Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



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Representations of Pacific Islands and Islanders

Anthropology 306

Fall 1996

Instructor: Dr Miriam Kahn
Department of Anthropology
University of Washington
Box 353100
Seattle, WA 98195-3100
Fax: (206) 685-3039


This course explores images of Pacific Islands and Islanders in an effort to understand the power of representation and its relationship to the construction of knowledge. The aim is twofold: l) to provide information about the Pacific Islands and Islanders and 2) to explore the issue of representation. This will be accomplished through exposure to, and analysis of, written texts (journals, fiction, scholarly writing, travel writing), visual images (photographs, films, art) and a combination of text/image (museum exhibits, advertisements). The course is organized chronologically, looking at representations by early explorers, colonialists, artists, novelists, anthropologists, the tourist industry, and the mass media—and by both outsiders and Pacific Islanders.

For purposes of focus, examples will be drawn primarily from four areas within the Pacific Islands: Tahiti, New Guinea, Samoa, and Fiji. Examples will be linked to broader issues that deal with the relationship between images, knowledge and power; ideologies of difference and distance; the nature of colonial and post-colonial encounters; and the role of racial and sexual representations in the construction of stereotypes. Today's increasing prominence of indigenous voices and epistemologies, together with current shifts within anthropology, have redirected Pacific Island studies. Issues of power and representation are increasingly seen as pivotal in understanding how various narratives and images influence one another and, ultimately, shape the nature of outsiders' knowledge about the Pacific Islands and frame their encounters with Pacific- Islanders.


There are five required books:

The Lure of Tahiti (A. Grove Day, ed.)
Noa Noa: The Tahiti Journal of Paul Gauguin (translated by O.F. Theis)
Fiji (Robert Kay)
Leaves of the Banyan Tree (Albert Wendt)
Savages (Shirley Conran)

In addition, there will be a packet of articles, to be purchased at RAMS Copy Center (4144 University Way). Readings are primarily from primary sources. Class discussion will draw out students' reflections upon, and analysis of, these sources. Please make sure to complete the reading by the day on which it is listed in the syllabus.

Discussion: Completing the reading on time will help guarantee fruitful discussion. Please ensure that discussion will be productive and spirited by being a participant as well as a listener. My decision to limit class enrollment is directly linked to this goal.

Films, Slides: Occasionally, films or slides will be shown in class and are to be treated as integral parts of the course.

Papers: There will be three short papers spaced three weeks apart. Each paper should be 6-8 pages, typed, double-spaced. No late papers will be accepted. Details about the topics will be handed out in class 2-3 weeks before each paper is due. General topics and dates are as follows:

1 ) Racial and sexual imagery in literature about the South Pacific from the period 1870-1920 (due April 16)

2) Annotated plans for hypothetical travel to Fiji (due May 7)

3) Comparison of two of the following three films: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), The Bounty (1984) (due May 28)

Final Exam: There will be a final exam, consisting of essay questions, on Wed., June 5, 10:30-12:20.

Each of the three papers, class discussion, and the final will receive equal weight, as follows:

papers (3 papers, 20% each) - 60%
class discussion - 20%
final exam - 20%


Week 1—Introduction

Tues. March 26

Introduction to course

Thurs. March 28

Hereniko, Vilsoni
1994 Representations of Cultural Identities. In K.R. Howe, R.C. Kiste and Brij V. Lal, eds. Tides of History: The Pacific Islands In the Twentieth Century. Pp. 406-34.

Hau'ofa, Epeli
1993 Our Sea of Islands. In Eric Waddell, Vijay Naidu and Epeli Hau'ofa, eds. A New Oceania: Rediscovering our Sea of Islands. Pp. 2-16.

Week 2—18th C. Explorers: Mapping Mythical Lands

Tues. April 2

Davenport, William
1969 Tahiti and the South Sea Legend. Expedition 11(4):12-15.

Bougainville, Louis Antoine de
1768 passage from A Voyage Round the World.
The French Find New Cytherea. The Lure of Tahiti. Pp. 288-300.

Cook, James
1769 passage from Journal of H.M.S. Endeavour.
Captain Cook at Point Venus. In The Lure of Tahiti. Pp. 301-18.

Bligh, William
1788 passage from Voyage to the South Seas.
Captain Bligh and the Breadfruit. The Lure of Tahiti, Pp. 319-24.

Thurs. April 4 (out of context due to guest speaker's schedule)
Guest Speaker: Alison Nordstrom, Director and Curator, SE Museum of Photography "Early Photography in Samoa"

Nordstrom, Alison
1992 Wood Nymphs and Patriots: Depictions of Samoans in the National Geographic Magazine. Visual Sociology 7(2):49-59.

Week 3—l9th C. Writers and Artists: The Romance of Earthly Paradise

Tues. April
Loti, Pierre
1880 Tahiti, the Marriage of Loti (1986 edition). Part I. Pp. 11-71.

Stevenson, Robert Louis
1890 The Beach of Falesa. In A.G. Day and C. Stroven, eds. Best South Sea Stories. Pp. 163-230.

Thurs. April 11

Gauguin, Paul
1893 Noa Noa: The Tahiti Journal of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

letters from Gauguin to Mette, 1891-92

Danielsson, Bengt
1969 The Exotic Sources of Gauguin's Art. Expedition 11(4):16-26.

Week 4—Colonial Conquest: Displays of Power

Tues. April 16


First Contact by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson (1983, color, 54 min.)

Leahy, Michael J.
1991 "Introduction" and "The Year 1930". In Michael J. Leahy: Explorations into Highland New Guinea, 1930-35. Pp. 1-22.

Thurs. April 18

Hinsley, Curtis
1991 The World as Marketplace: Commodification of the Exotic at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. In Karp and Levine, eds. Exhibiting Cultures. Pp. 344-65.

Thomas, Nicholas
1989 Material Culture and Colonial Power: Ethnological Collecting and the Establishment of Colonial Rule in Fiji. Man 24(1):41-56.

Week 5—20th C. Writers: Expanding Horizons

Tues. April 23

Discussion groups in class

Maugham, W. Somerset
1921 Red. In A.G. Day and C. Stroven, eds. Best South Sea Stories. Pp. 3-25.

Michener, James A.
1950s Povenaaa's Daughter. In The Lure of Tahiti. Pp. 21-78.

Thurs. April 25

Quinn, Vernon
1945 The Fiji Islands. In Picture Map Geography of the Pacific Islands. Pp. 88-93.

Varawa, Joana McIntyre
1989 Changes In Latitude. Pp. 1-39.

Theroux, Paul
1992 Fiji: The Divided Island of Viti Levu. In The Happy Isles of Oceania. Pp. 218-38.

Week 6—Anthropologists: Dissecting Body and Mind (and the Discipline)

Tues. April 30

Moana of the South Seas by Robert and Frances Flaherty (1926, b/w, 63 min.)

Kramer, Augustin
1995 "Childhood and Puberty, Incision and Tattooing." In The Samoa Islands (trans. by T. Verhaaren). Vol. II, Pp. 60-94. (orig. 1902/3).

Thurs. May 2

Mead, Margaret
1928 Ch. 1, 2, 7. ("Introduction," "A Day in Samoa," and "Formal Sex Relations"). In Coming of Age in Samoa. Pp. 1- 19, 86-109.

Freeman, Derek
1983 Ch. 5, 6, 7. In Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Un-Making of an Anthropological Myth. Pp. 65-109.

Teaiwa, Teresia
1995 Scholarship from a Lazy Native. In Greenwood, Neuman and Sartori eds. Work in Flux.. Pp. 58-72.

Week 7—Tourism: The Generation of Desire

Tues. May 7


FILM: Cannibal Tours by Dennis O'Rourke (1987, color, 77 min.)

Kay, Robert
1993 Fiji. Lonely Planet.

Thurs. May 9

Grossberger, Lewis
1989? Oh, Mine Papua! The Esquire Summer Traveler. Pp. 44-49.

Drucker, Stephen
1994 Barefoot on Bora Bora. Travel and Leisure, June 1994. Pp. 128-39.

Teaiwa, T.K.
1994 Bikinis and Other S/pacific N/otions. The Contemporary Pacific 6:87-109.

Week 8—Pacific Voices

Tues. May 14

Wendt, Albert
1979 Leaves of the Banyan Tree.

Thurs. May 16

Guest panel of Samoan students

Week 9—Popular Culture and Mass Media

Tues. May 21

Kahn, Miriam
1995 Heterotopic Dissonance in the Museum Representation of Pacific Island Cultures. American Anthropologist 97(2):324-338.

Price, Sally
1989 Primitive Art in Civilized Places. Pp. 51-5.

Lutz, Catherine and Jane Collins
1993 passages from Ch. 5: "Fashions in the Ethnic Other." In Reading National Geographic. Pp. 133-53.

Hollie, Pamela
1982 U.S. Wives Coping in New Guinea Jungle. The New York Times. June 27, 1982. P. 47.

Kohan, John
1984 "Mi Laikim Jon Pol": Tom-toms and conch shells welcome a missionary. Time. May 21, 1984. P. 69.

McCoy, Charles
1992 Good Intentions, Chevron Tries to Show It Can Protect Jungle While Pumping Oil, But Papua New Guinea Tribes Grow Restless Over Pact For Pipeline and a Road... War Paint, Spears, Hatchets. Wall Street Journal. June 9, 1992. Pp. Al, 12.

Hanley, Charles J.
1996 Out of the Forest and into the Bioengineered '90s: Tale of Tribesmen, Patented Cells raises Issues. Seattle Times. April 21, 1996.

Thurs. May 23

Conran, Shirley
1987 Savages.

Class performance of:
Hereniko, Vilsoni and Teresia Teaiwa
1993 Last Virgin in Paradise, A Serious Comedy.

Week 10—Hollywood and Advertising: Representation or Misrepresentation?

Tues. May 28


Discussion of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, 1962), The Bounty (1984)

Thurs. May 30

Summary discussions

Final Exam
Wed., June 5, 10:30-12:20

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