.


Week 11: Fiji and Hawaii

M 11/9-Th 11/11 - Hawaiian sovereignty; Fiji (British colonialism, indentured laborers from India, and ethnic politics); Boungainville insurrection.

F 11/12 Group discussions: O'Meara.

Reading: Finish O'Meara.

Look over the website of the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement at


Week 12: The Pacific in the Media

M 11/16 - Quiz 4.

T 11/17-F 11/20 - Class discussions of media reports and 'tropes.'

Assignment: Work on your media reports!


Weeks 13-14: Drinking, Prohibition, and Gender on Truk

M 11/30-T 12/1 - The colonial introduction of beverage alcohol into the Pacific; Or, drinking behavior, racism and pacification. Kava; betelnut.

Th 12/3-F 12/4 - Video "Home on the Range" (58 min). The forced relocation of

Micronesians (Kwajalein Atoll) and US testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific.

Reading: Marshall, Weekend Warriors; or Marshall/Marshall, Silent Voices Speak.

M 12/7-F 12/11. Group discussions: Marshall, Marshall/Marshall; review for final examination.

Reading: Finish Marshall, or Marshall/Marshall.

Final Examination: Tuesday, December 15, 9:00-12:00.


Additional Information

1. This schedule is subject to change, depending on the pace of various topics. In fact, I will be surprised if we do not alter the schedule!

2. Page 3 of the Schedule of Classes contains important dates for canceling classes, adding new courses and changing various grading systems.

3. Please review the Academic Policies of the University in the DePauw University catalog, which contains important information on grades, incompletes and the responsibilities of students and professors. Please also review the university's Academic Integrity Policy in the Student Handbook.

4. If you drink, don't drive. If you have sex, do it safely. Your age-set is particularly prone to alcohol-related automobile accidents and to contracting HIV

(especially young, heterosexual women!).

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