Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

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Cultures of the Pacific

Anthropology 1786 (CRN:24698)
Spring Term 1997-98, TH 12:00-12:50
(Entry-level undergraduate course)

Dr. Richard Scaglion
Department of Anthropoplogy
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260


I. Texts:

A. Coming of Age in Samoa. Margaret Mead. New York: Quill, 1928.

B. Road Through the Rain Forest: Living Anthropology in Highland Papua New Guinea. David Hayano. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1990.

C. Nest in the Wind: Adventures in Anthropology on a Tropical Island Martha C. Ward. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1989.

II. Course Description:

The South Pacific has a certain romantic appeal in popular imagination: swaying palm trees, mild tropical breezes, unspoiled, uninhibited people. Is this true? What are the people of this region really like? How do they feel about these popular images of themselves? What can we learn about human nature by studying the cultures of the South Pacific?

This class uses information about the peoples and cultures of the South Pacific as a vehicle for exploring basic anthropological ideas and concepts. In examining the customs of traditional Pacific peoples, we will probe the ranges of human diversity. By learning about Pacific patterns of courtship and marriage, family organization, political and economic systems, warfare, rituals, etc., and by comparing these with very different American social patterns, we will increase our understanding of what it means to be human. Students in this class will also gain a greater appreciation of anthropology as a profession as they read firsthand the "field experiences" of several anthropologists.

The course examines the traditional and contemporary cultures of the three major areas of the Pacific: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. It includes a geographical and historical introduction to the Pacific as well as an examination of the current social and political status of the region. Anthropological films and visual presentations will supplement lectures. Anthropology 0780 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology) or consent of the instructor is a prerequisite for the course.

III. Course Requirements:

Grading is based upon two hour exams (each worth 25%), a final exam (worth 25%) and a recitation grade (worth 25%).

A. First Exam: February 10. The first part of the course is designed to introduce the student to the overall geography and contemporary political organization of the Pacific basin, as well as to survey briefly the prehistory, history, and peoples and cultures of the region. In addition, we will be focusing on the seafaring Polynesian cultures in this section of the course. The exam covers Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, and all class materials to date.

B. Second Exam: March 26. The second part of the course concentrates on the cultures of Melanesia. We will be comparing the non-Austronesian speaking peoples of the interior with the coastal dwelling Austronesian speakers. The Abelam, a New Guinea tribal culture studied by Dr. Scaglion, will also be described. The exam covers all of Hayano's Road Through the Rain Forest, and includes class materials since the first exam.

C. FINAL EXAM: April 23. The final part of the course describes the peoples of Australia and Micronesia. We will be relating these culture areas to those examined in earlier sections of the course. We will also be examining contemporary social and political issues in the Pacific. The exam will cover all of Ward’s Nest in the Wind, and all class materials since the second exam. Some of the questions will integrate these materials with major topics and issues discussed throughout the course. For example, you might be asked to consider the implications of the different cultural heritages of Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians for their participation in the contemporary world.

D. Recitation Grade: Evaluation in recitation sessions will be determined by the recitation instructors and will be explained by them. Attendance, announced quizzes and take-home assignments are usually the bases for recitation grades. Recitation instructors may also assign additional readings. Recitation is an important component of the course, and students are expected to attend.

IV. Office Hours

All instructors will have formal office hours which we will announce. If you wish to see us outside our office hours, we can usually find a mutually satisfactory time. Dr. Scaglion's office is located at 3B22 Forbes Quadrangle. His e-mail address (a good way to contact him) is; his phone number is 648-7512 (X8-7512 if you are calling from a campus phone). Recitation instructors have offices at 3B11 - 3B21 Forbes Quadrangle. Phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses will be announced.

V. Tentative Schedule

January 6 Introduction to the Course
January 8 Representations of Pacific Islanders in popular culture
January 13 Political geography and culture areas
January 15 Introduction to traditional Polynesian culture
Film: Fa'a Samoa (The Samoans, Polynesian society)
January 20 Geology and environment
January 22 The Seafaring era
Film: The Navigators
January 27 Prehistory and peopling of the Pacific
January 29 The Polynesian culture area
February 3 Derek Freeman's critique of Mead's Samoan research
Film: Margaret Mead and Samoa
February 5 Samoan Culture
February 12 New Guinea: Island of Cultural Diversity
February 17 European intrusion in Melanesia
Film: First Contact (New Guinea Highlands Society)
February 19 The New Guinea Highlands
February 24 Exchange and Achieved Status
Film: Ongka's Big Moka (The Melpa, A Melanesian Highlands Society)
February 26 The New Guinea Lowlands
March 10 A non-Austronesian Lowlands tribe: The Abelam
March 12 An Austronesian Coastal Society: Marshall Lagoon
March 17 Economics, Ritual Process and Functionalism in Melanesian Society
March 19 Functionalism Continued
Film: Land Divers of Melanesia (Pentecost, Island Melanesia)
March 24 The Melanesian culture area
March 31 Australia
April 2 The Micronesian Culture Area in comparative perspective
April 7 Return to Paradise? Contemporary Images of the Pacific
Film: Lamotrek: Heritage of an Island (a Micronesian Atoll society)
April 9 Dependency or Cooperation? Cultures of Micronesia
April 14 Contemporary Social and Political Problems
April 16 Course Summary
April 23 (THURSDAY) FINAL EXAM (2:00-3:50 P.M.)

[Subject: Anthropology; Pacific/Comparative]

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