Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

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Cultures of the Pacific

Anthropology 1786 (CRN37034)

University of Pittsburgh

Fall Term 1998 (99-1)

Instructor Todd R. Hooe

Department of Anthropology

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA 15260


Mondays 1:00-3:30 p.m.


Required Texts

Herdt, Gilbert

1987 The Sambia: Ritual and Gender in New Guinea. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Pub.

Weiner, Anette B.

1988 The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Poyer, Lin

1993 The Ngatik Massacre: History and Identity on a Micronesian Atoll. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Small, Cathy A.

1997 Voyages: From Tongan Villages to American Suburbs. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.

Purpose of this Course

The South Pacific often conjures up images of pristine tropical islands, with long white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and attractive "free spirited" natives. These images have entered our national consciousness, perhaps in part through the books of Robert Louis Stevenson and James Michener, the Tahitian paintings of Paul Gauguin, or films such as Mutiny on the Bounty and The South Pacific. But what is the South Pacific really like? What lies behind the region’s romantic facade?

This course will examine the people and cultures of the Pacific from an anthropological perspective. Special attention will be given to the people and cultures of the three main regions of the Pacific: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The similarities and differences among the these three culture areas will be discussed and analyzed. Furthermore, information on the peoples of the three culture areas will be used to explore a variety of anthropological theories, ideas, and debates, as well as a number of important anthropological topics such as migration, social stratification, leadership, exchange, sex and gender roles, conflict and warfare, ritual and symbolism, among others.

While the majority of this course will focus on the contributions of cultural anthropology to the understanding of Pacific cultures, the contributions of archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and physical anthropology will also be examined, as well as geology, ecology, and history. Eight anthropological films on Pacific cultures will be shown throughout the course, and will complement lectures, readings, and discussions. Anthropology 0780 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology) or consent of the instructor is a prerequisite for the course.

Course Requirements

Your grade will be based upon: (1) two exams, (2) five short quizzes, (3) attendance, and (4) classroom participation.


Two exams will be given throughout the term. Each exam is worth 100 points, and will consist of 15 multiple choice (3 points each), 5 short answer and identification (5 points each), and one essay question (30 points). Make-up exams will only be given to those with a legitimate excuse , and will consist of three essay questions. It is highly recommended that students contact the instructor ahead of time if they cannot take an exam at the scheduled time.

Exam 1 (October 26): The first exam will focus on all lecture material, all films covered up to this point, and the Herdt and Weiner books.

Exam 2 (December 14): The second exam will focus on all lecture material, all films covered since the first exam, and the Poyer and Small books.

Short Quizzes

Five short quizzes will be assigned throughout the course of the term. Four of these quizzes will concern the four required texts and one will involve Pacific geography. Each quiz is worth 20 points for a total of 100 points.

Quiz 1 (September 14): The first quiz will focus on Pacific geography. A map of the the Pacific will be distributed at the first class meeting, and will provide the content of Quiz 1.

Quiz 2 (October 12): The second quiz will cover the Herdt book, The Sambia: Ritual and Gender in New Guinea.

Quiz 3 (October 19): The third quiz will cover the Weiner book, The Trobrianders of

Papua New Guinea.

Quiz 4 (November 16): The forth quiz will cover the Poyer book, The Ngatik Massacre: History and Identity on a Micronesian Atoll.

Quiz 5 (December 7): The fifth quiz will cover the Small book, Voyages: From Tongan Villages to American Suburbs.


Attendance is required for this course and since this course meets only once a week, absence will severely damage your grade. The instructor reserves the right to raise or lower your grade based on attendance.

Class Participation

Classroom participation may considerably help your overall grade. Your effort in the classroom will only result in raising your grade, especially if your final course grade is borderline (i.e. between an A and a B).

Office Hours

The instructor’s office is on the third floor of Forbes Quad, Room 3B19 in the Department of Anthropology. The office telephone number is 648-7528. Office hours are Mondays between 10:30-12:30 and 3:45-4:45. Appointments may be made during non-office hours by contacting the instructor in person, by telephone or e-mail (

Course Outline

Week 1 (August 31) I. Introduction to Anthropology and the Diversity of World Cultures. 

Film: First Contact (approx. 60 minutes) 

Week 2 (September 7) Labor Day--No Class
Week 3 (September 14) II. Introduction to the Pacific Islands

A. Geology and Ecology

B. The Peopling of the Pacific

Quiz 1

Week 4 (September 21) III. The Pacific Periphery? Ethnography of the Kei Islands, Indonesia

Slide Show: The Kei Islands

Week 5 (September 28) IV. An Introduction to Australia and Melanesia

Film: The Asmat (30 minutes)

Week 6 (October 5) V. The New Guinea Lowlands

A. South Coast New Guinea Cultures

B. Sepik River Societies

Guest Lecture: Dr Richard Scaglion

Week 7 (October 12) VI. The New Guinea Highlands

A. Big Man Politics

B. Warfare and Ceremonial Exchange

Film: Ongka’s Big Moka (approx. 60 minutes)

Quiz 2 (Herdt book)

Week 8 (October 19) VII. Island Melanesia 

A. Malinowski in the Trobriands

B. Ritual and Symbolism in Vanuatu

Quiz 3 (Weiner book)

Film: The Land Divers of Melanesia (30 minutes)

Week 9 (October 26) EXAM 1

Film: Lamotrek: Heritage of an Island (27 minutes)

Week 10 (November 2) VIII. Introduction to Micronesia

A. Colonialism in Micronesia

B. The U.S. in Micronesia

Film: Lieweila: A Micronesian Story (57 minutes)

Week 11 (November 9) IX. High Islands and Low Islands in Micronesia

A. Ecology and Political Organization

B. Mokil Atoll, Then and Now 

Guest Lecture: Bryan Oles

Week 12 (November 16) X. Politics and Exchange Networks in Micronesia

A. Political Organization in Yap State

B. Navigation in Micronesia

C. Types of Exchange Networks

Quiz 4 (Poyer book)

Week 13 (November 23) XI. Introduction to Polynesia

A. Lapita Pottery and A.P.S.

B. Social Stratification in Polynesia

Film: Fa’a Samoa (15 minutes)

Week 14 (November 30) XII. Margaret Mead and Samoa

Film: Margaret Mead and Samoa (60 minutes)

Week 15 (December 7) XIII. Religion and Politics in Eastern Polynesia

Quiz 5 (Small book)

Week 16 (December 14) EXAM 2

Update: 03/15/1999

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