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Peoples of the Pacific

Anthropology 2P03E


Dr. Bill Rodman
Anthropology Department
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L9

Winter Term, 1999
Wednesday Evening, 6:30 - 9:30 pm

Objectives of the Course

Although press and other media often predict that the 21st century will be "The Pacific Century", the average North American knows little about the area. Anthropology 2P3 is a course designed to provide students with an introduction to the peoples of the islands of the Pacific - their history, traditions and current ways of life, and their responses to contact, colonialism and cultural change. We will concentrate equally upon the past and the present in Oceania. Some lectures and readings focus upon the ways of life and thought that Pacific peoples represent to outsiders and to themselves as "customary". However, kastom and rapid change coexist in the Pacific today, and we will spend much of the course discussing how Pacific islanders are adapting to life in the late twentieth century. Specific topics relating to the "new" Pacific that we will examine include the roots of dependency and underdevelopment in Pacific island societies, the status of women in Oceania today, tourism in "the last paradise" and progress toward a nuclear-free Pacific.

We will discuss many varieties of anthropological experience in the South Pacific and also Pacific islanders' reactions to outsiders who come to study their ways of life. By the end of the course, I hope you will have a better understanding of life in Pacific island societies. I also hope you will have gained deeper insight into anthropology as a way of life - the reasons why anthropologists do what they do, how they conduct fieldwork, what they hope to achieve, how they reach their conclusions, and the many and subtle ways in which the process of fieldwork transforms both their lives and the lives of the people they study.

The Scope of the Course

2P3 will focus on Pacific islanders who live in Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia, a part of the world that is often called "Oceania" or "The Island Pacific". The course does not cover Japan or the countries on the Pacific rim, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia or Australia.


This course is "Open" and requires no prerequisites. However, before you decide to take 2P03, I must underline the obvious: this is a second year course in anthropology that will be taught on a more advanced level than that of our introductory courses. In order to proceed at a reasonable pace, I must assume that members of the class have an understanding of basic concepts in social and cultural anthropology.

Required Readings

This course has a single required text::

Rodman, W.

1998 Readings on Pacific Ethnology. Available from the Bookstore.

I designed this collection of readings on Pacific societies especially for this year’s class taking 2P03. The articles in the reader relate directly to the content of lectures and come from a wide variety of sources. (See list at end of syllabus.)

You should acquire the required text as soon as possible. Not only is it important to begin reading the assigned articles; the text also contain maps of the Pacific that we will be using intensively in the first few weeks of class. As I discuss below, there will be a map test in a month's time.

I also would like to recommend to you an optional text:

Stanley, David

1996 Pacific Islands Handbook. 6th edition. Moon Publications.

This handbook is a goldmine of interesting and useful information on most of the inhabited islands in the Polynesia and Melanesia. If you ever plan to visit some of the places we will discuss in 2P03, this is far and away the best book to buy.

Mode of Evaluation

Your grade for the course will be based on the results of three exams and an essay:

1. Map Test, February 3rd  15% of total grade 
2. Mid-Term, February 24th 25% " " "
3. Essay, due March 17th 25% " " "
4. Final Exam, Date Set By the University 35% " " "


In a month's time, there will be an in-class test on basic information you will find on the maps of the Pacific and in Stanley's Introduction to the South Pacific Handbook, both of which can be found in the required text. For the test, you will be expected to know the main cultural and geographic divisions in Oceania and the names and approximate locations of major islands and island groups. The in-class mid-term and the university-set final exam both will consist primarily of questions that are designed test your understanding of course materials presented in lectures, films and those parts of the required readings that relate to class discussion. The assigned essay will be approximately 6 typewritten pages in length and will ask you to think more deeply about some of the issues we will discuss in class.

More information on each of the course requirements will be available as we proceed through the term.

All students should be aware of the definition and consequences of plagiarism and other forms of dishonesty as set out in the "Statement on Academic Ethics" and the "Senate Resolutions on Academic Dishonesty (in the Senate Policy Statements distributed at registration and available in the Senate Office, GH/104).

Office Hours

My office is in Chester New Hall, Room 502, ex. 23909. During Winter Term, I will hold office hours at the following times:

Wednesday - 4:30 - 6:20 pm

Thursday - 5:30 - 6:20 pm

I also am available at other times by appointment. If you need to get in touch with me when I am not in my office, please leave a note in my mailbox in the Anthropology Office on the fifth floor of Chester New Hall; remember to include in your note a telephone number where I can reach you. Another good way to get in touch with me quickly is via email. My email address is:

Anthropology 2P3

Schedule of Topics, Readings and Films

First Week: January 6

An Island World: Unity Within Diversity in Oceania

Topics: Introduction to the course 
  A Visual Introduction to the Pacific (slides)
  The Physical Environment: Atolls, Volcanos and High Islands
  "Culture Areas" in the Pacific
  The Importance of Studying Pacific Island Cultures


Please Study the Maps of the Pacific in the Coursepack
Deryck Scarr, "Islands and an Ocean"
Margaret Mead, "A Day in Samoa"
New York Times - "Islanders See Global Warming..."
David Stanley, "Introduction" to South Pacific Handbook


Second Week: January 13

In Search of Islands: The Peopling of the Pacific

Topics: Whodunit? The Origins of Pacific Peoples
  How Did They Do It?: Theories of Pacific Exploration
  Why Did They Do It? The Rediscovery of Pacific Voyaging


Peter Bellwood, "The Origins of Pacific Peoples"
Bronwen Douglas, "Pre-European Societies in the Pacific Islands"
John Terrell, "The Prehistoric Pacific"

Film: The Navigators


Third Week: January 20

The Point of Contact: Strangers in Paradise

Topics: Secrets of the Navigators 
  European Motives for Exploration
  The Search for the Noble Savage


Ian Cameron, "Introduction" to Lost Paradise
B. Connelly and R. Anderson, "What is Beyond?"

Slides of early European views of the South Pacific and its peoples

Film: First Contact


Fourth Week: January 27

A Plague of Cannibals: Death, Disease and the European Imagination of the "Primitive"

Topics:  An Epidemic in the New Guinea Highlands
  Fore as Cannibals/The White Cannibals
  Carleton Gajdusek Wins A Nobel Prize
  Kuru, CJD, and "Mad Cow" Disease: Alternative Explanations
  "The Cannibal Smile": Consuming Cannibalism


Hank Nelson, "Kuru: The Pursuit of the Prize and the Cure"
Slides of the Fore and Kuru

Film: "Lords of the Garden", aka "Cannibal Justice"


Fifth Week: February 3

The Boar's Tusks, The Spirits' Call: The Politics of Pigs and Place in Vanuatu

Topics:  Map Test on February 3rd
  Fieldwork on "Bali Ha’i"
  Doubling Up: Why Ambaeans Get Married Twice, Buried Twice and Have Ten Wakes
  The Great Game of Pigs and Politics
  The Craft of Fieldwork, the Art of Interpretation


Lissant Bolton, "Tahigogona’s Sisters: Women, Mats and Landscape..."
Bill Rodman: "The Boars of Bali Ha’i: Pigs in Paradise"
"Pigs and Politics in Ambae, Vanuatu/Pigs and Politics: A Game of Strategy"

Slides of fieldwork in Vanuatu


Sixth Week: February 10

Big Men of Small Lands: Tradition and Leadership in Oceania

  Major Features of Leadership in Melanesia and Polynesia
  "Big Men" and "Chiefs"
  The Melanesian Entrepreneur
  Political Change and the Levelling of Chiefs


Richard Scaglion, "Chiefly Models in Papua New Guinea"
Bill Rodman, "Sorcery and the Silencing of Chiefs..."
"Some Major Features of Leadership in Melanesia"



Seventh Week: Midterm Recess (February 17)


Eighth Week: February 24

Mid-term Examination/ Tradition and Leadership in Oceania II

Film: The Kawelka: Ongka's Big Moka


Ninth Week: March 3

The Transformations of Tradition in the Postmodern Pacific

  Transformations of Tradition Within Anthropology
  The Quest for the Authentic and The Invention of Tradition
  Observing Tradition: The Case of the Wala Kalja Club
  "Everything Old is New Again": Cultural Renewal and the Shaping of Identity
  Cargo Cults, Identity and Development


Kenelm Burridge, "Melanesian Cargo Cults"
Will Bourne, "The Gospel According to Prum"

Slides and Video of the Wala Kalja Club in action


Tenth Week: March 10

"Sun, Sex, Sights, Savings and Servility": Tourism in "The Untouched Paradise"

Topics: The Case in Favor of International Tourism
  The Costs of Tourism: What We've Learned
  The Selling of Bali Ha'i


Frederick Errington and D. Gewertz, "Tourism and Anthropology in a Post-Modern World"
Edward Bruner, "Of Cannibals, Tourists and Ethnographers"
Konai Helu-Thaman, "Beyond Hula, Hotels and Handicrafts..."
SPPF Fact Sheet, "Tourism in the Pacific Islands"

Film: Cannibal Tours


Eleventh Week: March 17

The New Pacific: Alcohol, Drugs and Development

NB: Essay due on March 18th

Topics: Weekend Warriors on Truk (Micronesia)
  The Colonial Hangover
  Beer and Business: The Role of Alcohol in Economic Development
  The Problems with Kava as Drug of Choice 


Tom Harrisson, "Kava negatives the legs..." (Savage Civilization)
Lamont Lindstrom, "Kava, Cash and Custom in Vanuatu"
Dahn Batchelor, "A Drunk is Responsible for His Actions"
Mac Marshall , "A Pacific Haze: Alcohol and Drugs in Oceania"
"Alcohol and Kava: Some Points of Comparison"


Twelfth Week: March 24

Problems in the New Pacific: Underdevelopment, The Status of Women, Christianities


James MacBean, "Degrees of Otherness"
SPPF Fact Sheet "The Status Of Women in the Pacific Islands"
John Finch, "Women Work Harder Than Men"
Deborah Gewertz and F. Errington, "On PepsiCo and Piety in a Papua New Guinea "modernity"

Film: Black Harvest


Thirteenth Week: March 31

The Nuclear Playground: Modern Colonialism and the Rise of the "Nuklia Fri Pasifik" Movement

Topics: The "Bravo" Test: What Did America Know About the Effects of Radiation?
  American Foreign Policy and "The Pacific Equation"
  The French Tests and the Sinking of the "Rainbow Warrior"
  Towards a Nuclear Free Pacific


Glenn Alcalay, "Nuclear Hegemony..."
David North, "America's Painful Atomic Secrets"
"France Unleashes A-Blast/France Ends Tests in South Pacific"

Film: Half-Life


Fourteenth Week: April 7

The Island Pacific: Some Concluding Possibilities

"Island countries are like a school of sardines facing a number of hungry sharks. Like the sardines, if they do not swim together they will be eaten." Roger Ward, 1993.


Epeli Hau’ofa, "The Ocean in Us"
"A Historic Vote: The Native Hawaiian Vote, 1996"



Anthropology 2P3E

Required Readings on Pacific Ethnology


Alcalay, Glenn
1987 "Nuclear Hegemony: America in Micronesia." Third World Affairs 1987. London: Third World Foundation. pp. 236-250.

Batchelor, Dahn
1994 "A Drunk is Responsible for His Actions" Globe and Mail, October 6, 1994.

Bellwood, Peter
1993 "The Origins of Pacific Peoples" in Culture Contact in the Pacific, edited by Max Quanchi and R. Adams Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bolton, Lissant
1996 "Tahigogona's Sisters: Women, Mats and Landscape on Ambae" in Arts of Vanuatu, edited by Joel Bonnemaison, Kirk Huffman, Christian Kaufmann, and Darrell Tryon. Bathhurst: Crawford House Publishing. Pp.112-119

Bourne, Will
1995 "The Gospel According to Prum" Harpers Magazine, January: 60-70.

Bruner, Edward
1989 "Of Cannibals, Tourists and Ethnographers." Cultural Anthropology 4(4): 438-448.

Burridge, Kenelm
1993 "Melanesian Cargo Cults"in Contemporary Pacific Societies, edited by Victoria Lockwood, Thomas Harding, and Ben Wallace. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Pp. 275-288.

Cameron, Ian
1987 Lost Paradise: The Exploration of the Pacific. Topsfield, Mass: Salem House Publishers.

Connelly, B. and R. Anderson
1988 First Contact: New Guinea's Highlanders Encounter the Outside World. New York: Viking Penguin.

Douglas, Bronwen
1993 "Pre-European Societies in the Pacific Islands" in Culture Contact in the Pacific, edited by Max Quanchi and R. Adams Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Errington, Frederick and D. Gewertz
1989 "Tourism and Anthropology in a Post-Modern World" Oceania 60: 37 - 54.

"France Unleashes A-Blast/France Ends Tests in South Pacific" Globe and Mail, September 6, 1995 and January 30, 1996

Finch, John
1992 "Women Work Harder Than Men". Cultural Survival 60: 44 - 46.

Gewertz, Deborah and Frederick Errington
1996 "On PepsiCo and Piety in a Papua New Guinea 'modernity'". American Ethnologist 23:476-493.

Harrisson, Tom
1937 Savage Civilization. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Hau'ofa, Epeli
1998 "The Ocean in Us" The Contemporary Pacific 10: 392-409.

Helu-Thaman, Konai
1993 "Beyond Hula, Hotels and Handicrafts: A Pacific Islander's Perspective of Tourist Development." The Contemporary Pacific 5(1): 104-111.

"A Historic Vote: The Native Hawaiian Vote, 1996" Press Statement, released by Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council, September 11, 1996.

Lindstrom, Lamont
1991 "Kava, Cash and Custom in Vanuatu" Cultural Survival 15: 28-31.

MacBean, James
1994 "Degrees of Otherness: A Close Reading of First Contact, Joe Leahy's Neighbours, and Black Harvest" Visual Anthropology Review 10: 55-70.

Marshall, Mac
1993 "A Pacific Haze: Alcohol and Drugs in Oceania". In Contemporary Pacific Societies:Studies in Development and Change, edited by Victoria Lockwood. Englewod Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. pp. 260-272.

Mead, Margaret
1928 Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: William Morrow and Company.

Nelson, Hank
1996 "Kuru: The Pursuit of the Prize and the Cure" Journal of Pacific History XXXI: 178-201.

North, David
1994 "America's Painful Atomic Secrets" Pacific Islands Monthly, April: 11-13.

Rodman, William
1993 "Sorcery and the Silencing of Chiefs: 'Words on the Wind' in Postindependence Ambae." Journal of Anthropological Research 49 (3): 217-235.

1996 "The Boars of Bali Ha'i: Pigs in Paradise" in Arts of Vanuatu, edited by Joel Bonnemaison, Kirk Huffman, Christian Kaufmann, and Darrell Tryon. Bathhurst: Crawford House Publishing. Pp. 158-167

Scaglion, Richard
1996 "Chiefly Models in Papua New Guinea". The Contemporary Pacific 8:1-31.

South Pacific Peoples Foundation
1991 Fact Sheet, "The Status Of Women in the Pacific Islands."

1991 Fact Sheet, "Tourism in the Pacific Islands."

Stanley, David
1996 South Pacific Handbook. Sixth Edition. Chico, CA: Moon Publications.

Terrell, John
1998 "The Prehistoric Pacific" Archaeology Nov, Dec: 56-63.



Upload: 05/19/1999


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