Tahiti Beyond the Postcard
Power, Place, and Everyday Life (Culture, Place, and Nature)
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Washington Press
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The imprint that places leave on the societies that inhabit and shape them has always been of great interest to environmental anthropology. In this study Miriam Kahn draws upon fieldwork and archival research conducted in both Tahiti and France to reflect on the basic question of how places and people form and change their identity in interconnected ways. She takes a historical...
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Although the task of putting words to paper can feel like the loneliest of endeavors, what lies behind the words has been a delightfully social, cooperative undertaking. Many people are within these pages. They have opened their worlds to me, helped me gather information, included me, patiently taught me, answered my endless questions, and discussed my ideas. They read what ...
Note to the Reader
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All individuals quoted, other than public figures, have read over the passages in which I quote them and have approved of the content as well as the use of their name. The way in which I refer to people (that is, first name, professional title, and so on) reflects the type of relationship I had with them....
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In a darkened conference room of a sumptuous hotel in French Polynesia, the word “TAHITI” appeared—in large turquoise letters—on the screen in the front. The image grabbed my attention, and that of the other people in the room, most of whom worked in Tahiti’s tourism industry. The speaker, the North American representative for Tahiti Tourism, brought his presentation to a close with that one slide, reminding us that the vision of Tahiti, evoked by its mere name, was powerful. “Like ...
Ch. 1/ New Geographies in the Wake of Colonialism
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The colonial history of French Polynesia reveals itself in numerous place-related ways. Places are moments of intersecting social relations. Some of these are “contained within the place; others stretch beyond it, tying any particular locality into wider relations and processes in which other places are implicated” (Massey 1994, 120). Pape‘ete, the capital city of French Polynesia, provides an example. Before European explorers arrived in the late 1700s, Pape‘ete was a spot in a sheltered ...
Ch. 2/ Placentas in the Land, Bombs in the Bedrock
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The idyllic images of “Tahiti,” fueled by Western imaginations for two centuries, were put to new use in the early 1960s when two trans-formative events occurred in the Territory. The first was the relocation of France’s nuclear testing program from Algeria to French Polynesia. The second was the worldwide intensification of mass tourism. These contradictory phenomena—which created destruction and nightmares on the one hand, and dreams and fantasies on the other—...
Ch. 3/ Keeping the Myth Alive
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In the colonial situation in which the economies of France and French Polynesia are intricately inter-twined, the métropole benefits greatly by embracing the colony as imagined rather than as experienced. Colonial powers “wrap themselves in representations and myths . . . [which] requires that the state be organized around promoting and supporting these myths” (Shields 1991, 157). In Tahiti, images—whether public spaces, architectural forms, visual symbols, verbal phrases, or branded commodities—...
Ch. 4/ In the Cocoon
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When tourists decide to travel somewhere, their choice is usually influenced by sights they expect to see and experiences they hope to have. They make their choices “because there is an anticipation, especially through day-dreaming and fantasy, of intense pleasures . . . involving different senses from those customarily encountered” (Urry 1995, 132). If Tahiti is their destination, their decision ...
Ch. 5/ From Our Place to Their Place
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Tourists wanting to venture beyond the cocoon in Tahiti usually go (guidebook in hand) to a sight or an activity recommended by their hotel or cruise ship. Where they go, what they see, and how they make sense of things all provide them with a sense of place. Although these spaces may appear to be relatively fixed, they are, in fact, extremely dynamic and are continually redefined. On Huahine the principal tourist attractions are...
Ch. 6/ Everyday Spaces of Resistance
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The exercise of power over others—the essence of the relationship between colonizer and colonized—is often expressed through the establishment and control of boundaries. Spaces are claimed, named, mapped, and regulated. The power relationship also defines what behaviors are acceptable within these spaces. By transgressing or ignoring these boundaries and behaviors, people can create spaces...
Ch. 7/ E Aha Atu Ra? What Will Happen?
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Anthropologists who study place have, for the most part, looked at those aspects that are physical, tangible, and geographical—landscapes, plazas, markets, spatial forms in the built environment, houses and ideas about home, maps, images, tourist sites, recreated settings, urbanism, and even ruins. My own earlier work in...
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Publication Year: 2010