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Approaches to Pacific Islands Studies

PACS 691, Graduate Seminar, Fall 1997

Dr Terence Wesley-Smith
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
1890 East-West Road, Moore 215
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956 7700 (office)
Fax: (808) 956-7053

This seminar will provide an introduction to Pacific Islands Studies as an interdisciplinary field of research and scholarship. We will discuss how Pacific Islands studies have been influenced by, and have influenced, wider disciplinary perspectives. Indigenous and introduced sources of knowledge will be compared, and the approaches and perceptions of indigenous scholars examined. Some practical aspects of conducting research will be discussed as students work through the early stages of preparing a research proposal.

The seminar will meet once a week throughout the semester. There will be formal presentations, sometimes by invited speakers representing a range of disciplines. There will be an emphasis on student participation and group discussion.

Students are required to prepare a concept paper (see Appendix A), and submit three book reviews (see Appendix B). The concept paper outlines a research topic that will be developed into a detailed research proposal in PACS 692 Research Materials and Design in the spring semester. Students are also expected to do the readings assigned for each session, and to come to class prepared to participate in the discussion.



Week 1 (8/27) Orientation
Seminar expectations and requirements

Week 2 (9/03) The Center for Pacific Islands Studies
The history, purpose, and activities of CPIS. Future directions.

Epeli Hau’ofa "Our Sea of Islands"
Arohia Durie "Changing Places: Challenges for Academics in Times of Political and Social Change"
Vilsoni Hereniko "Indigenous Knowledge and Academic Imperialism"
Terence Wesley-Smith "Rethinking Pacific Islands Studies"

Week 3 (9/10) Expectations, structure, and requirements of the M.A. program
***reflections paper due
*graduate level studies and the loneliness of the long distance writer
*purpose and philosophy
*technical requirements
*M.A. Written Examination (comps)

Center for Pacific Islands Studies Brochure, "Degree and Certificate Requirements," pp.15-16. (See also typscript version which includes statement on Plan B paper expectations)

Sternberg, David 1981. How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation. New York: St Martins Press. Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7.


Week 4 (9/17) Constructing a research proposal
The value, trials and tribulations of developing the research proposal.

Sternberg, David,.How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation, Chapter 4.

Examples of research proposals

Week 5 (9/24) Accessing the literature on the Pacific Islands--Peacock (Meet in Hamilton Library)
Pacific bibliographies and how to make full use of the Pacific Collection in Hamilton Library.

Week 6 (10/01) Speaking from experience ***concept paper #1 due
A panel of advanced graduate students discuss their experiences identifying and developing research topics.

Week 7 (10/08) Concept papers--student progress reports
Proposed projects described and discussed.

Week 8 (10/15) Concept papers--student progress reports
Proposed projects described and discussed.


Week 9 (10/22) Anthropology and Authenticity
A great deal of what we think we know about Pacific cultures is derived from the work of anthropologists. How do anthropologists construct knowledge about the region, and what happens when their conclusions are disputed by the subjects of the investigation? How do Pacific Islanders construct knowledge about their past and present cultures and traditions? Is there such a thing as "authenticity" in cultural matters? How can we evaluate contending accounts of culture, tradition, and authenticity?

Keesing, Roger M. 1989. Creating the Past: Custom and Identity in the Contemporary Pacific. The Contemporary Pacific 1/2: 19-42

Trask, Haunani-Kay 1991. Natives and Anthropologists: The Colonial Struggle. The Contemporary Pacific 3: 168-171.

Keesing, Roger M. 1991. Reply to Trask. The Contemporary Pacific 3: 168-171

Linnekin, Jocelyn 1991. Text Bites and the R-Word: The Politics of Representing Scholarship, The Contemporary Pacific 3: 171-177.

Week 10 (10/29) Orientalism ***book review #1 due
Said's influential book and its critics

Said, Edward. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books
Reviews of Said

Week 11 (11/05) Concept papers--student progress reports

Week 12 (11/12 Orientalism's relevance for Pacific Islands Studies.
***concept paper #2 due
What are the lessons of Said's work for Pacific Islands studies? How have these ideas been put to work to redefine the field?
Lindstrom, Lamont. 1993. Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond.

Week 13 (11/19) Concept papers--student progress reports

Week 14 (11/26) Becoming interdisciplinary: elements of a new approach
***book review #2 due

Hereniko, Vilsoni. 1995. Woven Gods: Female Clowns and Power in Rotuma.

Week 15 (12/03) Concept papers--student progress reports

Week 16 (12/10) Reflection and review
***concept paper due
***book review #3 due


Appendix A


Soon (in PACS 692 in the spring!) you will be asked to produce a detailed research proposal. In this course (PACS 691), you are asked to produce a preliminary description of your project in the form of a concept paper. The paper should be 8-10 pages long and address the following questions: What is the proposed topic? Why is it worth pursuing? How do you intend to research it? What books and articles are relevant?

The idea is to capture the core of your project, the central ideas, which will be fleshed out in more detail later. This may sound easy but it isn't. It usually requires a considerable amount of reading and thinking, drafting and redrafting.

Reflections paper (due 9/10)

To help you get started you are asked to write a short essay (1-3 pages) indicating why you have chosen to study the Pacific Islands, and what particular aspects interest you the most. Identify and discuss briefly at least three possible research topics for your MA final paper (thesis or Plan B paper).

The concept paper will be submitted in several drafts:

First draft due 10/01
Second draft due 11/12
Final paper due 12/10



You are asked to write book reviews of the following books:

1. Said, Edward 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Due 10/29

2. Lindstrom, Lamont. 1993. Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of Desire from Melanesia and Beyond. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, South Sea Books #4. Due 11/26

3. Hereniko, Vilsoni. 1995. Woven Gods: Female Clowns and Power in Rotuma. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, Pacific Islands Monograph #12. Due 12/10

Each review should be 4-5 pages long, and should a) summarize the contents of the book, b) identify the author's main themes or arguments, and c) discuss the book's significance.

[Subject: Research Approaches; Pacific/Comparative]

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